Dr. Aghili’s Awesome Experience in Brazil

Dr. Shaun Aghili, Faculty of Management is currently in Brazil, at our partner UNIVATES University, in the city of Lajeado, state of Rio Grande do Sul. He is there interacting with teaching and research for two weeks and has sent us this message:

“I had the privilege of attending Univates’ first International Week that took place from Monday, March 13th to Wednesday, March 15th.  I am spending an additional week at Univates for some guest lecturing and faculty-related discussions. Univates is one of our partner universities located in the South of Brazil in the region of Taquari Valley, about 120 kilometers from the city of Puerto Alegre, in a small town of approximately 75,000 inhabitants called Lajeado.

There are three main things that impress me most about Univates; its infrastructure, its commitment to its community and its amazing faculty and staff.

Operating on an annual budget of 170 Million Reals (50 Million USD), its amazing campus includes over 83,000 square meters of built area, comprised of over 250 laboratories, museums and special rooms. The distance from the professor apartments, a nine story dorm building at one end of the campus to the classroom where my presentations took place is about one kilometer, so I was using a shuttle service to get there!

 The university’s library is the most modern in the entire country. A quick tour of the facility that included a demonstration of the book check in and check out procedure served as evidence that this library, with over 160,000 titles, is state of the art.

Univates services a student body of 12,000 – 90% of which work during the day and attend evening courses- by offering 47 undergraduate, 5 masters and 3 doctorate programs. The university employs 500 professors and a total of 800 administrators and support staff. It is a well-oiled machine, as evidenced by the way the International Week was managed.

 The commitment of Univates to the betterment of its community is commendable.  I can best describe this through a personal experience I had at Univates this week. I signed up to visit Univates’ student volunteers’ involvement in the very poor San Antonio neighborhood. The visit started at the neighborhood medical clinic where nursing and medical-related student volunteers provide additional support using an interdisciplinary team approach, supervised by faculty members from programs such as nursing, pharmacy sciences, psychology, physio therapy, physical education and law.  We also visited a school in the area, in addition to the house of a paraplegic 33 year old man that has been receiving support from the student interdisciplinary groups since 2007. He was shot in the back at the age of 22 by a drug dealer.  As a result, he has lost the use of his legs. Several months after the incident, Univates volunteers first visited him at the family house where they found him in bed, in a very depressed state. His condition was further exacerbated by leg muscles atrophy as the result of laying in bed for several months. The Univates student volunteer team immediately started providing support services. The law students completed and submitted to the government the paperwork necessary to help him secure a monthly disability benefit, a wheelchair that suited his mobility needs, as well as supplemental medical/prescription benefits. Psychology students worked with him to overcome his severe depression. Physiotherapy students helped him gain mobility to the point that today, he actually drives a fully hand-operated car!

We visited with him and his father (his mom died about 6 years ago) and spent about 20 minutes in his backyard talking to them. What an amazing story of human triumph! And this is only one of the many success stories of the Univates’ student cooperative in the San Antonio neighborhood!  

Finally, my testimonial would be incomplete without raving about the wonderful hospitality of the Univates International office.  Vivianne Bishoff, the director, and her support staff including Marina, Julia, Floane and Guilherme did an amazing job at coordinating this event.  Their warmth (lots of hugging!) and attention to details made the first International Week a success. To give you an idea about the size of the event, about fifteen faculty and/or administrators from eight countries (Brazil, Canada, Portugal, China, Colombia, Argentina, Sweden, and Finland) attended the event and provided presentations to the student body. There were over 2,500 students attending these presentations each evening! English speaking presenters were supported via simultaneous translation services where attendees could follow the presenters on a real-time basis through headset units, similar to the ones used during United Nations gatherings.  I presented every evening of the event. My presentations were 1.5 to two hours long and included topics such as occupational and organizational fraud theory, fraud risk management and personal finance. On an average, I had an audience of about 80-100 students attending my presentations. For the invited guests such as myself, the event included a campus tour, a cultural tour of the area, a technical park or San Antonio Cooperative tour, and a very nice Brazilian cuisine and dance farewell dinner during which we were presented with certificates of appreciation and a gift bag. This was a class act all the way! I should also add that for the pizza and meat lovers reading this, Brazilian cuisine will NOT disappoint you! Have you ever had white chocolate pizza with sliced strawberries on top? Time to put together a student group and visit Brazil!

                                                         Ansioso para a minha Proxima viagem ao Brazil! 

Concordia University of Edmonton – Building Bridges

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