UTB-TSC this week set its aim on cultivating international ties to bolster the skills of its students in an increasingly global economy. Representatives of universities in Brazil, France, Switzerland, Austria, Russia, Germany, Ireland and Sweden arrived on campus.
Alla Paroiatnikova, UTB-TSC executive director for global engagement, said studying abroad helps students develop attributes that today’s employers look for: critical thinking, communication, community service and global skills.
“Students need other skills to perform in a new world,” she said.
Some of the 14 visiting officials are expected to enter into academic agreements on behalf of their institution with the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College. A ceremony will be held today on campus to recognize the ties. The first group of potential partners to arrive comprised four educators from the private Universidade de Fortaleza. Fortaleza is the capital of the state of Ceará in northeastern Brazil.
Vice President for International Relations Randal Martins Pompeu said his institution, called Unifor for short, began its international agreements with U.S. campuses and expanded to Europe and Spain with 140 agreements over the past 10 years. “We want to restart with American universities,” he said when asked what made UTB-TSC attractive. “Every year we have more students who want to study abroad.”
Officials said study abroad helps students become more comfortable with other cultures and other methods of resolving issues. Paroiatnikova said universities look at common areas of strength and where they might complement one another when considering agreements. Such partnerships help facilitate joint research, she said.
Paroiatnikova said her office was created two years ago. Today there are 12 Austrian studying business here this summer and five UTB-TSC students at institutions in other countries. UTB-TSC will have 14 full-semester or academic-year programs in Europe, Asia and Australia next fall. There are also shorter programs for summer study abroad.
Also visiting from Brazil were José Almeida Santos Junior, a professor and director of the school’s Technology Center; Marcelo Dias Ponte, director of international affairs; and Professor Gina Pompeu, who is the director of law programs at the master’s and doctoral levels. Dias Ponte said Unifor and UTB-TSC share a tropical climate with sandy beaches nearby and have similar campuses.
“UTB has many things in common with Unifor,” he said. “I can see that we have many undergraduate courses in common.” Unifor, founded in 1973, is located in one of largest metropolitan areas of Brazil. It has a student population of 25,000, officials said. Paroiatnikova said people in Brownsville are often surprised to learn that UTB-TSC offers study abroad.
Most of its students are from the area and low-income, and study-abroad programs help them attend institutions that might have been out of their financial reach, she said. Students continue to pay UTB-TSC tuition and receive support from scholarships while attending school internationally, she said.
“You cannot imagine how this person has grown and matured,” she said of students who study in another country. Officials said site visits like the ones this week are crucial to ensure the success of the partnerships and to make sure that students will be well cared for abroad. “It’s a lot of work, but the benefits are incredible,” Paroiatnikova said. “We want to change lives.”