A new Brazilian and global Portuguese studies major will be available to undergraduates starting Fall 2014.
The Arts and Science council approved the addition to the Romance Studies department at their January meeting. The completion of the degree requires a 10-class course of study in a variety of departments relating to Brazil or greater Portuguese culture, two of which could be Portuguese language classes. Many of the approved courses are already available to students and can retroactively count towards the major.
"We're thinking of pursuing a global context," said Portuguese studies Assistant Professor Gustavo Furtado. "[It will be] a major that's about content, Brazil and the global Portugese-speaking world."
The approval of the major, which required no funding beyond the filling of two faculty positions, capitulates several years of expansion in Duke’s study of Brazilian and Portuguese language and culture. This included the start of the Brazil Initiative, a reinvented Duke in Brazil study abroad program and the addition of Furtado and Lamonte Aidoo–two Brazilian natives–to the romance studies department.
“All the pieces were suddenly in place–what we needed was to create a curriculum and use those resources, otherwise they wouldn’t be used properly,” Furtado said.
Furtado went on to add that Duke’s interest in Portuguese studies also reflects Brazil’s growing prominence in the world as a result of its rising economy and the upcoming World Cup and Olympic games.
"This is a Brazil moment for Duke," he said "This is the moment to turn our attention there and Duke has a ton of people that are working on Brazil but aren't aware of each other, so we're trying to make people collaborate and share their work."
Luciana Fellin, director of undergraduate studies and the Italian language program, emphasized the scope of the program, which will give students the freedom to take relevant classes from other departments and provides immersive opportunities through the Duke in Brazil program and the Global Brazil Lab at the Franklin Humanities institute.
“It’s really interdisciplinary and it really opens up to other fields,” Fellin said. “It’s forward and future-looking.”
The program rounds out the available language-oriented major programs within the romance studies department, which previously offered Portuguese classes but no comprehensive major.
“It’s not just an addition, it’s really a completion,” said Fellin.
A major in Brazilian and global Portuguese studies is long overdue according to Magda Silva, visiting assistant professor of romance studies and director of the Duke in Brazil program.
“Since I got here, the other former professor and I would always talk about a major and a minor, but it never happened,” Silva said. “I’ve always had students asking me if there was a major or a minor in Portuguese, so their reaction is always ‘Yay, we have a major!’.”
Junior Lauren Nathan, president of the romance studies majors student union, saw the addition as a welcome chance for students to expand on their academics.
“Students are always looking for new ways to apply what they’re learning in class,” said Nathan of the interdisciplinary nature of the new major. “There are so many more opportunities to pursue that didn’t exist before.”