Brazil came to Barnard Monday evening, two weeks before Barnard returns the favor.
On March 18, six Barnard students will go to Brazil for the college’s Women Changing Brazil symposium, where they will promote leadership among high school students and hear from female Brazilian leaders.
At the event Monday, Brazilian Ambassador Mauro Vieira and Barnard President Debora Spar discussed Brazil’s initiative to educate students in the science and technology fields abroad. Brazil’s Scientific Mobility Program, the brainchild of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, currently has more than 4,000 students studying in STEM fields at colleges around the world, including Barnard.
The government hopes to send more than 100,000 Brazilian students abroad by 2015, with 75,000 participants on scholarships fully funded by the government.
“It’s a very ambitious program,” Vieira said. “It’s good to be ambitious sometimes because it makes you face very important and very big challenges.”
According to Vieira, the program is designed to revitalize the Brazilian economy, which has “a large demand for highly skilled labor in all areas, but especially in the science, technology, engineering, and the mathematics.”
Vieira hopes that the program will also “give some oxygen to our academic system.”
“President Rousseff was able to set aside in the budget, which is something very difficult these days around the world, to pay for 75,000 scholarships,” Vieira said.
Students, who can participate as undergraduates, graduate, or Ph.D. students, are obligated to come back to Brazil to work after their years abroad.
Vieira noted that the program still has a few flaws, including a lack of health insurance for students and language barriers for those studying in non-English speaking countries.
“It’s still a program in the making,” he said. “It’s a very, very difficult task.”
Spar stressed the emerging ties between Barnard and Brazil.
“He’s been a supporter and a fan and a great booster of Barnard and the symposium,” Spar said of Vieira. “He has really helped us make the links with Brazil.”
Several of the Student Fellows, who will represent Barnard at the symposium, attended Monday’s event and shared their excitement about heading to Brazil.
“For us, we’re lucky enough to go to Brazil, experience these amazing things, and meet these amazing women,” Annelise Finney, BC ’15, said. “We hope to bring that back and inspire our fellow classmates to promote women’s leadership in places like Brazil.”
Adriana Moore, BC ’15, attended high school in Brazil and said she’s excited to return to a country that played a significant role in her development.
“I’ve learned so much just being there in Brazil. Many of my ideas of how I see the world were shaped by living there,” she said.
Moore also praised Brazil’s commitment to public education through this new initiative.
“I’m very happy that Brazil is taking these initiatives to really improve their education system because I know that was something immensely lacking,” she said. “That they’re investing so much money into it, I’m very happy about it.”
While the Scientific Mobility Program is still in its early stages, Vieira said he is confident that it will succeed.
“I’m sure it will have a very big impact on the whole education in Brazil,” Vieira said. “You have to have a lot of patience to see the fruits and the results.”
“But I think it will have a good result,” he added.
Thais Carvalho Santos, who came to Barnard at the beginning of the semester under the auspices of the program, called studying in the United States “the opportunity of a lifetime.”
“Here the professors, they expect much more from the students,” Santos, a student of immunology, microbiology, and biophysics, said. “But at the same time, they give much more support and it’s a really great experience.”
“I’m really excited to work here in a research center,” Santos, who has applied for a summer research position in the United States, said. “It will be a unique experience.”
When she returns to Brazil after her experience at Barnard, she hopes to enter academia.
“I want to be a professor,” Santos said. “I want to contribute to the government.”