Vanderbilt faculty, students to explore parallels between Brazil-U.S. through innovative curriculum and exchange program

December 19, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt and Howard universities are joining with two Brazilian institutions to help ensure that their nations’ next generation of scholars, government officials and corporate executives will be prepared for the challenges of an increasingly global economy.

A grant of $430,000 from the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education and the Brazilian Ministry of Education’s CAPES program will allow the establishment of a consortium among Vanderbilt, Howard, the Universidade de Sao Paulo and the Universidade Federal da Bahia. The grant was one of only 10 awarded nationally through the U.S. -Brazil Higher Education Consortia Program.

Through the project, faculty from all four schools will develop an innovative interdisciplinary curriculum that will allow students at each school to explore themes of race, economic development and social inequality in both the United States and Brazil. In addition to faculty and student exchanges between the U.S. and Brazilian universities, the program will allow students to earn a graduate-level certificate recognizing their concentrations. Included in the curriculum development will be a team-taught electronically delivered core course.

”Brazil and the United States share a number of common problems resulting from a long history of slavery and resulting social, political, economic and regional inequalities,” said professors Jane Landers of Vanderbilt, Wayne Patterson of Howard and others in their proposal. “At the same time there are significant differences in terms of economic growth, income distribution and international relations.”

The program represents a new way of approaching these problems. Because of “rapid advances in international economic integration, ever-closer links of communication and the increasing exchange of information,” the national focus of many academic disciplines is too confining, the organizers said. “Instead, a new, international approach is required. … The program will give advanced undergraduate and graduate students an international and interdisciplinary perspective that they would otherwise lack.”

Landers, principal investigator of the Vanderbilt effort and associate dean of the College of Arts and Science and Arts, and Science Dean Richard McCarty traveled to Brasilia in October for a planning meeting with representatives of the other universities and the U.S. and Brazilian governments, and they will attend a second meeting in Bahia in February.

McCarty praised Landers, the former director of the Latin American and Iberian Studies Program, for her efforts to secure the grant for Vanderbilt. “She did a fantastic job and we are excited about the possibilities for this program in the future.”

Student exchanges will begin in the 2003-2004 academic year, and those students who complete certain courses and study abroad will receive a certificate in international studies from Howard University or a certificate in Latin American Studies from Vanderbilt University.

Over a period of four years, 10-12 students from Vanderbilt and Howard each will travel to Brazil, and the same number of students from the two Brazilian universities will study in the United States.

The four partners were chosen for the consortium because of each of their unique contributions. “Vanderbilt has one of the largest concentrations of specialists on Brazil in the United States and has a long and distinguished history in Brazilian studies, dating to 1947 when Chancellor (Harvie) Branscomb established the Institute for Brazilian Studies,” Landers said. The center is now known as the Center for Latin American and Iberian Studies.

As the only Carnegie Research-Extensive university that is also a historically black university, Howard has a long history of research in African diaspora issues. The Universidade de Sao Paulo was chosen for its expertise in economics and regional development, and the Universidade Federal da Bahia has a unique center for the study of race relations in Brazil.

Media contact: Elizabeth Latt,, 615-322-NEWS

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