November 13, 2014

LACEY, Wash. - Saint Martin’s University will be hosting an international conference designed to promote student exchange for the first time between Washington and Brazil.

“The Washington State and Rio de Janeiro Conference on U.S. and Brazilian Student Exchange” will be held November 17-21, during International Education Week, on the University’s Lacey campus.

The conference is being planned in response to President Barack Obama’s “100,000 Strong in the Americas” signature education initiative that was launched in January. The goal of 100,000 Strong is to increase the number of U.S. students studying in Latin America and the Caribbean to 100,000, as well as boosting the number of Latin American and Caribbean students studying in the U.S. to 100,000.

“By 2060, the population in the Americas is projected to be greater than that of China and more deeply linked to the U.S. by trade, culture and family ties than any other region,” according to a statement released by the U.S. Department of State when 100,000 Strong was introduced. “Against this future landscape, 100,000 Strong will deepen relationships across the hemisphere, enabling young people to understand and navigate the rich tapestry of shared values and culture, and lead the process of greater commercial and social integration that is key to our region’s long-term security and prosperity.”

The Brazilian government has also launched an initiative to send its students to higher-education institutions in the U.S. to study for STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics) professions. Saint Martin’s has been hosting its first cohort of 28 Brazilian students since last summer as a result of the STEM initiative and through the Institute of International Education and the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program. The BSMP provides scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students from Brazil for study in the STEM fields at colleges and universities in the U.S.

“I’m pleased that the conference is finally happening,” says Josephine Yung, vice president of International Programs and Development at Saint Martin’s. “The outcomes of the conference will undoubtedly strengthen the social, economic and cultural ties between our two regions. Active student exchanges with our neighboring countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are long overdue.”

“Presently, the number of Washington students studying abroad in Brazil is very low. Similarly, the number of Brazilian students studying at Washington State higher educational institutions is equally low,” Yung says. “We hope our conference will change that.”

Representatives from 11 Brazilian universities are expected at the conference. Delegates from 20 Washington and Oregon higher education institutions plan to attend, including Pacific Lutheran University, Seattle Pacific University, University of Puget Sound, University of Washington – Tacoma and Seattle, Western Washington University, Central Washington University, The Evergreen State College and Portland State University.

Brazilian dignitaries who plan to attend the conference include Cristina Russi, professor at the Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, and president of a network of 11 universities of Rio de Janeiro known as REARI-RJ; Pedro Augusto Leite Costa, honorary consul of Brazil in Seattle, Carlos Herique Alves, president, Federal Center for Technological Education, and Alex da Silva Sirqueira, president, Centro Universitário Estadual da Zona Oeste.

State Sen. Karen Fraser, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen and Schuyler Hoss, director of International Relations and Protocol for Washington, will be among the Washington dignitaries attending the event.

“The conference will provide an opportunity for representatives from both regions to learn about each other’s institutions and to discuss the possibility of establishing student exchange partnerships,” says Yung.

During the conference, government representatives from the states of Washington and Rio de Janeiro will be invited to sign a “State-to-State Student Exchange” agreement to cement the fostering of the Washington/Brazilian student exchange and educational cooperation between higher educational institutions of both regions.

The conference will kick off with a U.S. and Brazilian student exchange agreement signing ceremony. Other activities and events include a presentation about the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program by representatives from the BSMP and the Institute of International Education; a panel discussion among Brazilian students on living and studying in the U.S.; understanding U.S. academics; how to address limited Portuguese language skills for students studying in Brazil and opportunities in Brazil for faculty-led, study abroad programs. In addition, an expo of Washington colleges and universities will be held during the conference, as well as a presentation by REARI-RJ.

Saint Martin’s University is an independent, four-year, coeducational university located on a wooded campus of more than 300 acres in Lacey, Washing¬ton. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 14 Benedic¬tine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 25 majors and seven graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education, nursing and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes nearly 1,200 under¬graduate students and 323 graduate students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its Lacey campus, and 350 more students to its extended campuses located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Centralia College and Tacoma Community College.

For additional information:

Josephine Yung
Vice President, International Programs and Development

Meg Nugent Dwyer
Media relations manager