Harvard To Open Office in Brazil This Summer

Harvard University’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS) will open a new office in São Paulo, Brazil this summer, the center’s director, John H. Coatsworth, announced Friday.

The new office, set to open July 1, will serve to strengthen ties between Harvard and Brazil—“the fastest growing economy in the Western hemisphere” and “a social laboratory in terms of ethnicity, social class, and gender relations,” Coatsworth said.

The office will also facilitate study abroad in Brazil, recruit Brazilian students to Harvard, and to assist faculty with projects in the country, according to Coatsworth, who is also the Gutman professor of Latin American affairs.

Within a year, he said, the São Paulo office will likely have instituted formal study abroad and internship programs in Brazil for Harvard students.

Although Coatsworth estimated that the Rockefeller Center currently sends approximately 10 or more students to Brazil each summer, he said the only formal program in Brazil has been a Portuguese language and Brazilian culture course offered through Harvard summer school.

A $6 million gift from Jorge Paulo Lemann ’61 will support the office in São Paulo—“the informal capital of the country”—and fund scholarships for both Harvard students studying in Brazil and Brazilian students coming to Harvard, Coatsworth said. Currently only five students from Brazil are enrolled in the College, according to the Harvard International Office.

Coatsworth added that the gift will also fund fellowships for Brazilians admitted to the Harvard Graduate School of Education, School of Public Health and John F. Kennedy School of Government, in addition to funding doctoral students studying Brazil.

“The gift from Mr. Lemann is just extraordinary because it allows Harvard to establish ties to Brazil and makes sure the exchange of ideas and people will be greater than it has in the past,” Coatsworth said.

Coatsworth added that the establishment of the center at Harvard in 1994 helped stimulate interest in Latin America, and efforts by the Romance languages and literatures department have been particularly successful in attracting more students to Portuguese courses.

Although Brazil has been largely understudied in the past, the nation has attracted growing student interest, Coatsworth said.

Coatsworth estimated that 30 to 40 faculty research projects involving Brazil are taking place at the University.

“The U.S. has not paid enough attention [to Brazil] in the past nor has Harvard,” wrote Kenneth R. Maxwell, a senior fellow at DRCLAS and a visiting history professor, in an e-mail.

Maxwell said he will work closely with the director of the São Paulo office on collaborative programs to “make sure we match the ‘Harvard in Brazil’ initiatives with ‘Brazil at Harvard’ initiatives.”

In an e-mail, Coatsworth praised Lemann’s contribution to Brazilian studies at Harvard, explaining that the alum’s previous multi-million dollar donations have helped lay the foundation for the new office by putting Brazil “on Harvard’s mental map.”

“Mr. Lemann’s vision and generosity are moving Harvard to the forefront of U.S. institutions in promoting Brazilian studies and recruiting talented Brazilian students,” Coatsworth wrote.

—Staff writer Emily J. Nelson can be reached at