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SIS Abroad

Rural Development: Participation and Sustainable Livelihoods in Brazil

Serra do Brigadeiro, Brazil

This program is both a 3-credit seminar course and a 3-credit practicum course offered through the School of International Service.

The program provides insight into agrarian development theories and practice while simultaneously engaging students in rural development projects in Brazil. Students who wish to enroll in the course must also be able to enroll in the practicum program for credit. Auditing the course is not an option.

Faculty Director

Eve Bratman

Academic Details

Course description:

This seminar-style course provides insight into rural development theories and practice through the topical lenses agrarian livelihoods and food systems. The class investigates dynamics of agricultural production, rural labor relations, land use and tenure, food security and economic markets with a geographic focus on rural areas. The complexities of culture, environment, knowledge production, and social change will be analyzed through a mutli-disciplinary approach, drawing primarily upon literatures in political ecology, critical geography, and anthropology. Development practice, sustainable food systems and the promotion of rural livelihoods are critically and analytically engaged through course lectures, readings, and discussions. Course assignments include regular essay writing and a final exam. The course will directly complement the work being done for the practicum component and provide students with a holistic understanding of the complex rural dynamics of development policy and practice in Brazil that will be part of the entire experience abroad.

Practicum description:

In addition to the seminar, SIS will sponsor a practicum in rural development with the Iracambi Research Center located in the Serra do Brigadeiro semi-deciduous forest region in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. Iracambi has three main project areas involving building a sustainable rural community: fostering payments for ecosystem services, identifying new income sources for rural communities through ecotourism, and encouraging forestry and agroforestry best practices. The practicum group from SIS will support these initiatives through engaging in research orientated consultancy involving strategies for fostering public participation in local and regional environmental decision making and rural community development initiatives. The students will be based at the Iracambi center and finding will be written into a project report. Project evaluation skills, focus-groups, interviews, participant observation, and stakeholder analysis will be integral to the practicum and are desirable skills for prospective student participants.

Program Itinerary

As the Program combines both academic and professional development goals, the itinerary will be designed to meet these goals as the students move through the country. While the majority of time will be spent at the Iracambi Research Center, the students may have the opportunity to spend several days in Rio de Janeiro where they will be hosted by Fundação Getulio Vargas for some guest lectures and informal student interactions. Outside of those schedule components, the students will visit other cities in the state of Minas Gerais while also having the opportunity to connect with other scholars and practitioners who are relevant to their studies. The full itinerary and site visits will be confirmed before the program's departure. Students will stay in accommodations at the Iracambi Research Center. Students are required to make their own arrangements to and from Brazil, but all in-country program related travel will be arranged on the students' behalf.

2015 Program Schedule

Tentative Program Dates

Pre-departure meeting date: April 20, 6:15-7:15pm

Travel dates (Brazil): 

May 25- Arrival in Rio by noon 

June 14- End of Program in Rio

[Return flights out of Rio must be after 6pm on June 14]

Final projects due: July 3

Program Costs

AU tuition, international airfare, visa fee, and some meals in country. There is no program fee and all other program related expenses are covered by SIS.

Practicum Eligibility

Current SIS graduate student with the ability to register for all 6 course credits and travel to Brazil.
To be eligible to participate in any SIS Practicum, MA students must be in good academic standing (including a 3.0 cumulative GPA) and have completed 18 credits of graduate coursework by the end of the spring 2014 semester, prior to participating in the Practicum. Dual degree students (e.g. MA/MBA, JD/MA, and KU/MA) must have completed at least 9 of the minimum 18 credits to participate. Students from any MA program can apply to this practicum.

Who Should Attend

The interdisciplinary nature of the program is designed for graduate students with an interest in international and rural development and environmental issues. The ability to stay in a rural area which is 12 km from the nearest town and a high level of cultural awareness are also a must. Students applying to this practicum should have some background, demonstrated through coursework or applied experience, in one or more of the following areas: rural and urban development; extractive industries; social and environmental standards and assessments; project evaluation. Prior travel/ residence in Latin America and/or Portuguese proficiency are desirable. A few translators will be on hand for assistance during the Program.

Application and Deadlines

Students must read the entire program guide before applying. The program guide can be found in the Forms section of this website. 

The application deadline is March 1 (midnight).


As part of the review process, the Faculty Leader may invite students to meet with her to discuss the submitted application. Once admitted to the Program students will receive notification via e-mail.

Contact Us!

Email: sisabroad@american.edu

Facebook: American University SIS Study Abroad

Twitter: SISStudyAbroad

Google Chat: sisstudyabroad@gmail.com

Info Session

January 22, 5-6pm, SIS115

Application and Deadline

March 1 (midnight)



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