Comparing Notes

PEGS students Regan Grillo and Lisa Smith

Student symposium showcases US-Brazilian cooperation, cultural differences KENNESAW, Ga. (Nov. 20,…

Georgia (Nov 20, 2015)

Student symposium showcases US-Brazilian cooperation, cultural differences

KENNESAW, Ga. (Nov. 20, 2015) — Kennesaw State University students joined their peers from universities across Georgia and Brazil this month to present the results of research projects highlighting global trends and challenges in Brazil and the greater Portuguese-speaking world.

The daylong “Year of the Portuguese Speaking World” Student Symposium featured presenters from Kennesaw State, Morehouse College, Spelman College, the University of Georgia, Clark Atlanta University, Georgia Gwinnett College and Emory University. Joining them at the KSU Center earlier this month via a live video feed were students from Universidade Salvador (UNIFACS) in Brazil. They gathered to share their research and discuss their experiences studying abroad in Portuguese speaking countries.

Event organizers included Dan Paracka, director of campus internationalization for Kennesaw State’s Division of Global Affairs; Ken Hill, manager of the President’s Emerging Global Scholars (PEGS) program; and the newly created Georgia Afro-Brazilian Consortium.

The symposium’s first session featured several of the 20 participants in Kennesaw State’s PEGS program who studied abroad in Brazil for 18 days and worked with UNIFACS students to compare how Americans and Brazilians think about issues ranging from the role technology plays in daily life to attitudes surrounding gun ownership.  Students at both universities surveyed their respective student bodies and presented their findings at the symposium.

The results revealed similarities between the two cultures on some issues and striking differences on other critical issues.

On the issue of at what age a person should be licensed to carry a gun, for example, students found stark differences of opinion between American and Brazilian students.

“Almost half of] Brazilian students said gun licenses should not be available to any civilians [regardless of age, ” said PEGS student Micah Laughlin. “American students supported gun ownership across a range of ages in the United States, with almost one third favoring gun ownership for 18-year-olds. That was really the dividing point.”

Another group studied the use of social media and found differing opinions among Brazilians and Americans about social media’s role as a tool for political advocacy.

“We asked students if they felt that Facebook actually caused real social change to occur,” said PEGS student Sierra Harris. “KSU students disagreed, while UNIFACS strongly agreed that Facebook has been a tool for change. American students don’t have as much faith in social media as a tool for change as Brazilian students do.”

Brazilian students, shown on two large video screens from their classroom at UNIFACS, attended the symposium and presented their findings, which mirrored those of their American peers.

Guest speaker Hermano Ribeiro, Brazilian Consul General in Atlanta, applauded the close partnership between UNIFACS and Kennesaw State.

“This partnership is exemplary,” he said. “Embodying global diversity and interconnectivity must be essential to the mission of all universities today.”

Later in the symposium, students attending from other local universities discussed their research projects during a series of poster presentations. Topics included the complex racial identity of Mozambique, the large-scale 19th century migration of Italians and Germans to Brazil, and the effect that studying abroad can have on African-American students’ self-identities. The event also included a keynote presentation by Joe Rozza, global manager of water sustainability and natural capital at The Coca-Cola Company, who led an interactive discussion with the students on issues such as access to water as a human right, watershed protection, local relevance, restorative enterprise, and sustainability innovation.

The student symposium was part of Kennesaw State’s “Year of the Portuguese Speaking World,” a yearlong examination of the world’s nine Portuguese-speaking nations. This event, like others planned throughout the 2015-2016 academic year, is designed to provide students the opportunity to learn about international communities without ever leaving campus.

“Activities like this are not a world away,” Lance Askildson, Kennesaw State’s chief international officer, told the attendees. “They are right in your backyard. If you want to engage with these communities, they are there and ready and willing to engage with you. Take the next step and take advantage of these intercultural learning opportunities.”

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— Story and photos by Patrick Harbin


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit