University News

International scholar program renewed

Contributing Writer
Monday, March 19, 2012


President Ruth Simmons and Jorge Moran, president and CEO of Sovereign Bank and Santander Holdings, signed an agreement Feb. 27 to renew the Brown International Advanced Research Institutes for an additional three years. 

The program, run by the Brown Office of International Affairs and led by faculty members, brings young scholars from around the world to campus during the summer for two weeks of lectures, seminars, research presentations and networking on topics including climate change and global health. Since its inception in 2009, more than 400 scholars from 72 countries have participated, said BIARI Director Keith Brown.

Administrators from both institutions said they were pleased by the program extension. 

The renewal is “a vote of confidence in the program’s achievements and promise,” said Keith Brown.

“We feel proud of what has been achieved with BIARI, (and) we feel very happy to be able to renew BIARI,” said Director of Santander Universities Eduardo Garrido

Vice President for International Affairs Matthew Gutmann said the program’s setup “is very Brown.” He added, “It’s very interactive. … It’s not just inviting people from around the world to come and sit quietly and listen to the authorities.” 

The program is highly selective, admitting 150 participants from approximately 1,000 applicants, according to Gutmann. “The idea is to get the rising stars,” he said.

The 2012 BIARI will run from June 9-23 and includes four interdisciplinary institutes – Theater and Civil Society, Population and Development, Climate Change and its Impact and Global Health and HIV/AIDS. Elinor Ostrom, 2009 Nobel laureate in economic sciences, will give the keynote address June 14. 

Visiting Scholar at the Watson Institute Patricia Agupusi, who attended the 2009 BIARI, said the connections she established there are the reason she is at Brown now and added that those formed relationships have proved valuable for her research. 

She said the program is “quite intense,” with breakfast beginning at 7:30 a.m. and lectures occasionally going past 7 p.m. Outside of the lectures and seminars, she said participants are expected to complete lengthy reading assignments. 


Benefits of BIARI

Participants, coordinators and sponsors cite multiple ways in which the rigorous program benefits both the University and international communities. 

Associate Professor of Sociology Patrick Heller said BIARI offers Brown faculty who facilitate discussions “the opportunity to catch up on the latest research and a range of perspectives and applications.” Though it may come as a surprise, it is rare for faculty to get the chance to learn about their colleagues’ research, Heller said. 

For many participants, BIARI is their first experience abroad, and Heller said he is “astonished by how excited they are about coming to Brown.”

Heller said BIARI aims to close the knowledge gap between the north and the south. “As much as we like to think we live in a globalized free-flowing world, it’s much harder for scholars from the global South to get access to the best work being done out there,” he said.

A select number of students in the Graduate Program in Development have participated in BIARIs, and they have also gained new knowledge and developed valuable contacts, Heller said.

Though BIARI is not open to undergraduates, Heller said undergraduates reap indirect benefits from the program because faculty members are engaged in international research. 

“You’re not just getting a textbook lecture – you’re being taught by folks who are at the cutting edge of their field,” he said. 

BIARI also plays a key role in building the University’s reputation abroad. “The program attracts both strong interest … and excellent reviews from participants and visiting faculty,” Keith Brown said.


Partnership with Santander Universities

The funding BIARI receives from Sovereign/Santander comes from Santander Universities, a program launched in 1996 by Santander Chairman Emilio Botin in order to demonstrate Santander’s commitment to higher education. Santander Universities funds more than 1,000 universities around the world today, Garrido said. 

Keith Brown said Sovereign | Santander encourages scholars at other universities in the network to apply for BIARI, but beyond this support, they leave the program in the hands of the Office of International Affairs. 

Heller said it is a “good partnership. We have complete and total autonomy on what we teach and how we teach it, and we would never do it under any other circumstances.”

University faculty and staff are grateful for the opportunity Santander Universities has made possible, Gutmann said. 

“A lot of banks would have pulled the plug and said they couldn’t have afforded this luxury, but (Sovereign sees) the value in this program,” he said. 

Garrido said Santander Universities funds 4,500 projects per year, and “BIARI is one of the best examples we have of a global program.”

“We look forward to maintaining the relationship for a long time,” he said. 


BIARI’s future

Over the last three years, BIARI has grown in size and scope, and adjustments have been made to refine and improve the program. The institutes offered have changed in order to “respond to evolving Brown faculty interest and expertise,” Keit
h Brown said. Heller said more time has been allocated for research presentations and informal networking among participants. 

For BIARI alums, the establishment of seed grants and residencies has helped them to continue to develop the “conversations and collaborations they begin during the two-week summer institute,” Keith Brown said. 

In the future, the office of international affairs “will continue to explore ways to grow and deepen collaborations between BIARI participants and involve more Brown faculty to expand our range of offerings,” Keith Brown said.

He said the office is working with faculty in the political science, mathematics and modern culture and media departments to develop potential new institutes on topics such as comparative welfare policy and the science of massive data. 

Gutmann said the program may expand to host BIARIs in other countries like Spain, South Africa and China, though these BIARIs would likely be smaller in scale and shorter in duration. 

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