Southern University has entered into an agreement to exchange students and possibly faculty with a university in Brazil starting as early as next spring.
The Advocate reports Chancellor James Llorens signed a memorandum of understanding this past week with Jorge da Silva, a professor and social scientist from Rio de Janeiro State University.
The two called the agreement a boon for students at both schools and an opportunity for the institutions to learn from each other.
The program could be an enrollment booster for Southern, which has seen its student population drop from nearly 9,500 students to below 7,000 during the past several years. Southern is prepared to accept as many as 500 Brazilian students starting next year.
Students making the trip from Rio de Janeiro to Baton Rouge will have their choice of which courses to take, but there will be a specific emphasis on English, computer science and classes in the information technology field, Llorens said.
Barbara Carpenter, Southern’s dean of international affairs, said the university is also acting as a “host” school for the international Science Without Borders initiative, which intends to groom the next generation of young minds in the global scientific community.
“People think we are a racial democracy in Brazil,” da Silva said. “It’s because the elites want to portray that. How can a country that received at least 5 million slaves and had slavery for three-and-a-half centuries be a racial democracy?”
A growing wealth disparity and deep-seated racial tensions, da Silva said, have contributed to lingering inequalities in terms of educational opportunities and in the criminal justice system.
Of the 30,000 students enrolled at Rio De Janeiro State University, da Silva said only 5,000 are black.