University News

For third year, U. hosts Latino scholars

Contributing Writer
Thursday, October 4, 2012

Forty college students from Latin America and Puerto Rico arrived at Brown Oct. 1 to kick off the two-month Botin Scholars program, which brings students to the University for a week before they head to Spain for the duration of the program. This is the third consecutive year that the Watson Institute for International Studies and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies partnered with Fundacion Botin of Spain to host the students.

“The goal is to create a network of Latin American leaders who are dedicated to public service,” said Geoffrey Kirkman ’91, associate director of the Watson Institute and international advancement officer. “It’s a long-term project trying to plant the seeds of leadership and public service.”

While on campus, the students attend lectures by a range of speakers, including former leaders of Latin American countries and Brown faculty members. Topics of conversation include politics of democracy and development, Latin America and the global financial crisis. Scholars also engage in leadership activities and team building exercises, Kirkman said.

 The students also traveled around Rhode Island this week, visiting the Rhode Island State House and the Haffenreffer Estate in Bristol, R.I.

“It’s a very intense week here at Brown, and we’re throwing a lot of information at them,” Kirkman said. Brown introduces the scholars to concepts of democracy, leadership and public service that can guide them when they continue their work in Spain, he said.

The University was chosen to host the scholars during the first week because “when all of the puzzle pieces were put together, it was the best option,” said Rafael Monjo, representative for Fundacion Botin.

The scholars come from top universities in Puerto Rico as well as Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay.

“There were almost 2,000 applicants for 40 spots,” Kirkman said. “We identified the top candidates of the best universities of Latin America.”

The program tries to create good balances between gender, field of study and geography when selecting scholars. “Most importantly, we look for evidence of a commitment to public service,” Kirkman said.

Though the scholars stay at the Biltmore Hotel, they still have opportunities to interact with Brown students. 

“We have Brown students that serve as liaisons for the Latin American students. They show the visitors the student side of Providence and the University,” Kirkman said.

A majority of meals are eaten at the Sharpe Refectory, and scholars have some free time to roam around campus.

“So far, the program has been great … it has been more than we could ever imagine,” Monjo said.

Scholars were given flip video cameras to create blog entries about what they learned throughout the day. Every night, videos are submitted on the Global Conversation website.

 Throughout the program, the Latin American students work on projects relating to a specific subject of their choice.

The scholars will head to Spain this weekend, where they will continue to work on their projects, meet public service figures and visit places such as the Spanish Congress and the European Parliament in Brussels.

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