December 18, 2012

Albuquerque Journal

UNM in Brazil

By Astrid Galvan / Journal Staff Writer

Raul Gouvea and Sul Kassicieh were one step ahead of University of New Mexico President Bob Frank when he started campaigning this year for UNM to have a larger global presence.

They were several steps ahead, actually.

The longtime Anderson School of Management professors have for years been establishing connections between UNM and universities in Latin America through student exchange programs. The various conferences they created and host in Brazil have also put the UNM – and the Anderson school – name on the world stage.

"All of these efforts are really putting Anderson on the map now, and we have a lot of visibility," Gouvea said.

Gouvea and Kassicieh, both of whom have worked at UNM for decades and have held leadership positions, established key exchange programs in Mexico, Brazil and France.

"(Students) need to build a network of international contacts," Gouvea said. "I think having international students in the classroom is extremely important to the other kids."

Now, they have established conferences that in part focus on indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs around the world. The conferences are held in Manaus, in the state of Amazonas, Brazil, and are attended by hundreds, the professors said. They also take students with them.

The first conference, "International Indigenous Business and Entrepreneurship Conference," was held in Albuquerque in 2006.

In 2008, a similar conference, dubbed FIBEA, or Fostering Indigenous Business & Entrepreneurship in the Americas Conference, was held in Manaus. The next year, the professors hosted a water conference in Manaus that focused on how technology and innovation affects water issues.

FIBEA was held in Brazil again in 2010.

In 2012, Gouvea and Kassiciech hosted a new conference that looked at creating green jobs for people with disabilities. That conference, referred to as SUDI, was held in September in Manaus.

Gouvea said he and Kassiciech, who have established an LLC to continue their work post retirement, said they usually break even on conferences. Gouvea said Manaus provides free rooms, and attendees are not served lunch. UNM pays for the professors to travel there.

For Anderson Dean Doug Brown, the cost is well worth it. Brown said the water conference, in particular, was a worthy endeavo¶r and not just because it spreads the word about the Anderson school.

"There are several layers of this. One of them is …to do the kind of research and gather the kind of papers and get the kind of networks in the area of water issues. … is invaluable," Brown said.

"For the students, it can provide some very worthwhile learning and research opportunities and interaction with people from different cultures and very different policy approaches to things," Brown said. "It's just a life-changing experience."

Brown said Brazil is a vital place to make connections because of its growing economic profile.

"Brazil is really roaring onto the world economic stage," Brown said. "In the case of Brazil, they are now in the top 10 in the world in many of the metrics people look for in economic activities."