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Engineering students' lecture series to focus on Brazil's expansion

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
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LAWRENCE — Two lectures on the University of Kansas campus will provide valuable insight on a burgeoning world power and help students prepare for a changing global economy.

Seniors in the Self Engineering Leadership Fellows Program at the KU School of Engineering are sponsoring the lecture series, which will focus on the rapid transformation under way in Brazil.

Economic growth and engineering expansion will be the topic of the first lecture, set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19, in the Spahr Engineering Classroom in Eaton Hall. The growing South American nation’s environmental stewardship and energy management is the focus of the second lecture, planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16, at Spooner Hall.

The 15 seniors in the SELF Program spent 10 days in Brazil in August. The group traveled to Rio De Janeiro and Sao Paulo, visiting Brazilian energy giant Petrobras, Brazilian aircraft design and manufacturing company Embraer and Ford Motor Company’s Brazil headquarters. The students also experienced the culture and the natural beauty of the country.

“Brazil is becoming more prominent in the global marketplace, and students getting ready to enter the workforce can certainly benefit from having a better understanding of how the people there think and how they operate,” said SELF senior Sarah Elizabeth McCandless.

Renewable energy and green technologies are especially critical to Brazil’s future, and those areas will be covered in the lecture series.

“They are very conscious of their environmental footprint. For example, in the hotel we stayed in, we couldn’t turn on lights or air conditioning until we ran the key through a device inside the room,” McCandless said. “They are very aware of the little things they can do to preserve their natural resources, which are a great source of pride for them.”

The lecture series will also offer advice on some of the cultural subtleties of Brazil — information that could help students avoid missteps in their interactions with those from the country.

“It’s a culture that is very focused on people. They want to take the time to learn about who you are as a person. It’s very different from the hustle and bustle of the U.S., and it’s important to be sensitive to that,” McCandless said. “It’s very rude to sit down and talk about business first thing. These are big cultural differences that we should be aware of, and it’s good knowledge for students here to have.”

The SELF seniors are exploring more ways to spread the word about Brazil, including finalizing the details on a future presentation to employees of Kansas City-based engineering firm Black & Veatch. They also expect to have a booth at the 2012 Engineering Expo in February at the KU School of Engineering.



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