Until recently, as far as we know no student from UW-Madison had ever won a Brazilian Initiation Scholarship (BIS) sponsored and administered by the Brazilian Studies Association (BRASA). This is somewhat surprising when you consider our university’s long-standing reputation as a powerhouse of Brazilian studies, both in the Midwest and the greater United States, and our active community of Braziliants on and off campus.
The BIS, as its name suggests, is an award meant to initiate a budding Brazilianist’s interest in Brazil and fund travel so they can conduct exploratory research or language studies. The nature of the award opens up the opportunity for individuals with little or no in-country experience or knowledge of Portuguese to delve into the study of a country proving to be increasingly significant in economic, geopolitical and academic terms.
LACIS and the Brazil Initiative were thrilled and proud to hear that undergraduate Katie Morris was selected as one of the winners of the 2014 BIS competition. Morris, a Senior majoring in Portuguese and International Studies with certificates in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and Educational Policy Studies, plans to use her award to partially fund a research trip to Brazil this summer. Katie previously studied abroad for a semester in Coimbra, Portugal through IAP during spring 2012 and as a Portuguese major, she already has a strong command of the language. However, while this will be her first time in Brazil, Katie is no stranger to working and interacting regularly with Brazilians. She served as an English tutor for Brazilian residents of Eagle Heights and had a Brazilian BRIDGE (Building Relationships in Diverse Global Environments) partner, all of whom were participants in the Ciência sem Fronteiras (Science Without Borders) program. Katie ultimately received the inspiration for her research topic through her interactions with the participants of this academic foreign exchange program.
The goal of Science Without Borders—a massive endeavor funded by the Brazilian federal government—is two-fold: 1) to fund long-term study abroad for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) university students in Western and Asian universities, and 2) to attract foreign scientists to conduct research in Brazil. Annually, UW-Madison hosts approximately 50 Brazilian Sw/oB students who take English language classes and directly enroll in classes pertaining to their field of study.
Katie hopes to spend about 2 months travelling to different federal universities around Brazil to interview past student participants, professors, language instructors and program administrators. After already gaining insight into the experience of students during the portion of the program spent abroad, Katie sees this research trip to Brazil as a way learn more about the flipside in terms of the preparations students undertake and the bureaucratic processes associated.
Even though Katie is not a LACIS major herself, her experience can serve as model for our undergraduate and masters students. Severino Albuquerque, Portuguese Professor and Director of the Brazil Initiative, succinctly frames how. “LACIS majors (including MA students) would be in a great position to apply for this grant. They do not have to know much Portuguese in order to qualify. It is after all an ‘initiation’ scholarship. Their project, however, needs to be solid (competition is getting more intense with number of candidates increasing every year) and their proposal should be original enough to catch the committee’s attention.”
It is our hope that with Katie’s receipt of this award, we can establish a trend of UW-Madison students applying for and winning this travel grant, as it is a unique opportunity to begin your study of Brazil. Parabéns, Katie, e boa viagem!