I was in Rio for a seminar on how Brazilian Universities can attract more Americans students. I asked PUC Rio to organize and sponsor the program, since they are the most successful Brazilian university in attracting American students and they did a wonderful job. The event was held at the Loyola Center, just up the hill from the main PUC campus. This was a private home, and a really nice one. The owners left it to the school for seminars and meetings. The neighborhood is very nice, but in some decline as the local favela is bleeding into the nearby forests. I was told that property values have declined as fear of marauding bands of toughs has grown. I walked around a little and didn’t see any, but I was not there at night. Thinks look different in the dark.
We got a good deal on the meeting. The only USG expense was my travel and paying for a coffee break. That the universities are paid their own way shows their commitment. Brazilians sharing experience with Brazilians is a better idea than us trying to tell them what to do, but I did have a role.
Along with Luiz, the executive director of Fulbright, I gave a presentation on the American university system. I made my presentation in Portuguese. I am feeling better about the language these days. It is hard to judge your own language ability, but people seem to respond. They ask questions based on what I think I said and laugh at my jokes. Maybe they are just being polite, but at least the language is good enough that they know they are supposed to laugh.
I like to talk about the American higher education system. I am proud of it, in all its diversity, chaos and achievement. I am not an expert, which is helpful since I usually get only a short time to talk. I don’t exhaust my knowledge in that limited time and I can make it reasonably interesting; I cannot go into the more esoteric and boring details, since I don’t know them, and I bring a lot of enthusiasm into the endeavor. I am a well-informed layman. In the last two years I have had lots of first-hand experience with the system, visiting dozens of universities and community colleges and talking to hundreds of educational leaders. I also get to do focus groups with returning Brazilian students. They describe the U.S. system through the prism of their cultural experience. Anyway, I think I have something of value to share and so I do the talks whenever asked.
We had a good crowd. Something like seventy-five people signed up, I am told from sixty-three universities, although there was never a particular time when they all were there. Some came late and others left early, but at the end of the day, we still had around fifty participants. They came from all over Brazil and were all in charge of recruiting and/or foreign students, so I think we got the right people.
Anyway, I think it was worth my time, besides it is never a waste of time when you can be in Rio.
My pictures are from around the Loyola Center. The third one down shows a couple eucalyptus. They are not native to Brazil, but the Brazilians have developed good varieties and they are all over the place. The bottom picture is a little steam and wall in back of the Loyola Center.