The favela (comunidade) of São Pedro in Vitória.
Brasil: minha jornada
I began my Brazilian journey as a student and later as an academic in 1996 - the year I started my doctoral program in geography. At the time, I was also an active member in the Partners of the Americas West Virginia/Espírito Santo Chapter. Inspired by President Kennedy and founded in 1964 under the Alliance for Progress, Partners of the Americas is a 501(c) 3 non-profit, non-partisan organization with international offices in Washington, DC. I later served as the secretary for the West Virginia side of this partnership. It was also during this period that I shifted my language focus from Spanish to Portuguese in order to prepare for my 13-month fieldwork in the city of Vitória (pictured above).
In 1999-2000, I lived in Vitória to study the production of space and the politics of scale in the favela (comunidade) of São Pedro, which emerged on the urban landscape as a result of rural-to-urban migration in the late 1970s and 1980s. My research focused on democratic participation in urban development and environmental sustainability of the local mangroves through local social movement organizations (associaçãoes de moradores). While there, I continued my language study at UFES (Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo).
I joined Mercer University as an ABD as the director of international education and senior lecturer and later as an assistant professor of geography, where I developed the Brazil Institute at Mercer (BRIM), which was funded by a seed grant through the provost's office. In addition, I co-led several Mercer on Mission (MoM) international service-learning programs to Brazil. I also led other study abroad experiences to Brazil during my fourteen years at Mercer. My international service-learning projects were partnered with the NGO, Instituto João XXIII.
Through BRIM, I partnered with Brazil's Science Without Borders program and brought 68 Brazilian STEM students to Mercer. I also partnered with UFSCar (Federal University of São Carlos) as a co-researcher with Dr. João dos Reis Silva Jr. to study the political economy of higher education change in Brazilian federal universities. We explored the role that the neoliberalization had on the federal university system as Brazil entered a new phase of economic change as a BRICS country. We published several papers in Brazil and the USA.
I would be remiss if I did not also say my Brazilian journey was very personal. I married a Brazilian in graduate school (we met in West Virginia, not Brazil!) and have two bicultural children. We all speak Portuguese and love Brazil's culture, food, environments, and of course, beaches!
My next set of Brazilian objectives include:
A new research project on Brazil's geographic relationship with Chinese foreign direct investment
A new study abroad and service-learning program for Columbus State University in 2023
Hosting a visiting Fulbright scholar from Brazil