Home » New ACM Exchange with Brazilian Universities Brings a Cross-Cultural Experience to Environmental Studies

New ACM Exchange with Brazilian Universities Brings a Cross-Cultural Experience to Environmental Studies

New ACM Exchange with Brazilian Universities Brings a Cross-Cultural Experience to Environmental Studies November 23, 2009

A grant will fund scholarships for students and workshops for faculty in a new exchange program linking the ACM with two universities in Brazil.

The distinctive program will focus on environmental studies and comparisons of prairie, savannah, and mountain ecosystems in central Brazil and the U.S. Midwest. While these two regions share many environmental features, the challenges they encounter and the way the challenges are conceived and addressed vary widely.

Students will have the opportunity to gain the cross-cultural background to understand and work effectively on international and global issues.

In this program, students from ACM colleges will have the opportunity to compare these different approaches and to gain the cross-cultural background to understand and work effectively on international and global issues. The program also will enable faculty at ACM colleges to develop and share environmental studies curricula, including field experiences, with their Brazilian peers.

The exchange will build on existing interdisciplinary environmental studies programs at the participating ACM and Brazilian institutions, and will use local resources to examine the scientific, political, economic, and cultural contexts in which environmental issues are addressed. For example, students could explore the interaction among environmental resources, agriculture, and the push for bio-fuels and other alternative energy sources, a set of issues particularly pertinent to the Midwest and Brazil.

The project brings together the ACM member colleges with the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (UFJF), with which ACM already has a broad-based exchange program (the Brazil: Semester Exchange Program), and the Universidade de Brasilia (UnB). The exchange is supported in part by a four-year, $265,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education, and by counterpart funding from the Brazilian Ministry of Education.

Through the exchange, a student from an ACM college will study for a spring term at the UFJF or UnB and then a student from the Brazilian university will study at the ACM college during the following fall term. Students pay tuition at their home institutions. The program will provide funds for ACM students to study Portuguese prior to the program and for expenses such as transportation, housing, meals, and books during the program.

For faculty, the project will include workshops in which environmental studies professors from the ACM, UFJF, and UnB will gather to develop and share curricula and teacher support materials.

A shared website, created by the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College, will document faculty activities through the program and facilitate collaborative thinking and curricular development. As part of this site, the members will post course syllabi, linkages to ecosystem data, and related references to create a “course bank” for students to use as they consider where to study and what to study, and to disseminate curricular ideas.

The program has several key aims:

  • To broaden students’ environmental field experience and comparative understanding of tropical (Brazil) and temperate (U.S.) natural, political, and cultural settings;
  • To support curricula focused on how environmental issues are defined, analyzed, and addressed in different contexts;
  • To establish new student-faculty collaborations that will enhance courses and field work that are distinctive to the host institutions’ natural settings; and
  •  To establish faculty collaboration in designing innovative, inquiry-based environmental field experiences, data-driven learning modules, and course materials.

The grant for the exchange comes from the U.S.-Brazil Higher Education Consortia Program, a grant competition run cooperatively by the governments of the U.S. and Brazil. The purpose of this competition is to promote student-centered cooperation between the two countries. Students benefit from having an international curriculum and a cultural dimension added to their studies through a combination of curricular innovation and study abroad.

The grant program is administrated jointly by the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) of the U.S. Department of Education and the Fundacão Coordenacão de Aperfeicoamento de Pessoal de Nivel Superior (CAPES) of the Brazilian Ministry of Education, with each country providing the funds for its own colleges and universities.

ACM is the only recipient of a FIPSE grant this year whose proposal focuses on undergraduate liberal arts education.

The first year of the grant (2009-10) will be dedicated to establishing the formal relationships among the institutions involved, as required by the funding agencies.  The grant from FIPSE will go to Colorado College, which agreed to administer the grant on behalf of the ACM colleges. Student exchanges and faculty workshops will take place during the following three years.

This is the first year for ACM’s Brazil: Semester Exchange Program, which grew out of an exchange program that Colorado College began with UFJF in 2001.

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