Educational Administration Faculty Part of UT Austin Brazil Delegation June 11, 2013

Somers headshot

Pat Somers

Heilig headshot

Julian Vasquez Heilig

Educational administration faculty Pat Somers and Julian Vasquez Heilig, as well as doctoral student Diane Ginsburg, were part of the University of Texas at Austin delegation that traveled to Brazil for a June 5 event that spotlighted past and future UT-Brazil research partnerships.

UT Austin President Bill Powers, who was part of the delegation, signed a partnership agreement with the Brazilian Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education at the Brazilian Senate Chambers following a symposium at the Universidade de Brasília.

“Understanding Brazil is critical to understanding not only our own hemisphere but the contours of our emerging global economy and culture,” Powers said. “As a well-established center for studying Latin America, UT Austin stands ready to take our relationship with Brazil to the next level in the interest of both scholarship and friendship. These research partnerships are important and exciting.”??

During the trip Somers, who’s an associate professor in the Department of Educational Administration, had several meetings with researchers and policymakers about her collaborative research with Brazilian scholars Marilia Morosini (Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul) and Miriam Pan (Federal University of Paraná). Somers and her colleagues are studying persistence to graduation of first-generation college students.

“Brazil has recently expanded and democratized higher education and many new students are the first in their families to attend college,” said Somers, who has done work in Brazil as a Fulbright New Century Scholar. “In Brazil, as in the U.S., persistence to graduation is a pressing policy issue. We hope that our research will shed light on how to improve the academic and career success of first-generation students. Marilia and I have been collaborating on research regarding college students in the U.S. and Brazil for about 10 years and have been able to involve about 25 scholars - graduate students as well as faculty - from both countries.”

Heilig, who also is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Administration, is conducting research on the progression of Brazilian students from high school to post-secondary education (otherwise known as the “educational pipeline”). Ginsberg, who’s a doctoral student in educational administration, also is a clinical professor and assistant dean in UT Austin’s College of Pharmacy. She has been working with pharmacy educators in Brazil for the past three years.

One major goal of the trip to Brazil was to raise UT Austin’s profile as an international hub for science and technology and as a leader in forging higher education exchanges with one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. It also increases the chances that UT will attract research investment from Brazil and other Latin American countries, and provides an opportunity to continue building an alumni base in the world’s fifth-largest nation. The partnership agreement includes an exchange of students and researchers as well as joint research projects as part of Brazil’s Ciência sem Fronteiras (Science without Borders) initiative.

Primarily funded by the Brazilian federal government, the program seeks to expand the country’s science and technology initiatives through exchanges of undergraduate and graduate students and researchers.

UT Austin’s Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS) organized the symposium and trip. The symposium — “The State of Higher Education in the Americas” — featured presentations by UT faculty members, such as Somers and Heilig, and several Brazilian universities.

The Brazil Center at LLILAS was established in 1995, following 25 years of work by the institute's Brazilian Studies Committee to diversify and expand interdisciplinary studies of Brazil on the UT Austin campus and to increase the number of faculty members specializing in Brazil.

UT Austin’s Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS) organized the symposium and trip. The symposium — “The State of Higher Education in the Americas” — featured presentations by UT faculty members, such as Somers and Heilig, and several Brazilian universities.

The Brazil Center at LLILAS was established in 1995, following 25 years of work by the institute's Brazilian Studies Committee to diversify and expand interdisciplinary studies of Brazil on the UT Austin campus and to increase the number of faculty members specializing in Brazil.

Adapted from June 4 UT news release.

Last updated on June 11, 2013