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Brazil's President Rousseff praises new study abroad program

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff spoke at Harvard University on the connection between country's rapid economic growth and education.

By Staff writer / April 11, 2012

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff smiles as David Ellwood, dean of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, speaks to an audience on the schools campus in Cambridge, Mass., Tuesday.

Steven Senne/AP

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Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and President Obama highlighted a student exchange program called Science Without Borders this week. Even though it doesn't resolve their differences over the United Nations' Security Council, currency wars, or nuclear issues, it's an area of cooperation that underscores how both countries acknowledge the need for stronger ties.  

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The international exchange program which aims to send 100,000 Brazilian students to undergraduate institutions for one year of fully-funded study, was rushed through the Brazilian legislature after Mr. Obama's visit to Brasilia in March 2011. It garnered high levels of private sector investment within months, and has since placed students in nearly 100 US universities. 

While attention is often focused on policy disputes between Brazil and Washington, programs like Science Without Borders show how educational and cultural ties between Americans and Brazil's rising middle class are deepening. Brazil has made major strides in the past decade, moving some 40 million men and women out of poverty and into the middle class. And the Science Without Borders program is one of many initiatives to help the country achieve the 21st century standards of development needed to create a vibrant job market, innovative and growing economy, and bring basic services like electric power to all regions of the country. 

Educational inclusion is a stated goal of Rousseff's administration, and guaranteeing high quality education, from kindergarten to post-graduate studies, for all citizens is a prominent policy on her agenda. 

“We were … able to take on ourselves the leadership of our economic and social policies, and we went from a position of debtors to the International Monetary Fund, to the position of creditors,” Rousseff said during her speech to about 500 people at Harvard University's Kennedy School, where she capped off the second day of her first official visit to the United States last night.

Felipe Azevedo attended Rousseff's speech in Cambridge, Mass. He is one of the initial 600 students selected to participate in the Science Without Borders program, which specifically targets undergraduates studying science, technology, mathematics, and engineering.

“For me, when I come back to Brazil I want to finish my degree, graduate in mechanical engineering, and what I want to do is try to work with companies like Petrobras or Vale. Two very, very big companies, not just in Brazil but in the world,” Mr. Azevedo says. He is currently finishing his first semester at Washington University in St. Louis, where he takes courses like thermal systems and computer aided design. As part of the program, he will complete an internship in the States this summer before beginning his second semester at Washington University.

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