At a time when Brazil's economy is expanding rapidly, and Brazil and the United States are forging unprecedented ties in trade, energy and scientific development, we at the Institute of International Education believe our two countries should seek much stronger cooperation in higher education as well.
Therefore, we applaud President Dilma Rousseff's commitment to sending 100,000 Brazilian students abroad over the next four years through the Science Without Borders Program, a scholarship program for Brazilian students focusing on the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) to study at the world's best universities. We also commend the private sector involvement – with the goal of providing a quarter of these scholarships.
IIE has been working closely with CAPES, the Brazilian federal agency Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, and with CNPq, Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, an organization within the Ministry of Science and Technology, to place the Science Without Borders undergraduate students at U.S. universities. We are grateful for the opportunity to be a partner in this important new initiative.
To help U.S. institutions implement and sustain partnerships with institutions in Brazil, IIE's Center for International Partnerships in Higher Education is conducting a year-long series of training activities for U.S. campuses which will culminate in a study tour to Brazil this Spring to meet with potential partner campuses. IIE will lead a delegation of representatives from 18 U.S. universities to Brazil from April 14-21, as part of IIE’s International Academic Partnership Program. The group will visit Sao Paulo, Rio, Piracicaba, Campinas and Brasilia; they will be in Sao Paulo April 14-17.
Our goal – like that of “100,000 Strong in the Americas” – is to develop key partnerships that will increase the number of U.S. Students studying in Latin America and vice versa to strengthen the educational ties between Brazil and the United States, and pave the way for students from both countries to gain critical global competencies.
Science Without Borders – The Role of US universities
By the end of 2015 more than 100,000 Brazilians—half of them undergraduates, half doctoral students—will have spent a year or so abroad at the best universities around the world studying subjects such as biotechnology, ocean science and petroleum engineering which the government regards as essential for the nation’s future.
The program’s goals are to: promote scientific research; invest and fund educational resources within Brazil and outside of the country; increase international cooperation in science and technology; and initiate and engage students in a global dialogue through international education.
The Sao Paulo bureau chief of the Economist calls this “Brazil’s boldest attempt to move up an economic gear.” In a recent article, she points out that the country’s trend rate of growth, at 4-4.5%, is slightly below the Latin American average and far slower than in the other BRIC countries, and that, with unemployment at a record low, businesses are having trouble finding well-qualified staff, particularly in science and related subjects. These new scholarships are specifically targeted to produce a workforce that is trained in STEM fields and has the language and cultural skills needed to succeed in the workplace.
Approximately 650 Brazilian undergraduate students arrived in the United States beginning this January, to study at U.S. campuses with funding from Science Without Borders. IIE has helped to place these students at more than a hundred colleges and universities across the United States, where they will study for two semesters. We expect the number of host campuses to double in the coming year, when an additional 1,500 students arrive for programs beginning in Summer or Fall 2012.
We have worked closely with the U.S. university community to fully engage them in this program and to identify the best matches between students and host campuses. We have held national conference calls with the universities and CAPES and CNPq representatives, and we held a roundtable on Brazil at our annual conference on internationalizing the campus last month.
The Institute’s placement specialists carefully review the students’ academic programs and experience, and work with our colleagues at hundreds of institutions around the country to identify specific departments and programs that would be a good place for the students to pursue their studies. For Science Without Borders, IIE's placement team specifically identified host institutions that offered strong coursework relevant to STEM fields and that demonstrated excellent support services for international students, as well as their ability to provide assistance in securing the internships that are a central part of this program.
A few observations on our experiences in managing the undergraduate program so far:
Timing and scope: the scale and scope of the project are unprecedented; it is remarkable how quickly the Brazilian government was able to mobilize the program but also how all the connections have been made. We have been able to get the students’ applications to the universities and the host campuses have mobilized to accept and accommodate them beginning mid-academic year.
The U.S. colleges and universities have been very eager to host the students, and have worked closely with us to ensure the success of the students and their placements. In many cases, the universities have created new pathways for students – some had not hosted one-year visiting non-degree students until now, and they are rapidly putting new mechanisms in place to be able to handle the students and help them make the most of their experiences.
We have also seen some state-level involvement; for example, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been working closely with IIE to help coordinate the participation of Massachusetts universities and identify the fields of specialization of the various host campuses that would be best suited for the SWB students.
The Brazilian students – we have been impressed both with their qualifications, and with how connected they are. They are constantly reaching out to one another on Twitter and Facebook and various social media channels, sharing information instantly, so when there is any new development, we hear from hundreds of students at once. This is a very engaged and connected group of students, and we look forward to seeing how their academic progress and their careers develop going forward.
The Role of the Private Sector: Internships and Sponsorships
An important and distinctive component of this scholarship program is that all the undergraduate students in the United States will conduct academic training in their fields of study through internships with companies in the United States as part of their year-long program. Experiential learning, through meaningful internships, are a critical component of the program’s success. They will certainly lead to further commercial ties between our two countries.
Businesses are coming forward to host the students for internships to fulfill the academic training part of their requirements. The US-Brazil CEO Forum has been active in getting the word out to their members, and we have begun to meet with companies to explore these options. Many students are finding their own internships through the universities and professors’ connections and research work, but IIE is also working with corporations and other organizations to offer internships. For example, Praxair, NCR, Rockwell Automation, International Paper, Vermeer, CH2M Hill, and the Smithsonian have listed opportunities through IIE, and students are already applying for these. Praxair has also worked with IIE to invite other companies to offer internships, and we are promoting these opportunities to the students.
Companies that are interested in hosting these students for internships should contact IIE.
Ludmila Pontremolez, 22, of Sao Jose dos Campos, is studying computer engineering at Embry-Riddle, and she has a summer internship lined up with NASA in Maryland. She says, "It's a very good opportunity to go abroad so we can come back with new ideas to improve our system and help our country."
We have already seen some of the students with private sector corporate-sponsored scholarships begin to arrive in the U.S. through SWB. (These sponsorships are arranged through the Fulbright Commission of Brazil).
The Boeing Company, in partnership with the Fulbright Commission of Brazil, announced that it will fund scholarships for 14 Brazilian aerospace and aeronautical engineering students to spend one year at universities in the United States. For example, among the 6 SWB students at Embry-Riddle this semester, three are sponsored by the Brazilian government, and 3 are sponsored by Boeing.
In announcing the sponsorship, Donna Hrinak, president of Boeing Brazil, said that “Educational programs, especially those that focus on science, technology, engineering and math, are a key focus area for Boeing’s community investments around the world. … Furthermore, Boeing plans to support the Brazilian students while they are in the United States by providing them with mentors and working with the universities they attend to engage them in hands-on projects to enhance their educational experience.” She said that this will be good for Brazil and good for Boeing.
What were the trends prior to Science Without Borders, and what does this mean for Brazil?
Until now, few Brazilians have studied abroad. The United States is the most popular destination—yet last year there were only about 9,000 Brazilians on its campuses (excluding language students), representing about 1% of the total international student population in the United States. The Chinese and Indian contingents together came to 260,000.
Brazil was the fourteenth leading place of origin for students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities last year. While they studied at all levels, the majority of Brazilian students were studying at the undergraduate level. [46.3% undergraduate; 34.8% graduate students; 9.9% other – intensive English, non-degree, etc; 9.0% Optional Practical Training.]
The number of Brazilian students in the U.S. increased steadily in the 1990s, rising from about 5,000 in the middle of the 1990s to a high of about 9,000 students in 2001/02. The numbers then declined for about five years before beginning to rebound in 2006/07. In 2008/09, the number of students from Brazil increased by 16%, and then held relatively steady for the past two years.
The Science Without Borders program will likely lead to a large increase in the number of undergraduate students from Brazil enrolling in U.S. higher education. The program will likely increase interest among Brazilian students in studying English and potentially coming to the United States, so we anticipate that it will lead to increases in the total student numbers beyond just those who receive the Science Without Borders scholarships.
This has implications not only for the students themselves and for the host universities, but for Brazilian society as well. As the Economist pointed out, Brazilians who have foreign degrees have had a disproportionate influence back home. In the 1960s and 1970s the government paid for PhDs abroad in oil exploration, agricultural research and aircraft design. Brazil is now a world leader in all three fields.
What are the implications for cooperation between our two countries?
In addition to strengthening the future workforce in Brazil, Science Without Borders plays an important part in strengthening educational ties between our two countries. I’d like to make a few observations about the ripple effect of this kind of relationship building.
Florida universities are making concerted efforts to build ties with Brazil. First of all, they have been actively engaged in hosting some of the first wave of SWB students. They are also seeking educational cooperation in other ways, such as hosting students from Brazil as part of a Community College Initiative. Looking at the broader context, we see that Enterprise Florida has announced that Brazil is Florida's largest global trading partner, and, that Visit Florida says that after Canada, the second largest number of visitors who came to Florida last year were from Brazil, with 1.4 million -- compared to 1.2 million from the United Kingdom. Gov. Rick Scott has made trips to Brazil to strengthen relations. So these educational relationships fit very well into the state’s larger strategic efforts to build economic ties with an important partner.
The Fulbright Program has also played a part in strengthening educational ties, and one current example illustrates the multiplier effect of strategic exchanges. Carlos Robles, a visiting Fulbright professor at Daytona State this year, organized a Brazil symposium and expo last month, to look at issues such as business connections and air transportation between Florida and Brazil. He also helped The Sister Cities of Volusia form a partnership with his home city in Brazil, Diamantina, and he has been involved in other projects including teaching Portuguese to companies and the community. And now, he's developing a study abroad program for Daytona State College students to go to his university (the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais) starting next year, for a three-week intensive summer Portuguese course.
Montana Senator Max Baucus has highlighted the University of Montana’s programs in forestry and pharmacy as potential hosts for the Brazilian SWB students, and says “I believe these types of partnerships also lay the foundation for better trade relationships.”
As we are seeing today, this is part of a larger context of US-Brazil cooperation. On March 12-13, the United States and Brazil marked 18 years of science and technology cooperation at the Joint Commission Meeting on Science and Technology Cooperation in Brasilia. The meeting was held under the auspices of the U.S.-Brazil Science and Technology Agreement, to monitor progress on and identify new areas of scientific cooperation. Representatives from more than a dozen U.S. Government agencies and research institutions met with their Brazilian counterparts to discuss innovation, disaster management, measurement standards, public health and ocean sciences. They also discussed women in science and Brazil’s Science Without Borders Scholarship program. Dr. John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, led the U.S. delegation. Minister Marco Antonio Raupp of the Brazilian Ministry for Science, Technology and Innovation led the Brazilian delegation.
We must also look at this initiative in a global context. Science Without Borders provides a vehicle through which Brazil can engage in bilateral educational exchange with other countries, such as the UK, France and Germany, and perhaps some newer partners. For example, President Rousseff was in India last week for the BRICS summit, and she signed an agreement for India also to host some students from Brazil under this program, saying, “Among the great examples India has given the world recently, the quality leap in education and scientific research, especially in information technology, has drawn much attention. For this reason, this official visit will be a great opportunity for Brazil to sign an agreement with India under my government's programme 'Science without Borders', which will make it possible for Brazilian teachers and students to study in Indian universities. Likewise, the doors of our teaching institutions will remain open for Indian academics.” So this program helps to connect countries and professionals around the world.
The presidents of Brazil and the United States both believe that the prosperity of a country is significantly linked to the education of its people, which is enriched by shared academic experiences in other countries. The ongoing exchange of people and ideas is key to building a knowledge economy. The Institute of International Education refers to this ongoing exchange as “brain circulation”. Researchers and highly skilled workers increasingly relocate across borders several times in the course of a career, creating a long-term net gain for all parties involved. The easier we make it for them to do this, the more the world stands to gain from the international connections and networks they create.
In preparation for the news coverage of President Rousseff’s visit to the United States, BBC News contacted us a few days ago to interview a student who is here on a Science Without Borders scholarship. We introduced them to Leticia, a nursing student from the Amazon region in the North of Brazil, who is doing research comparing nursing education in the U.S. and Brazil. We listened with great interest as she was asked whether she would prefer to stay and work in the United States or go home to Brazil. She said the students who are here as part of Science Without Borders are aware the significant investment the government is making in their education, and that the skills they are obtaining will be important to their country during this time of rapid economic growth. “Even if the program did not require me to return home after my studies,” she said, “I would want to go back home to my university and my community and share what I have learned in the United States, to make Brazil a better place to live.”