Universities in Minas 2

Minas Gerais has more federal universities than any other state.   There are twelve federal universities, along with two state universities and various private ones, including PUC-Minas, which is the largest PUC in the world.  They are working on forming a consortium of the twelve federals, two states and PUC.  If it works, it will be a powerful combination.  

Many of the universities are outside the big cities, which is not the common Brazilian pattern.  We visited Ouro Preto, Viçosa and São João del Rei.   None of these are big cities and the universities make a big impression on them.   

Viçosa has a population of only a little more than 70,000; the federal university (UFV) has around 14,000 students.  Viçosa was originally founded as a school of agriculture called Escola Superior de Agricultura e Veterinária, and co-founded by an American, Peter Henry Rolfs.  Rolfs was the director of the school 1927-9.   Exchanges with the U.S. were common in the 1930s and 1940s and in the 1950s, the school developed a strong partnership with Perdue University. The place has a significant American feel and a practical mission similar to one of our land grant universities.

One thing that UFV has that many other Brazilian universities do not is dorms. 

When I was reading the history of the Escola Superior de Agricultura e Veterinária, the parallels to today were apparent.  History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.  Back in the 1920s, Brazil looked to partner with the U.S. in things like agricultural sciences and Viçosa was one of the perennial fruits of this cooperation ninety years ago.  I hope our work with SwB will be as successful and sustainable.  It is good to recall that we can see farther because we stand on the shoulders of giants.  Our duty is to be worthy of those that went before.

The Federal University at Ouro Preto grew from two practical streams: the Escola de Farmácia de Ouro Preto was founded in 1839 and the School of Mines chartered by Emperor Pedro II in 1876.  The two were united to form a federal university in 1969.   Minas Gerais means “general mines,” so a school of mines was natural in the state.

The Federal University of São João del Rei also had roots in older schools.  The Faculdade Dom Bosco de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras and a Fundação Municipal de São João del-Rei.   

We got a fantastic reception at all three university, with crowds growing at each stop.   I counted 170 at Ouro Preto.  Viçosa filled every seat in an auditorium that held 200 and had people standing.  São João del Rei met us with about 150 in the hall itself, but connected other centers via internet and we got questions from the remote locations.  In addition we did television interviews.  My colleague Vera did a really good job of answering questions and I am convinced that dozens if not hundreds of additional Brazilian students will study in the U.S. as a result of our efforts in Minas and around Brazil.  Valeu a pena ir.

My top pictures show the campus at Viçosa.  At the very top are hitchhikers.  They line up for rides.  Next is the old main building.  The engine is from Ouro Preto.  I will download pictures of São João del Rei and make a separate post tomorrow.