The University of Texas at Austin has a long history of scholarly collaboration with Brazil. In June 2013, the Brazil Center at the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS) highlighted existing and potential collaborations by coordinating a series of scholarly exchanges between university faculty members and their counterparts in universities throughout Brazil. The exchange culminated in a keynote event at the Brazilian Senate Chambers that included President Bill Powers. President Powers signed an agreement with CAPES–the Brazilian federal agency in charge of promoting higher education–that will facilitate student and faculty exchanges and research collaborations between The University of Texas at Austin and Brazilian universities.

Mary Velasquez Brazil
Dr. Velasquez interacting with the audience at PUCRS during her presentation

The School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin participated in these events by co-organizing a symposium in Porto Alegre with the School of Social Work at the Pontificia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS). The symposium, “Social Interventions for Vulnerable Populations: Experiences in Brazil and the United States,” paired presentations from university and PUCRS researchers, and was attended by over a hundred PUCRS students and faculty.

Dr. Marilyn Armour and colleagues at PUCRS School of Social Work, Dean Beatriz Gershenson Aguinsky and Dr. Patricia Krieger Grossi, discussed restorative justice initiatives in the areas of victim-offender mediated dialogue, school disciplinary actions, and domestic violence. Dr. Mary Velasquez and her colleague at PUCRS School of Psychology, Dr. Margareth Da Silva Oliveira, presented research on behavioral interventions using motivational interviewing with particular emphasis in the area of substance abuse. Dr. Jane Champion, from the university’s School of Nursing, and Dr. Leonia Capaverde Bulla from PUCRS School of Social Work, discussed the ethical challenges of doing research with vulnerable populations. Finally, Dean Zayas and Dr. Jane Cruz Prates from PUCRS presented an overview of the development of the profession of social work and the role of evidence-based practices in social work in the United States and Brazil.

Mary Velasquez Marilyn Armour Brazil
Dr. Armour and Dr. Velasquez at the keynote event in the Brazilian Senate Chambers

After the symposium in Porto Alegre, the School’s delegation traveled to Brasilia to participate in university-wide events organized by LLILAS. At the campus of the University of Brasilia, Dean Zayas and Dean Aguinsky from PUCRS School of Social Work presented a summary of the Porto Alegre symposium to colleagues from The University of Texas at Austin and scholars from several Brazilian universities. The events closed at the Brazilian Senate Chambers with the signing of the agreement between CAPES and The University of Texas at Austin.