Brazil’s Science Without Borders to Send Students to Oswego

OSWEGO — Becoming a destination for students in Brazil’s Science Without Borders project shows SUNY Oswego’s growing reputation in global education, Interim Provost Lorrie Clemo said.

As many as 20 students from federal universities in Brazil will arrive on campus in January as part of a massive Brazilian initiative to produce more graduates in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields to meet pressing technological needs in the emerging nation.

The Brazilian government will pay more than $2 billion (U.S.) in scholarships to send 75,000 students to 238 well-rated institutions around the world and has asked private donors to support an additional 25,000 scholarships.

Major events coming to Brazil in the near future — including the soccer World Cup in 2014 and 2016 Summer Olympics — have spurred an increase in demand for engineers in a country that has one of the top 10 economies in the world, according to an article in Nature’s online publication.

Engineering graduates in Brazil grew just 1 percent from 2001 to 2009, Aloizio Mercadante, Brazilian minister of science and technology, said in the article, so the government needed to do something to support and stimulate interest in the field.

Oswego joins institutions ranging from Harvard to Stanford, MIT to the UK’s University of Cambridge in welcoming students under the Brazilian initiative, coordinated by the Institute of International Education.

“Their main challenge is that Brazilian universities don’t have the capacity to teach that many students at the speed they want to educate students in science and engineering, so they selected international institutions based on quality,” Clemo said.

International reputation

Initiatives like Oswego’s Global Laboratories, which are already active in Brazil, helped promote a positive international reputation and connections that made the college an attractive partner for the program, Clemo said.

“We have a long relationship with Brazil, which is really intensified by our more recent Global Laboratories work with federal Brazilian universities,” Clemo said. “Those universities, having been exposed to our students and faculty, found everything we’ve done to be of top quality.”

Federal universities in Brazil are very competitive, so Oswego expects to host top-notch students for yearlong stays for the next five years, she added.

The program coordinators asked SUNY Oswego to provide internships for the Brazilian students, and Clemo said she has found willing partners among U.S. companies interested in making connections with some of the best and the brightest young minds from a country with expanding economic influence.

“These students also will have an opportunity to do undergraduate research as part of our Summer Scholars program,” Clemo said. “This provides a great opportunity for SUNY Oswego students to interact with students from another culture.”

In a sense, she said, the Brazilian government funding these students’ research in Oswego makes the college its own Global Laboratory with faculty and students from multiple countries working together to solve pressing problems through science.

“We have a reputation of having a lot of experience in study abroad and in supporting international students,” Clemo said.

That Oswego has courses in Portuguese, the native language of Brazil, was another plus in terms of helping students feel welcome on campus, she added.