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UNL, Brazilian university sign new agreement for student, faculty exchanges

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil are partners in a new program that will give faculty, staff and undergraduate and graduate students from the schools' respective agriculture and natural resources campuses opportunities to study and do research together.

The agreement, signed earlier this month, has been more than a year in the making. Administrators and faculty from the University of Nebraska have made a couple of visits to Sao Paulo to iron out details.

The arrangement is with USP's ESALQ campus in the city of Piracicaba, which is roughly equivalent to UNL's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Both focus on issues revolving around food, fuel and water.

"It was absolutely clear to us that USP-ESALQ held the potential to be an important and major strategic partner to us in the areas of water for food, bioenergy, food science and plant and animal biosciences," said Ronnie Green, vice chancellor of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, after a visit last year. "We worked with their faculty and administration to identify key focal areas where we can collaborate in research and graduate and undergraduate education."

Ron Yoder, associate vice chancellor of IANR, said partnerships with USP are in demand among U.S. universities, so "it speaks well of us" that the agreement came together.

Under the agreement, faculty from each university will spend up to a year at the partner university teaching, attending conferences and conducting research. Undergraduates will take classes, while graduate students will conduct research in programs coordinated by advisers at both universities. Technical and administrative staff also will participate in the exchange.

One challenge for UNL students: They must be able to speak and understand at least some Portuguese to go to USP.

As Brazilian students spend time at UNL, Yoder said, he hopes groups of UNL students will interact with them and begin to learn the language.

Yoder said the partnership came together because of contacts and relationships among faculty of the two universities.

"Administrators can sign agreements, but unless you make those connections at the faculty level, it's not going to happen, and those connections have been made," Yoder said.

This new agreement is separate from the "Science Without Borders" initiative between UNL and USP. That effort brought about 30 Brazilian undergraduates to UNL last semester. The undergraduate portion of the program is the first to be deployed, with graduate student enrollment to begin in 2013.

Green and Yoder said these international arrangements between universities are great for the schools, the nations and students.

"To meet the needs of the global population for food and natural resource security in the coming decades we need to look to the places where we can collectively have the greatest impact," Green said. "We also need to look to the needs of our own students who will exist in an even greater sense than today in an inter-connected global society. It is absolutely clear that Brazilians and Americans working together can achieve great things in all of these regards – so investing in strategic partnerships like we are doing will benefit us all in more ways than we can count now, and in the long-term future."