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Global Faculty Fellows Join The Symposium

Four Barnard Global Faculty Fellows participated in the São Paulo event, using the opportunity to network with colleagues, pursue research interests, and bring that work back to the Barnard community. Although faculty members have participated in two previous symposia—in South Africa and India—the Brazil symposium represented the first time that the Global Faculty Fellows were selected in a more formal process spearheaded by the faculty-grants committee. The shift, says Vice Provost Hilary Link, reflected a desire to open the symposium to faculty members whose research interests in Brazil might not have been readily apparent. It also reflected one of the Global Symposium’s missions of developing academic and personal connections that last well beyond the one-day conference.

The faculty members, chosen last spring, applied by outlining their proposed research projects, with an understanding that those projects would “resonate back to the Barnard community,” says Link. “As the events have become bigger and more successful, we wanted to incorporate the work of the symposium into the broader campus community. It’s the lead-up, and the follow-up, in the arc of programming.”

Fellow Nara Milanich, associate professor of history whose focus is on Latin American history, went to Brazil to research the history of the paternity test before DNA. While she had known that scientists at the University of São Paulo had conducted cutting-edge research on paternity during the 1930s and 1940s, she was thrilled to find the actual reports at the medical school during her visit. “It was an amazing experience on many fronts,” says Milanich, who had gone frequently to Brazil as a child with her mother, an anthropologist. “I got lucky. I went to the institute within the medical school, where they had done the first paternity test in this hemisphere, in 1927, and found all the reports the doctors wrote.” Milanich has worked in Italy, Argentina, and New York investigating the comparative history of paternity tests; the São Paulo experience was “invaluable for the purposes of my research. … I would never have found this material otherwise.”

History professor Jose Moya went to further his work on Brazilian multiculturalism. Describing his experience as “eye-opening,” he notes that the diversity of the presenters alone—from a graffiti artist and a filmmaker to a government minister, CEOs, and scientists—guaranteed a wide range of perspectives. “Their insights and exchanges with the audience conveyed the dynamism of present-day Brazil,” he adds. “The impression was reinforced by contact with colleagues in São Paulo and Porto Alegre, where I was invited to give a lecture on the global circulation of people, ideas, and cultural practices. We’re now trying to figure out how to foment that type of connection between Barnard and Brazilian universities.”

There were many benefits for Colleen Thomas-Young, associate professor of professional practice in dance. “This vital exchange with other artists and art forms is a dynamic effort to expand what I am able to give my students,” she explains. “My proposal was to share my teaching and creative interests with the symposium group. I taught a contact-improvisation workshop for the professional dancers at the Balé da Cidade de São Paulo and offered a master class for other dancers, artists, and the general public. I also explored the creation of a new work in collaboration with filmmaker Petra Costa ’06.

“Petra and I shot four hours of footage,” she says. “I danced in the streets of Rio, as we were exploring ways in which woman measure themselves, their experience, and their life. Police stopped us twice because we were in the middle of the street or on some forbidden property. It was amazing to be so focused on any impulse that might immediately become the seed for movement.”

Maria Rivera Maulucci, assistant professor of education, expanded her exploration of gender-equity issues in elementary-science education in Brazil. (Previous research was done in the United States and Argentina.) She developed a survey to understand young girls’ perspectives on science education. In collaboration with Prof. Felicia Moore Mensah from Teachers College, she visited local schools and spoke with teachers, parents, administrators, and students. Maulucci says, “I gained a much greater appreciation for the Brazilian education system. There are similar challenges, and unique challenges, around issues of equity, especially with access for secondary students to quality education.”

She adds, “Both Argentina and Brazil have female presidents. They’ve broken that glass ceiling. I wonder what impact that has on girls’ aspirations for science, considered a non-traditional field.”

—by Merri Rosenberg
—Photograph by Gustavo Pitta