May 14, 2014

Eleven FVCC Students Selected as US-Brazil Connect Fellows

FVCC students prepared for their roles as US-Brazil Connect Fellows over a weekend workshop. FVCC's fellows will be traveling to Contagem, Brazil for four weeks.
FVCC students prepared for their roles as US-Brazil Connect Fellows over a weekend workshop. FVCC’s fellows will be traveling to Contagem, Brazil for four weeks.

Eleven Flathead Valley Community College (FVCC) students met to prepare for their roles as US-Brazil Connect Community College Fellows this summer. The students will spend 20 weeks coaching Brazilian students in English over social media and on the ground in Brazil.

FVCC is one of six community colleges participating in the innovative program to build long-term partnerships with Brazil and open paid opportunities for global leadership to their students.

The Community College Fellowship is a part of US-Brazil Connect’s World Connection Program, which will offer paid fellowships to over 200 U.S. college students and young professionals to educate 2,000 Brazilian students this summer.

“We are extremely proud to be joining the Community College Fellowship program for the second year in a row,” said FVCC President Jane A. Karas, Ph.D. “These students are living proof that building international partnerships is not just the work of diplomats.  Community college students can play an essential role in connecting our nation’s communities with countries across the globe.”

Twenty years ago, community colleges prepared students for a mostly localized job market. But as technology has reduced distances between geographic regions, community colleges have sought programs that prepare students to solve problems spanning the boundaries of language and culture, explained Dr. Mary Gershwin, President of US-Brazil Connect.

Yet finding such opportunities hasn’t always come easily to U.S. community colleges.

“While understanding the imperatives of a global workforce, community colleges need opportunities for global leadership that are accessible and affordable” said Gershwin.

To meet those requirements, US-Brazil Connect partners with Brazilian industry groups to cover the cost of the fellows’ lodging and meals while paying them a small stipend for their work.

According to Gershwin, industry groups see English language skills as crucial to the long-term success of Brazilians students preparing to enter science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.  In response, Brazilian industry leaders are funding educational opportunities for U.S. community college students.  Investing in U.S. students is an investment in their own students.

With a technical workforce that can compete in a globalized economy, Brazilian industry leaders believe their country can continue the remarkable growth of a middle class which has added 30 million people in the last 10 years. The country is already the third largest market for mobile telephones and the fifth largest market for computers and automobiles. Economists expect Brazil’s economy will exceed the United Kingdom’s and France’s by 2030.

That economic surge has made Brazil a favored ally in the eyes of U.S. educators and policymakers as they search for ideas to prepare the Western Hemisphere’s next workforce.

To match Brazilian commitment, US-Brazil Connect selects a diverse group of community college students who show deep interest in cross-cultural leadership and potential dedication to their Brazilian pupils. This year’s fellows come from a range of disciplines including nursing, engineering, biology and the humanities.

Over the weekend, the nine FVCC fellows prepared for the experience by writing lesson plans, practicing team dynamics and learning about Brazilian culture.

Students Monica Peterson and Taylor Keltner returned to the program as Senior Fellows after impressing program leaders in 2013. They will advise and support students Andrea Kavert, Cierra Stehilk, Jeremiah McKessey, Cindy Conroy, Zoe Glasser-Breeding, Hannah Ruble, Jason Fetveit, Gwendolyn Fratt  and Siri Wheeler as they carry out the duties of the fellowship.

The workshop ended Sunday with cheers of “Vamos embora!”

The translation from Portuguese: “Let’s get going!”