ODI Spring Break in Brazil:
Higher Education in Brazil:
Access, Equity, and Opportunity

ODI Scholars in Brazil spell out OH-IO!

For spring semester 2015, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI), in conjunction with the college of Education and Human Ecology, organized a study abroad course entitled, “Higher Education in Brazil: Access, Equity, and Opportunity.” This year’s cohort consisted of fourteen undergraduate and graduate students, all affiliated with ODI: Bell National Resource Center students and Bell Fellows, LASER Scholars, Morrill Scholars, and Young Scholars. The annual study abroad experience was created to give ODI students the opportunity to go abroad and see how other people live in the context of their respective cultures, stated Dr. Robert A. Bennett III, Special Assistant to the Associate Provost in ODI and a Program Specialist with the Study Abroad Office in Office of International Affairs. Dr. Bennett continued, “The trip also presents the opportunity for our first generation students, students with financial need, and even our graduate students to travel internationally, which for many was their first time.”

The group traveled to Bahia, a region of Brazil, where they were able to visit Salvador, Morro de São Paulo, and Gamboa. The group left Columbus on Friday, March 13, and returned Sunday, March 22. Culture, learning, and exploration were prearranged with the help of Clara Ramos, coordinator with Associação Cultural Brasil-Estados Unidos-ACBEU. Students were given the opportunity to visit two universities in Salvador: the School of Education at Universidade do Estado da Bahia and the Universidade Federal da Bahia, along with a public school on the island of Gamboa.

white buildings in Brazil located in town square.

When the group was not visiting schools or attending lectures on education in Brazil, they were given the chance to experience the culture. Activities included: a panoramic bus tour and historic tour of Salvador, a visit to the Jazz and Modern Art Museum, Ballet Folkloric performance, Candomble temple, and a Concert in Pelourinho. The group was also given the opportunity to visit the Steve Biko Institute, a nonprofit organization that serves young Afro-Brazilian students and prepares them for college entrance exams and helps with other college-related needs.

During the trip, the entire group traveled to Morro de São Paulo, one of five villages on the island Tinharé in the municipality of Cairu, Bahia, Brazil. There students toured the island, visiting Praia da Argila and Gamboa Beach.

group travelling with suitcases down tree-lined stree with painted walls

Many of the students are still raving about their experience and sharing with others what they learned from the week they spent in such an amazing country. Dr. Ashley Patterson, a recent graduate from the Department of Teaching and Learning, shared, “Our visit to Brazil encouraged me to think of the construct of race and the reality of the work that this imagined creation does in entirely new ways.” During the trip, everyone was asked to reflect and describe – using only seven words – their biggest learning moments:

“Equity in education is a global marathon.”
                            Morris Council, second year doctoral student
“Affirmative Action is more than reserved seats.”
                           Stephanie Clemons Thompson, program coordinator
“Poverty should never keep you from wisdom.”
                           Timothy Jones, second year undergraduate student
“Affirmative Action addresses one piece of inequality.”
                           Martin Perez, graduating senior
“Access to education is too limited.”
                           Dalton Maynard, first year undergraduate student

Natosha R. Willis, a first year doctoral student in Education Policy stated, “It was really amazing to learn not only about Brazil’s amazing culture and history but also about the country’s educational advances and policies. Although they are making strides towards equality with continued affirmative action efforts, many of the students still face some of the same challenges as our students here in the United States.” As part of the course, students are currently working on research projects that examine an area related to access, equity and opportunity in Brazil. The research projects will be presented, along with a class video containing photos and interviews from the trip, on April 30, 2015 in the MLK Auditorium of Hale Hall.

group phtos of ODI Scholars and staff in Brazil

Plans for next year’s trip are underway. By 2018, ODI plans to organize more opportunities for students to study abroad in all the hemispheres of the world, and in particular, trips to Africa and Europe.

Written by Natosha R. Willis, Bell Center graduate assistant and doctoral student in Educational Policy.