University of Nebraska launches new study abroad initiative in Brazil

Thirteen University of Nebraska students arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this week as part of a new study abroad initiative aimed at providing more students an opportunity to have a meaningful international experience in one of several countries the university is targeting for close cooperation.

The students will spend three weeks immersing themselves in the study of critical issues facing South America’s largest nation and an emerging economic power. They will learn about Brazil’s successes and challenges in the areas of education, health, hunger and food safety and security, and the environment, and will also experience Rio de Janeiro’s cultural life.

The program is supported by a two-year grant jointly funded by NU President James B. Milliken and the University of Nebraska Foundation. The grant covers most of the expenses normally incurred by students when they study abroad, including travel, meals and lodging, as well as costs of teaching and administrative work provided by the partner university in Brazil.

NU hopes to expand the program in the future.

Milliken noted that Brazil is one of three countries – along with China and India – that NU has identified as important strategic partners in its larger plan for global engagement.

“Brazil, like Nebraska, is focusing on critical issues related to agriculture, water, energy, public health and medical research, and early childhood education. These are areas that offer rich opportunities for collaboration that can put us in a better position to solve global challenges,” Milliken said. “Sending more of our students to Brazil will strengthen the university’s ties there and give our next generation of leaders a chance to explore issues important to Nebraska and the world. This program is an excellent opportunity for our students and I hope it will help them develop the interests and skills they need to compete in today’s global economy.”

The program is being led by Lourdes Gouveia, director of the Office of Latino/Latin American Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Students were chosen for the program in a competitive application process.

“Their work began more than a month ago through the distance learning component of the course and, judging from their participation in class and at a very intense orientation session, they are ready and excited to test their knowledge on the ground in Brazil,” Gouveia said.

In Brazil, NU faculty have worked closely with a leading higher education institution, the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro, to develop a strong academic program with a service-learning component in various Rio de Janeiro neighborhoods. The program is based in Rio de Janeiro but organizers anticipate students will travel outside the city for more in-depth exploration of issues. They will earn three academic credit hours through the experience.

Students also will blog at the website established for the program.

“This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Danielle Hoechner, a UNO graduate student in secondary education, Spanish and ESL. “I can already tell that it will be one of those experiences that makes you a different, better person – one who is more open to the world.”

University of Nebraska Medical Center nursing student Karina Cantu said the program will help her grow both as an individual and as a future health-care provider. “I can’t wait to experience in person at least part of what I have learned so far about Brazil,” Cantu said.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln business administration and Spanish student Janet Sanchez said, “I will be in a completely different world than I’ve ever experienced. My biggest goal is to be able to bring something back to share with others.”

As part of the university’s global engagement strategy, Milliken has set a goal to provide every undergraduate an opportunity to study abroad so they are better positioned to compete in the global innovation economy.

He also has a goal for NU to double its international student enrollment in order to enrich NU students’ educational experience and help grow Nebraska’s economy. Attracting more students from Brazil will be a key part of this goal. This year, NU is hosting 28 Brazilian students who are part of the country’s Science Without Borders program, which is providing scholarships to college students to study abroad primarily in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields at the world’s best universities. Given the long-standing relationship NU enjoys with Brazil and the two countries’ shared interests, Milliken said NU should be in a strong position to attract even more Science Without Borders students next year.


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