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MSU-Brazil Partnership: Fostering Research and Relationships

Published: Monday, 02 Mar 2015
Author: Joy M Whitten
Department: Latin American Studies Center

For more than 60 years, MSU has been engaged with Brazil including a USAID project to create the business and public policy school at the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA).   James Madison College has played an active role in that partnership which continues with the scholarship and teaching of Rodrigo Pinto, Assistant Professor of International Relations.


Dr. Pinto’s research theorizes the transnational relations of markets, societies and states as well as the cause-oriented action of civic associations or social movements across borders.  Its substantive themes generalize from concerns with socioeconomic, environmental or democratizing issues.  The geographic focus of his research generalizes form tropical areas such as the Lusophone tropics of north-northeast Brazil or Mozambique.  Dr. Pinto researches Latin America and the Caribbean through his activities on a multi-university, hemispheric grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that examines the environmental, policymaking, and socioeconomic sustainability of bioenergy in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, the United States, and Uruguay.  In the context of broader research, including that which he has published in the International Studies Compendium, his current regional research also includes publications such as a journal article that he has under submission with the preliminary title of “Nationalist Movement Defends the Amazon from Transnational Environmentalist Network.”


Dr. Pinto teaches Latin American and Caribbean affairs through three courses on the MSU campus and through a study abroad program in Brazil. 
His course at Madison on international political economy focuses on Mexican fair trade coffee where students address the main question, how much and how do politics govern the global economy?


In the Madison course on tropical affairs, students focus on Northeast Brazil and examine what is and what should be done to build tropical polities, societies, and economies.  


Coming in spring 2016, Dr. Pinto will offer the seminar about regional democratization which will focus on a transformation in Latin American and Caribbean democracy as well as regional transformations in human security and socioeconomic growth.  With different case studies, students will discuss why, if at all, the region is democratizing; do cultures democratize the region; do laws democratize the region; do non-militarism and migration democratize the region and vice-versa; do “civic” associations democratize the region; and does well-being democratize the region.


Dr. Pinto leads the South American Transformation program to Brazil in partnership with the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA).  Throughout the summer program, students learn about the rise of Brazil as a global economy and democratic civil society associated with human security, ethnic equity and unity, and sustainability.  The Rising Brazil, Rising BRICS program is designed for students with an interest in business, criminal justice, global and area studies, history, political science, comparative cultures and politics, democratic political theory, international relations, social relations and policy, environmental policy and political economy. 
The intensive, balanced and up-to-date program is based on discussions, lectures, and field trips to meaningful sites located in and around the Brazilian bay area of Bahia, the city of Salvador that is informally known as the Bay of All Saints. Site visits planned include but are not limited to a Rio Branco Palace that housed the colonial government of Brazil for over 200 years, the United Nations House, an Afro-Brazilian Candomblé religious event at the historic Oxumarê yard or White House yard, famous colonial Catholic churches such as the Enslaved Blacks’ Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, an executive tour of a Ford car plant, a São João (Saint John) harvest festivity, the Sea Turtle Project (TAMAR) and Humpback Whale Institute (Instituto Baleia Jubarte) at Praia do Forte beach, the Worldwatch Institute-Brazil, a few world-class forts and/or museums, a film screening and discussion with a Brazilian movie director, the Salvador Zoo, an optional soccer game at the stadium where the program location hosted several games of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and an optional boat ride to the nearby tropical islands at the archipelago of Morro de São Paulo. In 2015, we will continue to enhance the program’s optional service learning with cause-oriented organizations such as Bahia Street Brazil.


The program highlights the domestic and foreign policy-making of a rising Brazil among rising BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).  It provides a comparative and global understanding of South American transformations in regional public affairs as well as state-society relations. 


Dr. Pinto’s work enhances the MSU-Brazil strategic partnership by involving students and connecting undergraduates to Brazil.  With the number of Brazilian students growing each year at MSU, the student connection becomes more important to make the international students feel welcome here.  The MSU-Brazil relationship has deepened beyond faculty research to fostering personal student relationships.