As part of an effort to increase Yale’s visibility in Latin America and continue promoting the University’s focus on internationalization, Joao Aleixo, the newest and third assistant secretary of international affairs, joined the staff at the Office of International Affairs earlier this week.

Aleixo’s work will entail supporting faculty with their international activities, helping with media outreach and visiting delegations from Latin American countries, reviewing application procedures for students from those countries, and planning trips by senior administration officials abroad, said George Joseph, the University’s assistant secretary of international affairs who focuses on South Asia and the Middle East. Aleixo called Yale’s interest in Latin America “key” and cited University President Richard Levin’s 2002 visit to Mexico and joint programs established between Yale and universities in Brazil and Chile as evidence of its focus on America’s southern neighbors.

Aleixo will join Joseph and Fawn Wang, who works on Yale’s relationship with China, in the Office of International Affairs, Associate Secretary Don Filer said.

“We are focusing attention on certain parts of the world where Yale has a large number of relationships and collaborations,” Filer said. “Latin America is the logical next place to add staff.”

University Secretary Linda Lorimer, who hired Aleixo, said he brings “a remarkable set of skills, having worked in every country in South America,” to the job. Within the last year Aleixo finished an M.S. degree in International Studies from Connecticut State University, and is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. He worked most recently in international finance, focusing on lending activities in developing countries in Latin America.

“He’ll be able to work more closely with our faculty to help advance those faculty members’ research projects, as well as galvanize our alumni to contribute to the University’s admissions efforts,” Lorimer said.

K. David Jackson, director of undergraduate studies for the Portuguese Department, said he hopes Aleixo’s appointment indicates a much-needed strengthening of ties to Latin America, though he is pleased with initiatives like the Seapine Fellowship, which helps to send undergraduates abroad, and the success of Yale’s first summer program in Brazil, in which he served as a professor.

“Brazil is the sixth-largest country in the world, and it is very underrepresented at Yale,” Jackson said, pointing out that with the upcoming talks about potentially adding Brazil to the United Nations Security Council, the country is likely to become an even more powerful world player.

Yale currently enrolls 108 graduate students and 34 undergraduate students from Latin American countries, including 20 graduate students and nine undergraduates from Mexico and 28 graduate students and seven undergraduates from Brazil, as compared to 282 graduate students and 25 undergraduate students from China alone.

Latin American Students Association President Carlos Fernandez ’08, a student from Bolivia, said though both his parents were educated in the United States and he was fortunate enough to encounter Yale representatives at a college bazaar in Bolivia, exchange programs, spring break trips and overseas internships could increase Yale’s presence abroad and draw more students from Latin America.

“This is not just so people from Yale can get to know Latin America better,” Fernandez said. “People from Latin America can hear more about Yale, too.”

Yaw Mante ’06, who hails from Ghana, said he thinks that an assistant secretary of international affairs for Africa is in order as well, though he said requesting that students talk about the college on their visits home would be a good first step.

“If Yale really wanted to increase the number of African students, there are plenty of talented kids waiting to take those spots,” he said.

OIA was established in the spring of 2004 to create administrative support for Yale’s international programs. Aleixo’s appointment is part of a larger strategy to turn Yale into the “global university” envisioned by Levin in his tercentennial inaugural address, Filer said.

Haynie Wheeler, associate director of the Yale Center for Globalization, called Aleixo’s appointment part of an “international blueprint” that encompasses the Globalization Center, the World Fellows Program and the initiative to have need-blind admission for international students.