By JOHN McCOOL
In early February, Brian Dalton, vice president for enrollment and college relations at Allegheny College, visited the Brazilian cities of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Campinas. Dalton’s main focus was to increase Allegheny’s exposure in these surrounding areas, forging new connections with young Brazilian students and professors.
Dalton extensively visited and talked at several Brazilian universities about studying abroad under the Brazilian Science Mobility Program (BSMP), a grant-funded program to allow students in the sciences to study abroad for a year.
“These students have interest in political science, economics, environmental science. [Allegheny College has] a number of majors that appeal to the Brazilian student base,” said Dalton. “We hope that the conversation will continue with the faculty and students from these institutions.”
On his trip, Dalton also looked at possible research programs that would give Allegheny students the opportunity to study abroad.
“We are also constantly looking for new ways for [Allegheny] students to study abroad and do it reasonably cheap. For example, environmental science [students] can visit Sal Palo to study the Amazon, forests, jungles and streams,” he said.
The BSMP allows Brazilian students to study abroad in U.S. colleges and universities. It provides students with tuition, books and a small stipend.
“Since its beginning, the program has exported roughly two hundred thousand students to American colleges,” said Dalton. “Brazil is a very young country demographically compared with the United States. Consequently there is an overcrowding in the college education system.”
Although Brazil is emerging as a world power, the government does not have the financial ability to provide education for college level students. The lack of higher education opportunities has a fueled an increase in the Brazilian illiteracy rate.
Only a small percentage of Brazilian high school students are able to attend college. The majority of these students attend private schools. Only a select few are able to attend the more prestigious public universities that offer students free tuition.
“Public schools have the best reputation and the best faculty. One university had an estimated sixty-thousand applications for only two thousand spaces,” Dalton said.
Consequently, many bright Brazilian college students are either forced to study at lower tier universities or forego college education entirely.
“[Brazilian] government spending to support education is not strong,” said Dalton. “Most colleges and universities were built in the 1960s and have not been renovated. These institutions have broken sidewalks and graffiti.”
Allegheny became part of the BSMP shortly after Dalton arrived at Allegheny in January 2012. Since its acceptance into the program, Allegheny has been successful in recruiting Brazilian students.
Allegheny has hosted eight Brazilian students between 2012 and 2014. Allegheny recently added two more Brazilian exchange students for the current spring semester.
“Our success internationally comes from [Bob Baldwin] and it is based on communicating with the students from the four-corners of the world in a way that makes Allegheny College more desirable. [Baldwin] connects with students and arranges their travel and visas,” said Dalton.
Allegheny currently has twenty-six international students. These students helm from areas in Africa, Asia, South America, and the Middle East.
“The college is a much better place when you can meet international students in the classroom and cafeteria,” said Dalton.
Allegheny is currently working on expanding the international student population. The diversity and melding of cultures create a vibrant learning and social environment.
“The biggest challenge of the program [BMSP] is the language proficiency of the students. It is necessary for students to have English proficiency in order to adapt and thrive at Allegheny,” Dalton said. “Jenny Kawata and Josh Whitson and the entire International Program and Services staff spend lots of time with the students to help them adjust into the new environment.”
Allegheny College wants to continue expanding their international programs in Brazil.
Dalton believes that Brazilian school system and Allegheny are developing strong relationships. He noted that Allegheny’s international reputation will continue to attract Brazilian and other foreign students to study abroad.