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John Harvard's Journal

Global Gains

January-February 2008

Jorge I. Domínguez

Photograph by Justin Ide/Harvard News Office

Jorge I. Domínguez

Harvard’s engagement with the world widened significantly during the fall term. New or enlarged programs of scholarship and study involving Brazil, Egypt, and South Asia were launched. A professional school extended financial aid to international students. Data on study abroad and foreign students coming to Harvard during the last academic year showed traffic increasing in both directions (see graphs below). And Madero professor of Mexican and Latin American politics and economics Jorge I. Domínguez, the vice provost for international affairs—the post was created in mid 2006—put support in place to continue the momentum.

  • Brazil. The Brazil Studies Program, launched within the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies in May 2006, was boosted by the opening of a São Paulo office two months later. The initiative spurred an immediate surge of student and faculty exchanges—nearly 50 undergraduates did academic work or held internships in that country in the 2006-2007 academic year—as well as a series of speakers and conversas (lunchtime symposiums) on campus.

Now such activities have been supplemented substantially by an eight-figure endowment gift from the family of Jorge Paulo Lemann ’61, announced in early October. A Brazilian investment banker and philanthropist, Lemann has previously backed education initiatives ranging from a professorship at Harvard Business School to comparable gifts and fellowships for other universities in the United States and in his native country.

The Harvard initiative (http://drclas.harvard.edu/brazil) enables a full range of intellectual work on Brazil—“We went broad rather than narrow,” said visiting professor of history Kenneth Maxwell, director of the program. But it has in particular prompted public-service-oriented research, training, and education. Lemann Fellowships underwrite Brazilians’ graduate study in education, public health, or public policy at Harvard, as well as dissertations on Brazil by Graduate School of Arts and Sciences students. The eight current fellows are pursuing work in child development, poverty reduction, the education of low-income students, ethnomusicology, environmental chemistry, and other subjects.

The first formal Brazil-Harvard symposium, held in São Paulo last May, brought 35 University and Brazilian public-health specialists, administrators, and Lemann Fellows together for three days of working discussions. One outcome is a Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH)-Santa Casa Medical School course on infectious disease, scheduled for January 6 to 21 in Brazil; participants include 15 Harvard and 17 Brazilian students, faculty members from the public-health and medical schools, and counterparts from 11 Brazilian institutions. The 2008 symposium, in northeastern Brazil this August, will enable Harvard and Brazilian specialists to address the environment and sciences.

  • Egypt. In mid November, Youssef Boutros Ghali, Egypt’s minister of finance, met in Cambridge with President Drew Faust to sign his government’s $10-million endowment to fund “Egypt Fellowships” for students from that nation who study in HSPH, the Graduate School of Education, and the Kennedy School of Government (KSG).
  • Scholarships. A few weeks earlier, Graduate School of Design (GSD) dean Alan Altshuler announced that financial aid would become available to international master’s-degree students, beginning in the fall of 2008. Heretofore, the school had been able to off er aid to doctoral students and U.S. citizens and permanent residents—but the gap in master’s aid excluded about one-third of the student body. Altshuler credited Domínguez for advocating the change—which brings the GSD into line with other Harvard schools, Domínguez noted.
  • South Asia. On a larger scale, Domínguez helped bring together an eight-member steering committee—from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) and the business, Kennedy, and public-health schools—for the formal launch of the South Asia Initiative (www.southasia.harvard.edu), unveiled in November after several years of academic planning. This new venture focuses on the quarter of humanity in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and surrounding nations, where economic growth is rapid but unequal, and where there are major issues of health, the environment, and peace and security. Like other regional-studies programs, it aims to expand research, increase financial aid for international students, facilitate Asian travel for Harvard faculty members and students, and form partnerships abroad.

This academic year, Domínguez said, India has supplanted the United Kingdom as the fourth-largest home of international students at Harvard. The business school operates a research office in Mumbai, GSD faculty are planning for urban renewal there, KSG faculty are training Indian public administrators, and HSPH has broad relationships with public-health professionals throughout India—all activities highlighted during visits by President Lawrence H. Summers and the Harvard Alumni Association in March 2006. The number of undergraduates doing work in India rose from 3 in the academic year ending in 2005 to 57 last year.

The initiative, Domínguez said, has attracted a gift for a new Mehra Family professorship of South Asian studies, to be used in various faculties (Sanjeev K. Mehra ’82, M.B.A. ’86, and Karen Petersen Mehra ’82 are the donors), and several other leadership gifts for a South Asia Founders Club.

  • Advancing the agenda. Behind the scenes, Domínguez’s office is underpinning global Harvard by creating databases that will track all personnel abroad (for security purposes), and a Web resource that will detail every Harvard international initiative, so students and researchers can determine common interests and available resources. Area-studies centers have also moved toward a common application form for undergraduate work abroad, and for graduate students whose research requires exploratory travel. With the Board of Overseers restructuring its visiting committees into an integrated body that will examine international and area centers within FAS, the elements are falling in place to align and administer Harvard’s two-way discourse with the world.

Indeed, Domínguez said he sees evidence of Harvard’s ability to make “vast intellectual commitments” to important research and teaching opportunities around the globe during the twenty-first century.