A look inside Yale’s long-standing relationship with Brazil
Brazil was historically one of the first countries to send international students to Yale, and the country’s partnership with the University has only increased, through both academic initiatives and student organizations.
Tim Tai, Staff Photographer and Wikimedia Commons
Yale’s long-standing relationship with Brazil is flourishing amid increased academic partnerships and a prominent Brazilian student presence on campus.
As one of the world’s emerging economies, Brazil’s partnership with Yale is significant. Through research in the country, connections with Brazilian universities and a strong and coherent Brazilian community, Yale has maintained this relationship through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Yale has a longstanding and rich relationship with Brazil,” Asia Neupane, the director of programs and institutional partnerships for Latin America and Europe, wrote. “In fact, some of our first international students at Yale in the 1830s came from Brazil, and Yale continues to be a top university recruiting Brazilian students and scholars.”
Yale’s partnership with Brazil manifests itself on campus both in academics and through student-led activities. The Brazil Club at Yale — Yale’s undergraduate club for Brazilian students — was founded in 2008 by William Hennessey ’09 with the purpose of uniting the Brazilian community.
The “crub,” as it is colloquially dubbed by Brazilian students, hosts dinners every Monday in the Branford small dining hall and organizes cultural events such as Carnaval.
“I don’t have words to describe how special of a community the Brazil Club has been,” said Eduardo Wichmann ’25, one of the newly-elected presidents of the Brazil Club at Yale. “I did not expect to be as close as we are …. [When I came to Yale] I was kind of expecting to lose a lot of my Brazilian culture, political understanding and all the aspects of day to day Brazilian life, but the way we work at the Brazil Club really makes it so that we keep in touch with our identity and what makes us us.”
Beginning with the first admits in the 1830s, the University has made it a practice to admit new Brazilian undergraduates every year. This year, Yale accepted 14 Brazilian students, although it remains to be seen how many will ultimately become Bulldogs.
One of the most important activities of the BCY is the “Yale Dream” program, through which low-income Brazilian students can apply to receive guidance for the Early Action application from current Brazilian Yale students.
Joao Pedro Denys ’25, the other president of the BCY, told the News that given that this year is an election year in Brazil, the club is also hoping to host speaker events related to political topics this fall.
Beyond undergraduate students, the University also has many programs and partnerships with Brazil through the Yale School of the Environment, Yale School of Public Health, Yale Law School, Yale School of Medicine, Yale School of Management and the MacMillan Center’s Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies, or CLAIS.
In 2018, The Ministry of Education in Brazil, the Fundação Getulio Vargas’s law school, or FGV, and CLAIS co-hosted a conference at Yale called “Brazilian Studies in the U.S. — The Road Ahead.” The conference was spearheaded by professor Kenneth David Jackson, the director of undergraduate studies for Portuguese with the Spanish and Portuguese department, and Stuart Schwartz, the chair of CLAIS.
The conferences were “part of an ongoing effort to increase collaboration among universities on the topic of Brazil,” Claire Thomas, CLAIS student program assistant, told the News. The conference drew more than 100 attendees, who included members of the Yale community as well as researchers from 13 different institutions across the United States and Brazil.
“Both FGV and [the Ministry of Education] were very important and supportive in organizing participants from Brazil, such as from Instituto Oswaldo Cruz,” Jackson wrote to the News. “The purpose [of the conference] was to highlight scientific research and bi-national cooperation.”
During the weekend of the conference, rare materials related to Brazil were exhibited at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
There was another conference planned for 2020, but it was postponed due to COVID-19 and has yet to be rescheduled.
During the pandemic, however, the Brazil and Yale connection continued with the launch of a mentoring program called Iniciativa Proxima. The initiative features a 10-month virtual mentorship program which allows Brazilian students in STEM fields to connect with professors, graduate students or researchers at Yale. The program is now in its second year.
Yale also has a partnership with Fiocruz, a Brazilian public health research institution, and the two have worked together to contribute to public health responses in the wake of the Zika outbreaks and the COVID-19 pandemic. There is an official Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, between Fiocruz and Yale that was signed by University President Peter Salovey during his 2014 visit to Brazil that is currently being renewed, according to Neupane.
Yale’s doctoral program in biological and biomedical sciences also boasts many Brazilian graduate students due to a joint effort with the Brazilian Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education.
In the undergraduate sphere, Yale Summer Session offers a study abroad opportunity in Brazil, run by Jackson and his wife, Elizabeth Jackson, who is a professor of Portuguese language at Wesleyan University. The language-immersion program consists of three weeks on the Yale campus, one week in Paraty and a month in Rio de Janeiro. In Rio, students stay with host families and take classes at IBEU, a local English learning center, while in Paraty they stay and take classes at a small hotel.
The summer session consists of four credits — three language credits and one Humanities credit. It consists of not only the learning of the Portuguese language from L1 to L2, but also an immersion in the culture, specifically the culture of the Rio de Janeiro area.
“Many participants have later double-majored in Portuguese or returned to teach English in Brazil with Fulbright grants,” Jackson wrote to the News.
The program returns this summer for the first time since 2019 with a full cohort of 15 students enrolled.
The new Fulbright Distinguished Scholar Award in Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences has also started this fall, in which Yale will award $30,000 for a Brazilian scholar to spend a year giving a lecture at Yale. The program is meant to last five years. The first participant is the historian Júnia Furtado, who has a postdoctoral degree from Princeton.
Mixing the academic and the cultural aspects of the Brazilian presence at Yale, Jackson is planning a celebration in the fall to commemorate 200 years of Brazilian independence.
“It will focus both on the centenary of modernism in the arts and on the bi-centennial of independence with presentations and roundtables with specialists,” Jackson wrote.
The Brazil Club at Yale will be hosting a Carnaval party this Friday to share Brazilian culture with other undergraduates.