In recent years, Brazil has become the most economically powerful country in Latin America and is rising to be the fifth-largest economy in the world.
This is why Maria Crummett, assistant vice president of global affairs for USF World, said she and a team of commercial leaders from Tampa followed Mayor Bob Buckhorn on a five-day trip last month to the cities of Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre.
“Historically, geographically and (through) our population, Florida is, in so many ways, a part of Latin America,” Crummett said.
A few weeks ago, the team from Tampa met with Brazilian officials to sign an agreement to make Porto Alegre the ninth sister city to Tampa.
While the new relationship will offer business opportunities for Tampa, Crummett said it will create new opportunities for USF.
“USF’s No. 1 export is education, and it was an opportunity for us to identify and position USF in the context of a city that is on the move,” she said.
In their travels, Crummett and the Tampa delegation met with various government officials and business leaders from Brazil.
Kaushal Chari, a representative of USF’s College of Business who went on the trip, said the connection with Brazil will generate many opportunities for the university, such as the ability to partner with researchers from “great universities in Brazil that… would like to collaborate with us.”
“Our students need to globalize,” Chari said. “This is an opportunity for them to study abroad or spend a semester there and understand how an emerging nation is coming up.”
Chari said USF will also benefit from having Brazilian students join USF, which would help the university financially by increasing its enrollment and revenue from international students. Currently, USF has a population of about 3,000 international students.
“It takes time,” he said. “It’s not going to happen over night,” he said. “As we develop a better understanding of Brazil and develop these relationships, we are going to reap a lot of benefits in the future.”
Crummett said Brazil’s government has promised to send 100,000 students abroad in a program called “Science without Borders” over the next five years to study in STEM fields. Through the program, the Brazilian government would pay for the full cost of education, tuition and travel for its students, and an estimated 55 percent would come to the U.S., she said.
In the program, Brazilian students would spend two semesters of their junior year at USF and then take part in an internship related to their field of study.
As a dominant regional player, Brazil is a strategic investment in the university’s global initiative for students and faculty, Crummett said.
On the trip, Crummett and USF representatives met with nine universities and specialized institutions focused on education that will help USF’s rising numbers of international research and international students.
The trip was Tampa’s first and largest official trade mission with Brazil and consisted of representatives from the Tampa International Airport, the Port of Tampa, the Visit Tampa Bay tourism agency as well as USF and approximately 40 other private sector companies.
“Its such a good feeling to see all this work come to fruition, and there’s so much to do,” Crummett said. “… There’s so much excitement and meetings, but when you come back, that is when the real work starts. Now we have a sister city and new university partner, now we have to build upon the momentum.”