Study Abroad: Brazil

Course: Race, Class and Equity in Higher Education
Brazil Locations: Rio de Janeiro and Salvador da Bahia, Brazil
Session: Summer Session (June)
Professor: Dr. Erich Dietrich

Course analyzes the emergence and impact of race- and social-class-based affirmative action policies in Brazil, placing the Brazilian situation in the context of contemporary debates about equity and higher education. We meet students, faculty and administrators at universities, activists from the black movement, researchers, and government officials. Cultural experiences complement the academic content: we engage with Afro-Brazilian culture in Salvador da Bahia and experience the marvelous but deeply unequal city of Rio.

Brazil has the largest (and by most measures, best) higher education system in Latin America, and enrollments have undergone explosive growth over the last 20 years. We examine the distinctively fluid concept of race in Brazil and the affirmative action policies based on race and social class to understand Brazilian higher education. Brazil began to implement affirmative action policies in 2003, stoking enormous cultural, legal, and education debates. Since then, the Brazilian economy has expanded and, recently, contracted. Affirmative action policies have been at the center of national debates, and we work to understand those debates in their full complexity.

The program specifically examines race and social class in Brazil from an historical point of view, then moves to an analysis of contemporary issues in race, class and higher education, especially regarding debates around affirmative action and the value of diversity in education. Activities includes lectures from scholars and visits to Brazilian colleges and universities to meet with faculty, administrators, and students. Additional sessions will be held with leaders of NGOs and research foundations. Topics will include curricular opportunities; college admissions requirements; distribution of students by class and race; government policy and planning.  Students enroll for 3 required credits. Click here for more information.

Full-Time Student Perspective: Cynthia M. Alcantar, Ph.D. '15

One of the benefits of attending school at NYU is the opportunity to study abroad as a graduate student. As an undergraduate student I did not have the opportunity to study abroad for various reasons. Looking back on my undergraduate experience, I deeply regret not studying abroad. So when I started my Ph.D. at NYU I decided that it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

The study abroad program on Race and Higher Education in Brazil was an excellent fit with my program of study. This study abroad course gave me a global perspective on college access and admission policy issues. Visiting various colleges and non-profit organizations allowed me to critically think about the contrast and similarities in race relations and college access between Brazil and the U.S.

Aside from spurring an intellectual curiosity about college access in other Latin American countries, it also deepened my desire to travel abroad. Our travels through the historic areas of Salvador, Liberdade of Sao Paulo, and Copacabana and Ipanema beaches and the favelas of Rio de Janeiro really sparked my desire to visit other Latin American gems.