After a nearly yearlong courtship of overseas flights, face-to-face meetings and international negotiations, Southern University expects to have three dozen Brazilian college students taking classes and living on campus this fall.
Recruiting international students has been one of the main strategies Southern has undertaken in recent years to boost enrollment as the student population has dipped from about 9,500 students in 2004 to about 6,600 students currently.
The students will arrive in Baton Rouge as part of a series of initiatives put together by the Brazilian government to place 100,000 of the country’s students in study abroad programs.
In this case, the Brazilian government is sending students to Baton Rouge via the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program which provides scholarships to undergraduates for one year of study at a U.S. college or university.
Formerly known as the Science Without Borders initiative, the program grants scholarships to students studying in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math commonly known as the STEM fields.
In the past year, Southern Chancellor James Llorens has traveled to Brazil and hosted Brazilian faculty in his office in Baton Rouge as part of his recruiting push.
On Tuesday, Llorens said he believes the initial 36 students coming this fall could balloon to 500 students in a matter of years. He said the partnership is particularly special given Southern’s identity as one of the country’s historically black colleges and universities.
“This is significant because these students don’t know about the history of HBCUs,” Llorens said. “It’s significant to us because they could have gone to a larger research university with more resources.”
Southern has already done enough to present itself as an attractive destination to the U.S. Department of Education, which helps place foreign students, he said, but equally important is for the university to give students an experience they want to revisit once their one-year study abroad program is finished.
“We feel they might be interested in looking at our other programs,” Llorens said.
Barbara Carpenter, Southern’s dean of International Affairs, explained that Brazilian students will be separated into two groups: students whose English is good enough to go right into the STEM courses; and students who will need to take a two-month English as a Second Language, or ESL course before they enroll in the normal curriculum.
The news of the Brazilian students coming to Southern comes on the heels of the announcement that 11 Turkish faculty are in Baton Rouge for ESL training.
Carpenter said the “visiting scholars” will eventually return to Turkey where they will teach their respective courses in English.
Southern negotiated an agreement in April 2012 to exchange faculty, students and research initiatives with Abant Izzel Baysal University in Bolu, Turkey.