Higher Education in Brazil:
Access, Equity, and Opportunity

For spring semester 2017, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the College of Education and Human Ecology organized an education abroad course entitled, “Higher Education in Brazil: Access, Equity, and Opportunity.” This year’s cohort consisted of thirteen undergraduate and four graduate students, all affiliated with ODI either through the Bell National Resource Center (BNRC), LASER, the Morrill Scholarship Program, the Young Scholars Program, or the office’s initiatives for graduate students. “This annual 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 Executive Director of the BNRC and a Program Specialist with the Study Abroad Office in Office of International Affairs. Dr. Bennett noted, “The trip also presents the opportunity for our students to travel internationally.” And for the first time, the group connected with a cohort of sixteen students from the University of Connecticut, led by Dr. Erik Hines, an Assistant Professor in School Counseling.

The group traveled to Bahia, a region of Brazil that is nearly 80% African descent. They were able to visit Salvador, Morro de São Paulo, and Gamboa. The group left Columbus on Thursday, March 9, and returned Sunday, March 19. Culture, learning, and exploration were prearranged with the help of Clara Ramos, coordinator with Associação Cultural Brasil-Estados Unidos-ACBEU. Students visited a myriad of educational and cultural institutions. In particular, they visited two universities in Salvador: Universidade Federal da Bahia (Federal University of Bahia) where they had a talk with Professor Cloves Oliveira and Silvio Humberto, a Brazilian politician and founder of 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. There they had a discussion about politics and the intersection of education. The group also visited Area 1, a private for-profit university run by DeVry. They learned about the educational experiences and outcomes of Brazilian students at the institution, and engaged in a three-hour dialogue with students about educational opportunities in Brazil and the United States.

In conjunction with the group from the University of Connecticut, there was a service learning project at Escola Aberta do Calabar Elementary School with internationally-renowned artist Eder Muniz. The students contributed to painting the schools wall as part of a beautification project they had been planning for over a year. Jasmine Morel, a junior in public affairs said the project was “a great way for us to connect with the students. They loved to help us paint the walls of their won school. It’s like a memory we’ll forever have that we shared. Jodeci Acosta-Gorman, a MSP senior majoring in psychology, noted “I enjoyed connecting with the children at the school and seeing them come out of their shell to paint with us and play. When I started using Snapchat with them, they couldn’t help but laugh at all the filters we used.” African American and African Studies graduate student Sheneese Thompson said, “It was wonderful to have an opportunity to give back and see, even with the language barrier, how grateful the students were.”

When the group was not visiting schools, or attending lectures on education in Brazil, they were given the chance to experience the culture. For example, they visited Pelourhino, Salvador’s center during the colonial period. It was named for the whipping post located in the central plaza where enslaved Africans were punished. There, the group learned about the history and intersection of identities of the many peoples in Salvador over the last four centuries. Other activities included a panoramic bus tour and historic tour of Salvador, a Ballet Folkloric performance, and a visit for ice cream. The group was also given the opportunity to visit the Steve Biko Institute, where they talked to students about their educational experiences.

During the trip, the 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. Where there was also a visit to Modern School, which culminated in a basketball game between Gamboan and OSU students.

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. 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 Tuesday, May 2, 2017 in Hale Hall. Plans for next year’s trip are currently underway. Next year, in partnership with the College of Arts and Sciences, ODI plans to unveil a new education abroad program that looks at the links between France and Morocco.