Brazil: Social Justice and Sustainable Development

Key Features

"The SIT Brazil program in Fortaleza solidified my language skills and my love of Brazil. I was inspired by the marisqueiras of Fortim, the women who invited me into their homes and let me shadow them to do my ISP research on a women's grassroots movement. The marisqueiras, and others I met in Brazil, made me want to seek out, work with, and be someone who, no matter how incrementally, made the lives of other individuals better."

—Bianca Santos, Rice University


The Brazil: Social Justice and Sustainable Development study abroad program examines local socioeconomic conditions and the impact of local development efforts and public policy on lives and livelihoods in northeastern Brazil. In addition to thematic coursework and field study in Fortaleza, students participate in educational excursions throughout the region and observe various community-based programs seeking to foster social, political, and economic improvement.

The program consists of three phases: a seven week homestay in Fortaleza, a two-week period during which students participate in educational excursions throughout northeastern Brazil, and a month-long period during which students focus on an Independent Study Project (ISP). Each phase of the program introduces students to different experiences with, and perspectives on, social justice in Brazil.

During their homestay in Fortaleza, students attend lectures and seminars on topics such as globalization and its impact on third world societies, neoliberalism as an economic model, social movements in Brazil and Latin America, and Afro Brazilian religions and culture. Students are immersed in Portuguese language study through intensive language classes and daily interaction with their host families. This seven-week period helps acclimate students to Brazilian culture and familiarizes them with the social and political atmosphere of the region.

Workshop on culture with Joe Albano, Brazilian photographer

Field Study
The Research Methods and Ethics course focuses on the concepts of learning across cultures and from field experience. Material includes:

  • Appropriate methodologies
  • Field study ethics and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy
  • Developing skills in observation and interviewing
  • Gathering, organizing, and communicating data

Assigned papers provide an opportunity for students to test the tools introduced during the course while providing occasions for discussions on ethics and intercultural readings. Throughout the course, students work to properly develop their research topics for their Independent Study Project. Students significantly advance their initial ideas, assumptions, and drafts, in close consultation with their academic director.

Student presenting her ISP project

Independent Study Project
In the final month of the Brazil: Social Justice and Sustainable Development program students complete an Independent Study Project (ISP), which provides each student an opportunity to pursue original research on a community, situation, or topic related to Brazilian culture, development, and social justice. Each student selects an ISP advisor from among the outstanding array of researchers and professionals affiliated with the program. The ISP is conducted in Fortaleza or, by arrangement, in another area of northeastern Brazil.

Sample topics for the ISP include:

  • Agrarian reform in the state of Ceará and the northeast
  • Migratory trends and demographic impact
  • Economic and social plight of favela dwellers
  • Urbanization and economic development
  • Class issues in Ceará
  • Afro Brazilian religion and culture

After the semester ends, students are encouraged to continue studying some aspect of their ISP, and ISPs have frequently served as the basis for senior theses, successful grant proposals, graduate-level research, and fellowships.  Past participants of the Brazil: Social Justice and Sustainable Development study abroad program have launched NGOs and organized fundraisers for social justice organizations in Brazil.

Costs Dates

Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Fortaleza

Language Study: Portuguese

Prerequisites: 1 semester of Portuguese or 2 semesters of another college-level Romance language. Read more...


View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Fall 2012 Evaluations (PDF)

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