Educators from Brazil and United States meet at Vanderbilt
Interim Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos highlighted the important role higher education institutions can play in diplomacy during remarks at a Vanderbilt event attended by about 200 educators from the United States and Brazil.
The group arrived on campus Oct. 30 for an annual meeting of the United States-Brazil Higher Education Consortia Program designed to foster student and curricular exchange between the two countries in a range of academic and professional disciplines. The meeting wraps up on Thursday, Nov. 1.
The U.S. Brazil Program, which started in 2001, alternates its annual meetings between the United States and Brazil. The program is jointly administered by the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) and the Brazilian Ministry of Education’s Fundacao Coordenacao de Aperfeicoamento de Pessoal de Nivel Superior (CAPES).
Zeppos lauded the United States-Brazil Program and similar partnerships as being important tools in shaping international relations.
“People sometimes forget that before there were nation-states there were universities and these types of partnerships – linking countries in education and scholars acting as emissaries – are the ultimate form of diplomacy,” Zeppos said.
Maria de Fatima Battaglin, a coordinator with CAPES, said the United States-Brazil Program’s annual meetings are an opportunity for participants to interact and share ideas and experiences related to the countries’ combined 43 projects involving about 140 faculty.
Vanderbilt has a long history of interest in Brazil’s people, culture, economy and history, this year the university celebrated the 60th anniversary of its Center for Latin American and Iberian Studies with an address by Brazil’s former president Fernando Enrique Cardoso.
Most recently, through FIPSE, the university has strengthened its ties to Brazil through partnerships exploring race, social inequality and health.
Vanderbilt and Howard universities with the Universidade de São Paulo and the Universidade da Bahia in 2005 formed a consortium to develop curricular and student exchanges around a theme of race, development and social inequality. In 2007, the university partnered with Fisk University, the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande Do Sul and the Universidade Federal da Bahia to study multicultural diversity, social inequality, and the pursuit of health in Brazil and the United States.
Fisk University president Hazel O’Leary said at the event that as a former diplomat and Secretary of Energy she can understand the value international academic partnerships have in furthering diplomacy.
“We can’t solve problems and ills without connecting with others on issues whose solutions may be perceived in different ways,” O’Leary said.
Daniel Augusto Rodrigues Ponte, second secretary at the Embassy of Brazil in Washington, D.C., said the United States-Brazil program represents the “realization of interest and will at the highest level” of the countries’ governments to bring people together in the interest of diplomacy. Ponte cited President Bush’s and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s renewing a memorandum of understanding on education during a March 2007 meeting at Camp David and an August 2007 visit by U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and seven American university presidents to Brazil.
FIPSE Director Leonard L. Haynes III, who has just been named executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), said the United States-Brazil Program has been cited as one of the most important diplomatic initiatives that the United States has with Brazil. While praising the Vanderbilt-Fisk collaboration, Haynes said that in his new role he wants to get more HBCU’s involved in partnerships with Brazil.
Contact: Princine Lewis, (615) 322-NEWS