Brazil is a huge economic player in our world today. That much is undeniable. But for some reason, Yale has overlooked the growing giant to the south. As we continue our mission to become a truly global university, we must reassess our relations with Brazil and South America as a whole.
The 2010s could be for Brazil what the last decade was for China. In the longer term, by 2040, Brazil is set to become the fourth largest economy in the world, overtaking Russia and closing in on the United States, China, and India. Unlike India and China, Brazil benefits from close to a century of positive economic growth.
Further, the cultural capital the country is set to accumulate over the next five years is extraordinary. The fact that South America’s largest country will be hosting a World Cup and the summer Olympics within two years of one another (in 2014 and 2016, respectively) will greatly increase the country’s prominence among world powers.
Brazil — and Latin America at large — are also major fronts in which American and Chinese spheres of influence will conflict. This much is evident, as our neighbors to the south have increasingly turned to China as their main trading partner (China surpassed the U.S. as Brazil’s primary trading partner in 2009) after decades of having that relationship with the U.S.
However, the policy at Yale and among our nation’s foreign policy establishment has shown no interest in capitalizing on our proximity to Brazil. Yale offers extensive opportunities for students to study in China, Japan and Korea, but was unable to provide an instructor for students to take level five Portuguese this fall. The understaffed department was forced to create a third section of its introductory level course and therefore transfer the professor that was to teach level five to meet the increased interest in Portuguese among the student body.
Another example of such neglect can be found in the International Bulldogs program. This internship program is a great opportunity for students to gain real international experience, but out of the 13 cities at which students can intern, not one is a part of the Lusophone world, and only one is located in South America. Yalies interested in further developing their Portuguese skills during the summer are limited to language programs abroad, despite the fact that businesses and NGOs in Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro would surely want to hire them.
It’s perfectly reasonable for the University to have a special interest in certain regions. But it’s about time we look south. We should pay more attention to countries that have booming economies, functioning democratic institutions and a shared Pan-American heritage.
From a pragmatic standpoint, our intense investment in Korea and Japan puzzles me. If our justification for entertaining interests in certain regions over others is the practical outlook as to whether those regions will be growing extensively in the next few decades, I don’t see why we would look towards the bleaker economic climates in Korea and Japan over future giants like Brazil and India. Rather than looking towards investing in the status quo nations that presently have the largest economies, we should be more pioneering and more enterprising, and seek out partnerships in those countries that will be the power players of tomorrow.
Further, from the fundamental perspective of being a liberal arts institution, I don’t understand how Yale can look towards expanding its brand in authoritarian countries like China or Singapore over democratic India and Brazil. Why are we choosing to expand in autocracies when we can choose to create partnerships with countries that share a commitment to democratic institutions? Perhaps we should realign our interests.
Yale students have taken notice of Brazil’s rising presence on the world stage. It’s about time that the University does so as well.