By Paige Pearcy, Daily News Editor
Published September 3, 2012
While summer vacation now seems like a distant memory for students starting classes Tuesday, University President Mary Sue Coleman will commence a vacation of her own in just a few weeks.
More like this
On Sept. 22, Coleman — accompanied by a delegation of six faculty members and Mark Tessler, the University's vice provost for international affairs — will embark on a week-long trip to Brazil. The group will travel to four cities — São Paulo, Campinas, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia — and meet with academic and government officials.
“We have partnered with Brazil for many years and witnessed one of the most interesting revolutions in higher education,” Coleman said in a press release. “Brazil is not only an emerging economy, it is an emerging power in research.”
Associate History Prof. Sueann Caulfield and Michele Heisler, an associate professor of internal medicine, wrote the proposal for the trip in the spring of 2011 and are both accompanying Coleman to Brazil. Caulfield said the idea to travel to the country came from realizing the number of collaborative ventures the University has established in Brazil.
“We realized that across various areas we really have a great deal of activity already taking place in Brazil, but very not connected to one another,” Caulfield said “This is really the first time that we have made the connection.”
Coleman has previously traveled to China, Ghana and South Africa on behalf of the University. While in Brazil, Coleman will formalize agreements for collaborations with various programs at the University and planning others, including a theater program and a joint project with the medical school.
“Really great things happened after her trip to China and after her trip to Africa, so we’re also really looking forward to her vision and thinking about how we can build our current efforts in Brazil,” Heisler said.
Tessler, who is also a political science professor, helps make decisions about where to go and who to meet with on Coleman’s international trips.
“One of my responsibilities is to help us strengthen and deepen our international partnerships with important universities overseas,” Tessler said. “So I’m personally very interested in this, and some of the things that we’ll be discussing are in my own area as a faculty member.”
The group will travel to Universidade de São Paulo — one of the leading universities in Brazil — the Universidade Estadual de Campinas and the Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, as well as the U.S. embassy and other places of interest like research foundations, according to the press release. The delegation, which is comprised of faculty members from the School of Natural Resources, LSA and the Medical School, will also participate in alumni events.
At the University, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies is assisting with many of the University's Brazilian collaborations. Bebete Martins, director of programming and outreach at LACS and native Brazilian, is also helping organize events for the trip and assisting students who are interested in doing internships or study abroad programs in Brazil.
Caulfield added that in addition to being a critical country economically and politically to the rest of the world, Brazil is also important to Michigan because automobile companies have plants in Brazil.
“President Coleman going to Brazil sends a signal to people in Michigan, not just students and faculty, but also in the state of Michigan, the importance of Brazil and the importance of the University’s globalization efforts and makes it concrete,” Caulfield said.
According to Caulfield and Heisler, there will be more of an effort made for students at the University to have access to experiences in Brazil, particularly through emphasizing language programs like emphasize Portuguese to help alleviate obstacles to communication.
“What we’re going to be doing also is really strengthening programs so that people — starting with people who have some base in Spanish — can bring their Portuguese up to speed, so that more students can take advantage of these opportunities with language training that they get here at Michigan, and then they can be part of some of these collaborations,” Heisler said.
During the winter semester, Caulfield will be leading a course titled “The History of Human Rights in Latin America,” which will be co-taught with a professor in Brazil.
“We are going to use video conferencing to have students be in contact with one another,” Caulfield said.
While the Medical School and the president’s office are primarily funding the trip, Tessler said after the trip is over the bulk of the funding will be made from various parts of the University for the collaborations.
“One of the things that’s very encouraging is that (the Brazilians) value the University of Michigan and what we have to offer, and they’re very interested in providing funds for research,” Tessler said.