Challenges, Dreams and Struggles: Sharing Experiences Transnationally

April 10, 2017

By Samayra Siddiqui

Upon walking into Smith Warehouse, I’m greeted by multiple, well-dressed people who escort me to the Ahmadieh Lecture Hall, where there’s a panel of four Brazilian students and a Duke Ph.D. student serving as a translator. The room was full of professors and students involved in the Bass Connections project team The Cost of Opportunity? Higher Education in the Baixada Fluminense. The project is a part of the Global Brazil Lab, which cosponsored this conference.

The Brazilians are elaborating on quantitative data about the positive impact that college exam preparatory courses have on the students in Rio de Janeiro. One student then went on to share student interviews to exemplify the significance of receiving an education in Brazil. I didn’t need to understand Portuguese to feel the passion these students have for learning and helping others learn. Everyone in the room was enticed by the stories and inspired by their ambition. As one of the co-directors of the Global Brazil Lab began tearing up at the end of the conference, empathy filled the room as we all reflected on the opportunities that higher education affords us.

As a nice finish to the conference, the audience was graced with a panel on the models of collaborative interdisciplinary research. Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies Ed Balleisen posed the question, “What do we do with the information we find?” That seems to be where interdisciplinarity comes in. Without the ability to find connections across relevant disciplines, the research and magnitude of narratives becomes fruitless. It was a subtle and much needed reminder that interdisciplinary work can’t, and won’t, go unnoticed. The importance of this transcends language, culture and space.

Samayra SiddiquiSamayra Siddiqui, a senior majoring in evolutionary anthropology, is originally from the suburbs of Chicago. She is passionate about intersectional feminism, and her Myers-Briggs Personality Type is INFP. She is currently working as a student assistant in the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies.

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Photo by Amy Finnegan