Q&A with dual-degree students in Brazil

Did you know that SIPA has a dual-degree program in Brazil? The partnership is with the Fundação Getulio Vargas Escola de Administração de Empresas de São Paulo (FGV-EAESP). FGV-EAESP, one of the leading academic institutions in Latin America, is widely recognized as the leading business and public management school in Brazil, and is one of the principal Brazilian centers of teaching, research, publication and consulting in its field, with undergraduate, graduate, executive, and dual-degree programs. It offers two tracks: Management & Public Policy and International Management for Business.

Two of our international dual-degree students wanted to share some information about their experiences in the program. Here’s a look at the Q&A conducted with Anthony Scott, SIPA 2016, FGV 2016 and Anthony Venezia, SIPA 2015, FGV 2015. Scott is in the International Management (MPGI) program, and Venezia completed the Management & Public Policy (MPGPP) program last year.

Here’s what they had to say.

SIPA: Why did you decide to study in Brazil?

Anthony Scott
Anthony Scott

AS: I started my career at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), focusing on regional Latin American development policy. I always had a strong interest in democratic institutions and how cities can leverage those institutions to create a more inclusive, equitable and prosperous future for its residents. One of the reasons I chose SIPA was because its Urban Policy program had a specific focus on comparing cities around the world. After a full year of study and research at SIPA, I found Brazilian cities proved exceptional. After only 30 years of democracy, Brazil was at the forefront of a host of innovations, such as participatory budgeting, conditional cash transfers (e.g. Bolsa Familia), and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), to name a few, that made it an appealing policy environment to study. Furthermore, these policies were forged, much like in the U.S., in a complex, and messy democratic environment within a decentralized federal system. The other dual degree programs also looked excellent, but none were as dynamic, and different for the American audience as Brazil.

Anthony Venezia
Anthony Venezia

AV: When I was gearing up for graduate school, Brazil was a rising star amongst the BRIC countries. The chance to study there seemed like a unique opportunity and I had already lived and worked in Latin America before and enjoyed it. Not to mention the fact that at that time the dual-degree program was practically brand new, so it was very exciting to be part of this new partnership between Columbia and FGV. Economically, it was also the right choice for me.

SIPA: Why did you choose your particular program at FGV? Do you think you made the right choice?

AS: The MPGI program was a better fit for me. I knew I did not have the time to learn Portuguese up to a Master’s degree level, as is required by MPGPP. When I learned that I could still take policy classes, but pursue the English program, I knew it was the way to go. In the end I think I made the right choice. I’m learning a lot of basic management skills and tools that I think better position me to enter either the private or public sector, with an understanding of how both work and how both need to work together.

AV: I absolutely made the right choice. I picked the MPGPP program because of the local aspect. The curriculum, papers, lectures; everything is 100 percent in Portuguese. I was one of just two foreigners in the program. It not only allowed me to master the language but it also let me approach graduate school from a different perspective, since I was the odd-man out in the classroom. It gave me a unique understanding of how Brazilian business and government functions that has become invaluable to me in my current work.

SIPA: Do you feel like you’re missing out on NYC, SIPA?

AS: Yes and no. SIPA has more courses and opportunities than I could ever wish to be able to take advantage of, which is one of the reasons why it is a great place to learn. While I know there are classes that I will miss, the fundamental skills that I’ve acquired still give me a solid foundation for my career path. Furthermore, I’m from Baltimore, so I’ve always been in and around American cities, especially DC and New York, and they’ll still be there when I get back. Besides, I’ll be in Brazil for the Olympics in Rio; you can’t beat that.

AV: I’m a native New Yorker, so maybe I’m the wrong person to ask. Another year in NY for me would have been status quo but the chance to live for a year in Brazil, especially when so many things were happening—The World Cup and the Papal Visit—was priceless.

 

[Photo courtesy of Anthony Scott and Anthony Venezia]
[Photo courtesy of Anthony Scott and Anthony Venezia]

SIPA: What are the programs like?

AS: The MPGI program is probably the most demographically diverse program at FGV. While there are quite a few Brazilians in the program, there are a lot of Europeans, and very few Americans (which I think is refreshing). The program tends to attract students in their early 20s and is a smaller cohort of around 70 people. Since the program is more business focused, there is a lot of casework, where much of your work is done in groups. This actually helps a lot with grounding and applying the management theory you learn in class. As previously mentioned, the program is entirely in English, mostly taught by Brazilian professors. On the whole, there are not as many course options to choose from, however the program staff is happy to help you take classes in the Public Policy program, as well. Overall, I do not have a required course load that is as demanding as at SIPA, which has given me great opportunities to develop lasting relationships with my classmates, foreign and Brazilian, outside of my program.

AV: The MPGPP program is actually a night program aimed at older students who work full-time so they can balance achieving a master’s degree. I was a bit older than most SIPA people, so I felt at home with my Brazilian colleagues. Everyone is very helpful by the way, and even if you are not Brazilian your cohorts in the program do all they can to help you adjust. The Portuguese aspect was very challenging at times—I had to defend a thesis in Portuguese!—but most professors are patient with you. The academic structure though is quite different from SIPA, so you need to go into it with no expectations.

SIPA: What’s it like living in Brazil?

AS: Brazilians are one of the most open and inviting people in the world. Even in São Paulo, the largest city in the Americas, where people tend to be busier, Brazilians still take time to have a long lunch or coffee break, or wander around town with you after work. There is so much to do, see and eat, and you definitely never get bored. São Paulo is also an easy and quick trip to Rio, if you love the beach. Brazil as a whole is going through a challenging economic moment, driven by political crisis, but Brazilians have a strong sense of solidarity, and are generally optimistic about their long-term future, and so am I.

AV: Again, as a native New Yorker, São Paulo felt completely comfortable to me as it has all the amenities that any massive global city offers. Plus, SP, as it’s known, is just as diverse as NYC in terms of immigration patterns and people, so I always felt at home. In my opinion, there are no two countries more similar demographically than the USA and Brazil. That being said though, Brazilians are in general way more laid back, friendly and open than Americans, and especially uptight New Yorkers! It was refreshing to say the least.

 

To find out more about SIPA’s dual-degree program with FGV and how to apply, see SIPA’s webpage: https://sipa.columbia.edu/sipa-and-the-fgv-eaesp-dual-degree-program. You can also reach out directly to SIPA-FGV Coordinator, Dean Urbano Garza