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German investments in Brazil

PUCRS and UFRGS open first Center for German and European Studies in Latin America

In 2017, Brazil joined the global network of Centers for German and European Studies (CDEA), a collaborative network that is now represented in 11 countries through 20 centers. After a painstaking selection process conducted by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) all over the country, PUCRS and UFRGS have been chosen to be home to the first CDEA in Latin America and the Southern Hemisphere. An investment of € 250,000 will be made every year by

the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Germany. The center is located at the School of Humanities and was opened on April 10th. By its fifth year, it is expected to undergo a careful evaluation process, which may give it an extension for another five years.

In this first year, CDEA will be directed by the coordinator of the Graduate Program in Law of UFRGS, Cláudia Lima Marques. The Dean of PUCRS’ School of Humanities, Dr Draiton Gonzaga de Souza, will serve as its vice director. “It is one of the biggest projects implemented by PUCRS in 2017 and the biggest one in the area of Humanities at the University”, comments Souza. Dr Souza says that all the funds obtained will be used in the center and in all the departments affiliated to it, such as the Office of International and Institutional Affairs, Institute for the Environment, Lexis Language Center, Business School, Law School and School of Humanities. Students, professors and researchers are some of the groups that will benefit from it.

The President of PUCRS, Br Evilázio Teixeira, claims that being selected to host the center is such an important achievement for the university. “We are hoping that several departments of the University and, more specifically, professors, researchers and students, can join their efforts in projects that will come out of this partnership. This poses as a very good opportunity not only for PUCRS and UFRGS, but also for Rio Grande do Sul and Brazil”, adds he. In Dr. Marques’ view, the CDEA is the fruit of a long-standing partnership between German and European institutions involving the universities’ graduate programs. “We are happy and honored that DAAD took its chances on us. We hope to bring considerable benefits to our students, professors and national and international partners with this long-term project. Our institutions and their 22 graduate programs in the area of Humanities have received international recognition for their competence, excellence and experience”, states Marques.

One of the goals of the center is to promote the German language, as courses are expected to be offered by PUCRS’ Lexis Language Center. A specialization program in the area of German and European Studies is expected to take off, too. And there is more to come. The program includes grants for professors and graduate students and events related to Brazil, Germany and Europe. “We want to be a reference for people who want to study in Germany”, says Souza.

The actions involving the Brazil-Germany Chamber of Commerce address the economy and commerce, issues that will be at the center of discussions. “Germany is the #1 economy in Europe and sees us as business partners. Thus, these topics may be brought into discussion”, reflects Souza. For the Dean of Technology and Innovation, Dr Jorge Audy, the center will play a key role in how we address contemporary social and political issues, and will reinforce our connections with Europe at the national and international level. “These considerations are the foundations for the solutions for the economic meltdown the country is going through”, says he.

Director Cláudia Marques goes on to say that this will be a unique opportunity for social sciences and humanities’ students and professors all over the country, as it provides an encouragement to research missions, mobility, grants and awards. “We’ll be working together, as new interdisciplinary Master’s and specialization programs will be created in European and German studies. CDEA began its operation with the commitment of 58 researchers and 20 graduate programs, as well as three pilot projects in the areas of Law, Public Policies and Sociology, at UFRGS, which are being implemented at the School of Humanities of PUCRS. When it comes to research and teaching, we hope to enhance our methods and enjoy the partnerships with 20 other similar centers all over the world”, claims she.

A history of cooperation

PUCRS and UFRGS have close ties with Germany, as both institutions receive several international guests every year and send professors and students for exchanges. “We have had a 20-year history of tradition in the areas of humanities and social sciences in the country. We rely on the support of the Consul General of Germany, Stefan Traumann”, says Souza. PUCRS was notified that it had been chosen in Nov 2016 and, in the following month, Souza and Cláudia joined a meeting involving the directors of the other 20 centers all over the world, in Washington D.C..

The possibility for Brazil to be home for the center had been discussed for four years. In the Consul General’s view, Porto Alegre relies on economic and scientific traditions and the “best educational institutions for such” and, therefore, he recommended the city. “Universities deserve the merit. The center will have a positive influence on the partnership between our countries. It will play a key role not only in the training of students and research, but in seminars, conferences and partnerships involving the different political, economic and scientific actors. It will be a driving force for the relationship between Germany and Brazil and Europe and Brazil”, states Traumann.

Interinstitutional, interdisciplinary and international

The opening of the Center for German and European Studies carries with it the recognition of the academic excellence of PUCRS and UFRGS and strengthens the bonds with Germany, through exchanges, events and joint research projects. “From now on, collaboration and integration will be encouraged in the areas of humanities and social sciences, law and economics, among others”, says Souza.

Globalization, sustainable development and cultural diversity will be among the areas to be addressed, and this can only done in an interdisciplinary way. “We’re going to work together with researchers from several areas. Globalization is a typical example. We need people from the areas of philosophy, sociology, law and economics. These are issues that need a multidisciplinary approach”, ponders he. CDEA will be a window as PUCRS will be able to interact with the other centers and the universities in the countries where they are located, such as the USA, Canada, France, Netherlands, Russia and Japan.

It consolidates the strong relationship PUCRS and UFRGS have had with Germany, which includes both their sponsorship agencies, such as DAAD, KAAD and Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and their universities.