Brazilian conference is vacation, education
some KU professors, summer can mean vacation in an exotic location or
perhaps some extra teaching. For Burdett Loomis, professor of political
science, a summer journey to the capital of Brazil meant both.
Loomis and Steve Rabe, a history professor from the University of Texas-Dallas,
joined 24 South American academics for a 10-day American Studies Seminar
in Brasilia that was sponsored by the State Department.
Discussions ranged “from immigration to civil rights to the election
of 2000,” Loomis said, and he found the seminar engaging and enlightening.
“Our ‘students’ could not have been better,” he
wrote in a recent column about his trip. “What a pleasure to work
with 24 professionals, all with masters or doctorates, who truly wanted
to learn more about the United States.”
The South American academics, three Brazilian embassy officials and Loomis
and Rabe met daily in a conference room in their hotel.
The mornings consisted mostly of lectures by the two U.S. professors,
discussion of which often spilled over into lunch.
“We did a lot of socializing over lunches and dinners, which turned
into extensions of the seminars in many ways,” Loomis said.
Loomis said spending time with his “students” also helped
him learn more about his South American counterparts. Loomis still communicates
with the group by e-mail, exchanging articles, poll results and even a
recent paper he wrote about the 2004 elections.
“Brazilian professors are underpaid and overworked, and many hold
multiple positions to make ends met,” Loomis said. “Although
I learned many things—about Brazil and South America, about attitudes
toward the U.S., about the State Department’s difficult task in
explaining our country to the world—what I came to most appreciate
was the commitment levels of these academics.”
Later this month Loomis will travel to Mexico to speak to a series of
audiences about the 2004 election and American politics.
“It’s always fun to talk about American politics in international
settings. The U.S. election is important around the world, and everyone
wants to have some idea of what the Electoral College is all about.”