Bass Connections in Brazil

December 6, 2016
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As Brazil opens higher education to more, Duke students document the results with support from the Duke Brazil Initiative.

About a decade ago, the political party in power in Brazil launched a massive initiative to make high-quality, affordable university degrees accessible to students from low-income families. This past summer, the president of that party faced impeachment, and Brazil’s economy was on the brink of collapse.

A group of eight students on a Duke-sponsored research visit had front row seats as the drama played out. The students spent three weeks in the Baixada Fluminense, a low-income district on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, interviewing university students, their parents and faculty at the Multidisciplinary Institute of the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro. Their goal was to learn more about the impact of higher education on communities where few people continue studying beyond high school.

Bass Connections and Duke’s Global Brazil Humanities Lab collaborated to make the research trip possible with additional support from the Duke Brazil Initiative. Led by Duke history professor John French, along with Katya Wesolowski, a visiting professor of cultural anthropology, the mix of undergraduate and graduate students gathered data through one-on-one interviews expected to generate a variety of projects.

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