The Start of Our Brazilian Adventure
Our trip to Brazil has – so far at least – been both challenging and rewarding. The challenges started Sunday, our day of intended departure on a week-long trip to Brazil, hopefully to return with letters of intent between EKU and several Brazilian institutions for student and faculty exchanges; perhaps even a dual degree program. Our travelling party was Marc Whitt, AVP for University Relations; Dr. Neil Wright, Director of International Programs, Provost Jana Vice, Joanne, and me.
Just before Joanne and I were to head to the Powell Building for the Student Alumni Ambassadors spring banquet, I had a call from the airline. Our flight scheduled to leave Louisville at 6:55 p.m. had been cancelled. I called the airline and got us booked on a flight from Lexington to Chicago at 6:53. This would put us in Chicago for our connection to Sao Paulo at about the same time as our original Louisville connection. Don't ask why we weren't on the flight from Lexington to begin with. Cutting to the chase, however, it mattered not. The flight from Lexington was delayed to the point that it would have missed the flight to Brazil. We decided to start over the next day, booked again from Louisville. We left Richmond in plenty of time to get to Standiford Field at least two hours ahead of time. We had not factored in the semi that would wreck at the 22 mile marker. We made our flight by a narrow margin.
Our plans then called for a flight from Sao Paulo to Brasilia. We had a couple of hours to clear Brazilian customs. No problem there. When we checked in at TAM, a Brazilian airline, there was no record of any reservation except for Marc Whitt's. After some anxious minutes – mostly Marc's – the matter got resolved and we were soon en route to Brasilia.
Our associates, Trent Argo and Vanedeson Ximenes of International Education Group met us there and we kicked off the afternoon with a visit to the Universidade Catolica of Brasilia. Most of the discussion there focused on online education and that institution's considerable venture into the virtual campus. It appears to me that the strongest potential for a relationship here is with our College of Justice and Safety. The campus has an impressive library.
Late in the afternoon we visited the Brasilia campus of the UDF Centro Universitario, also in Brasilia. UDF stands for Universitario Distrito Federal, the latter term equating to the DC we append in Washington, DC. We visited there with campus CEO Fabiano Ferraz, who has visited with us at EKU. We will see him again Friday in Sao Paulo, where the institution has another campus. There is a rich array of possibilities there.
Tuesday evening we attended a gala celebration of the SENAC-DF (again Distrito Federal) in which the 43 year old work force education organization recognized seven of its 1,000,000 graduates. In the photo below, you have Alano Nogueira Matias, a law enforcement professional at Senac, Trent Argo of IEG, Dr. Flavia Silveira, president of the three-year old college that is part of Senac, yours truly, Joanne, Janna Vice, Mark Whitt, Neil Wright, and Vanedeson Ximenes.
Wednesday (today) we visited the Senac facility and here you see Janna Vice, with Ximenes doing interpreter duties, explaining Eastern's QEP of critical and creative thinking and communications skills. Senac is intent on finding an opportunity to partner with EKU. Train the trainer programs, faculty development, and curriculum development look like the best opportunity.
After our Senac visit, it was off to Brasilia International Airport for a flight to Belo Horizonte for more institutional stops. Again, only Marc had a ticket. This time it took much longer to fix and we really just made our flight TAM representatives hustled us through Security and escorted to the gate for just in time boarding. A most suspicious mind would wonder if Marc was trying to strand some of us in Brazil.
From the airport it was off directly to the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, a fine institution of 60,000 students very interested in both exchange and joint degree programs. I am very much interested in partnering with this distinguished school. We enjoyed chatting with students at the campus television station (it broadcasts over the local cable) including these students working on news reporting assignments.
After a tour of the beautiful campus (it used to be a seminary and looks down on Belo Horizonte) we toured their Museum of Natural History which features native Brazilian dinosaurs, including the raptors pictured below.
Tomorrow will include visits to other institutions in Belo Horizonte, a city of 2.6 million. This will include conversations with one institution very interested in aviation and biofuels research, two areas in which EKU has a strong mutual interest and is very much engaged.
Depite the travel challenges, this has been an enjoyable and productive trip. We have three days to go. I believe it will turn out to be truly productive and of great benefit to our students and faculty as we continue to work to enhance our international opportunities.