Students explore sustainable practices in Brazil

"Brazil is the eighth largest economy in the world and will be growing at a higher rate than the United States, probably for the next decade," says Dr. Martin Meznar, assistant dean for international programs in Appalachian's Walker College of Business. "I feel it is vitally important that students be exposed to opportunities beyond the border of the United States, and that's why we launched our study abroad to Brazil three years ago."

The most recent group traveled to Brazil during the 2011 spring break—24 students representing business, appropriate technology and biology who learned about sustainable management practices. The study abroad trip was part of their semester-long coursework.


In one of many study abroad opportunities at Appalachian, 24 students traveled to Brazil to learn sustainable management practices—from indigenous tribes, universities and local communities. The trip was sponsored by Appalachian's Walker College of Business.

Michael Skelton, Finance & Banking major: It's amazing. You're not going to get this at a Myrtle Beach or anything like that.

Katie Schulz, Marketing major: Learn the ins and outs of the Amazon River, the Negro River. We have visited villages, done a couple of service projects. We have fished for piranha, swam with dolphins. This trip to Brazil has broadened my perspective in a way that... instead of learning about the culture of Brazil—you can learn and memorize—but I've really been able to immerse myself to where I want to use my marketing major in a different way. I want to learn sustainability to help the villages we've seen.

Dr. Martin Meznar, Assistant Dean, Walker College of Business: If you're interested in the environment, if you're interested in business, if you're interested in international trade and other aspects, Brazil would be at the heart of those discussions and the lessons learned in Brazil will translate to other developing countries around the world.

Joe Gill, Graduate student: I came here to Brazil as an MBA student who's interested in sustainability. Brazil is one of the emerging superpowers economically and they have a lot of sustainable practices that are going on and so I wanted to see what we could learn from them.

JG: We've seen so many things on this trip. Starting off in the Amazon, looking at different sustainable practices that communal tribes are doing. We made our way into the cities and visited universities and businesses and see what they're doing as well, and ended up here, finally, at this wind farm. We're seeing how renewable energy is making a difference in Brazil.

JG: We have 800-kilowatt turbines and to put that in perspective, the turbine next to the Broyhill is about 100 kilowatts. We're along the coast—there's tons of potential along the coast of Brazil for more turbines to help supplement their hydroelectric power.

Ashley McNeeley, Accounting major: With the international programs that Appalachian offers, it's given us opportunities to come here and to experience things like this, so you can learn from different cultures the business and different areas. We can come here and learn from them and take something back with us that we can share and spread and have a great impact.

KS: I would recommend this in a heartbeat to any student. It's something that I think everybody should experience—being international, really learning and visiting other cultures. You have the chance to immerse yourself, you have the chance to look around, visit with the people and I don't think that's anything you should be able to pass up.