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UK Partners with Brazilian Universities

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Brazil, “B” in the “BRIC economies,” just overtook the United Kingdom to become the world’s 6th largest economy, establishing itself as a global leader. The University of Kentucky is doing its part to work with this new economic powerhouse through institutional partnerships, working groups and student exchanges.

“UK’s long-standing relationships with Brazilian universities are taking on increased importance, as Brazil’s global role continues to expand,” says Susan Carvalho, UK’s associate provost for international programs. “Those partnerships open up opportunities for shared research and development on both sides, and show us the future of global knowledge production, beginning with agriculture and now expanding to other research areas.”

One of the strongest institutional partnerships UK has with Brazil is with the Universidade Federal de Viçosa (UFV), a public university in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. UFV consistently ranks as one of the top universities in Brazil; its world-class agricultural and engineering programs attract students from around the world.

On November 8-9, 2012, the President of UFV, Dr. Nilda Soares; the UFV Office of International Affairs Director, Dr. Vladimir Di Lorio; and UFV’s Dean of Research and Graduate Studies, Dr. Eduardo Mizubuti visited UK to discuss opportunities that will benefit both universities.

UK’s partnership with UFV was initiated in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering and broadened to become the Brazil Working Group. Through a USDA International Science and Education grant the Brazil Working Group has created new exchange agreements, co-authored research and faculty exchanges.

Steve Workman, experiment station associate director and assistant dean, and one of the Brazil Working Group founders, has been on the forefront of this partnership since his first visit to Brazil in 2004.

“The strong ties between UK and UFV’s agricultural programs combined with UFV’s new Medicine and Nursing colleges has enhanced the similarities between the institutions,” said Dr. Workman. “UK is unique among universities in the U.S. with its combination of agriculture, engineering and medicine on one campus. As a result, both institutions will benefit through agreements at the university level.”

A member of the Brazil Working Group, Dr. Suman Surendranath, associate professor in the College of Agriculture, exemplifies the kind of work that is key to UK’s partnerships in Brazil. Surendranath has been working with UFV faculty in their Department of Food Technology and Department of Animal Science to establish a program on the molecular basis of beef quality differences between Brahman cattle and European cattle.

“I chose to work with UFV because of the reputation of their Animal Science and Food Technology programs. These departments are highly ranked and respected in Brazil. UFV’s labs are of excellent quality, and the research projects I produced there were published in reputable journals,” said Dr. Surendranath.

UFV is hoping to channel UK’s expertise for its new Colleges of Medicine and Nursing. Dr. Suzanne Prevost and Dr. Pat Howard, both associate deans in the UK College of Nursing, met with the UFV delegation to begin discussions regarding the potential for future collaborations between the programs.

”Since there are many similarities between the two college’s undergraduate nursing curricula – particularly in the pre-nursing phase – we are hopeful that we may be able to encourage future student exchanges,” said Dr. Prevost. “The team is also considering opportunities for junior nursing faculty from UFV who may be interested in pursuing Ph.D. coursework at UK.“

The UFV and UK meetings also included discussions about the addition of a new dual degree program, teacher-training programs, sister school relationships for secondary education, distance learning, nanotechnology research, recruitment and many other opportunities to advance the goals of each institution.

Scientific Mobility Program

UK’s partnerships with Brazil are also strengthened through the Scientific Mobility Program (SMB) – formerly the Science Without Borders program. SMB provides full scholarships for Brazil’s highest achieving undergraduate students to study in the world’s best institutions for one year.  Twenty-nine of SMB students are currently studying at UK.

SMB students internationalize, and bring new ideas and energy to UK’s campus. Ivan Ribeiro, a student from UFV is examining Brazil’s scientific literature regarding livestock production, its impact on streams and riparian ecosystems, and the best management practices and laws used to minimize these impacts. Ribeiro plans to present his results at the ASABE (American Society of Biological and Agricultural Engineers) meeting this summer in Kansas City.

“I am excited about studying at UK because this allows me to improve my spoken English, and learn about U.S. culture.  The students here are very helpful, and the technology is fantastic. During this next year I am hoping to improve my ability to write about the research I am involved with,” said Riberio. “I have made several friends through the UK Judo Club, where I am learning new techniques, and sharing what I learned from my Sensei in Viçosa.”

Fund for Improvement of Post-Secondary Education

Kentucky students are also traveling to Brazil through the Fund for Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE), a competitive grant program run by U.S. Department of Education designed to support risky, innovative projects.  

Students participating in the FIPSE program receive a stipend that covers their expenses. The exchange program has been designed to fit seamlessly into a student’s program of study, so that a student can graduate on schedule and include study abroad in Brazil. Biosystems and agricultural engineering students have already participated in the program, which is open to all engineering students. The UK FIPSE program is directed by Tim Stombaugh, associate professor in biosystems and agricultural engineering.

“Brazil’s dynamic and rapidly growing economy – in such fields as agriculture, oil and gas, mining, manufacturing, and aerospace – and its importance to the US as a trading partner, mean that the knowledge and experience that our students gain from our partnership with the Federal University of Viçosa will be extraordinarily valuable to them in their careers,” said Gary Gaffield, assistant provost for international partnerships. “Building the human capital of the Commonwealth in this way, and supporting research that will foster continued economic growth and build even stronger economic ties with Brazil, is central to UK’s mission as Kentucky’s flagship, land-grant university.”