Students Craft a Vision for a Better Brazil

GW’s Brasilia Without Borders program inspires youth to be global citizens.

Knapp Brasilia
George Washington President Steven Knapp views presentation from Brasilia Without Borders students. The final projects addressed student solutions to Brazil biggest civic issues.
August 11, 2014

By Brittney Dunkins

After four weeks of academic and experiential learning in the nation’s capital, the 385 students who participated in the George Washington University’s Brasilia Without Borders—or Brasília Sem Fronteiras—program are ready to tackle their next challenge: building a brighter future for Brazil.

“Our perspective and vision is one of the most important outcomes of this program,” student speaker Felipe Dias said during the closing ceremony held at Lisner Auditorium on Thursday. “We are the first steps in a new path for Brazil.”

The program, organized by GW’s Office of Summer and Special Programs, offered three distinct academic cohorts, in coordination with the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, the Elliott School of International Affairs and the GW School of Business. “Innovative Leadership in a Transnational World,” was developed and co-taught by Assistant Professor of Sociology Fran Buntman; the International Business and Marketing cohort was designed and taught by Assistant Professor of International Business Anna Helm; and the International Law cohort was developed and taught by ESIA Professorial Lecturer Joe Rutigliano.

Students also engaged in experiential learning at the district’s top institutions including the U.S. Supreme Court, the World Bank, the Capital Area Food Bank and the U.S. Congress.

Mr. Dias, a student in the international law cohort, was one of three student speakers, along with Henrique Soares Almeida and Emanuel Nascimento Nunes.

Our perspective and vision is one of the most important outcomes of this program. We are the first steps in a new path for Brazil."

Felipe Dias, Brasilia Without Borders, International Business and Marketing cohort

The speakers were selected to address students, faculty and administrators, including Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Planning Forrest Maltzman, Assistant Provost for Summer and Special Programs Georgette Edmondson-Wright and Associate Director of Summer and Special Programs Claire Shoolin, at the closing ceremony.

Jefferson Brown, deputy assistant secretary for public diplomacy in the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, served as the keynote speaker. He commended the students and the university for furthering the U.S. mission to enhance educational diplomacy.

Mr. Almeida, the international business cohort speaker, said that he felt fortunate to learn from expert faculty and industry leaders about strategies to ensure that Brazil will be competitive in an increasingly globalized world.

“During the program, we had to work 50 days in five,” he joked. “But what I have learned will not fit into a 32 kg suitcase.”

Mr. Nunes, the leadership cohort student speaker, said that he felt empowered to return to Brasília and teach others.

Student Speakers stand with Jefferson Brown, deputy assistant secretary for public diplomacy in the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and university staff and administrators at the closing ceremony of Brasilia Without Borders.

“I learned that I have power and rights as a citizen,” Mr. Nunes said. “The professors gave us the power to share our opinions, absorb knowledge and discuss ideas about ways to do great work in our home society.”

Prior to the start of the ceremony, the students displayed their final projects on the third and fourth floors of the Marvin Center.

The projects showcased ideas for solutions to a range of Brazil’s civic issues, from the lack of books in public school libraries to the difficulties of managing a family in poverty and the lack of infrastructure to support sustainability initiatives, such as recycling.

George Washington President Steven Knapp attended the presentations and talked with students about the inspiration behind their projects.

Lais Silva and Lucas Andrade, two students in the international law cohort, developed a centralized emergency service number for their final project.

Mr. Andrade said that they were inspired by 911, the U.S. emergency number; a campus services pamphlet that was distributed when they arrived; and GW ‘s website, which lists contact information for all of the university’s services.

“In Brazil, you have to call a different number if you have a medical emergency or if there is fire,” Ms. Silva said. “Many people don’t know about these services or how to contact them, and we focused our project around creating a unified hotline.”

Reflecting on all that their fellow students had accomplished at the closing ceremony, Mr. Dias, Mr. Nunes and Mr. Almeida encouraged their peers to continue the work they started when they return to Brazil.

“That is what Brasília Sem Fronteiras is about—creating new possibilities for the future of Brasília,” Mr. Dias said. “We have to thank the people and the Government of Distrito Federal for entrusting us with this mission. We will not let you down.”