Graduate School Creates New Brazilian Exchange Program

Julie French

By Julie FrenchThe Daily Northwestern

A few Northwestern and Brazilian graduate students will swap places next year in a new exchange program recently announced by the Graduate School.

Students who have completed their initial coursework can petition for up to 12 months of study and research at several Brazilian universities. Those institutions will send their students to NU to do the same.

“This is a great opportunity for our students to enhance their research and improve the profile of our university,” said Graduate School Associate Dean Simon Greenwold. “Our university is very interested in being a global place, and this is one strategic tactic in ensuring that globalization.”

NU graduate students have had opportunities to make shorter trips to Brazil in the past, but the exchange program will benefit NU as a whole, according to program administrators.

“If you send someone to Brazil, the person who benefits is the one person that you sent to Brazil,” said sociology Prof. Bruce Carruthers, a co-creator of the program. “If you bring someone from Brazil here, then everyone they come into contact with potentially has a Brazil connection.”

Brazilian students will be expected to do more than “hide in the library,” he said. They will be encouraged to participate in seminars, speak at lectures and be active in the academic community. NU students will do much of the same.

“What we most want is to have (NU’s) students get the best sense of that country – its history, politics and culture – as they can,” said history Prof. Brodwyn Fischer, another co-creator of the program.

NU students will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in a different university system and develop international networks, said political science Prof. Ben Ross Schneider, the third creator of the program.

“If you stay your whole life in the North American university system, you’ll miss out on other intellectual approaches to studying social sciences,” Schneider said.

The program will start small, with one or two students next year, Carruthers said. The program is open to students from any discipline.

Brazil was chosen for its strong academics and because it is the biggest country in Latin America, Carruthers said. It also is an area American schools sometimes overlook, he said.

“Ivy League schools already have very strong connections to places like Britain and East Asia,” Carruthers said. “It would be hard for Northwestern to get any competitive advantage going head to head on those fronts. But Brazil is a place where we could make some headway.”

The Graduate School has exchange programs in France and launched dual-doctoral programs with several French universities in the past two years, which grew out of exchange relationships.

While the Brazil exchange programs currently don’t offer degrees, that’s “not to say that down the line there might not be degree arrangements,” Greenwold said.

Fischer said she doesn’t expect to create a dual-degree program but that the program could expand into Peru and Mexico or create opportunities for undergrads in the future.

Jake Matatyaou, a fifth-year graduate student in political science, spent nine months in France last year through an exchange.

“I think what I take away from my experience overall is the community of friends and scholars,” he said. “We still keep in touch, and we still exchange our work. It’s building relationships with people you wouldn’t be able to build relationships with in Evanston.”

Reach Julie French at [email protected]