UNI unites with Brazil for global partnerships

If someone were to ask what the similarities between Iowa and Brazil are, you'd probably have to stop and think a moment. Iowa is "America's Heartland." It's cold during the winter and can be very hot in the summer. Most of Iowa is used for agriculture; crops cover 60 percent of the state. It's the nation's largest producer of ethanol and corn, and some years is the largest producer of soybeans as well.

Agribusiness tour
Students from Brazil tour UNI's National Ag-Based Lubricants (NABL) Center in Waterloo.

When people think of Brazil, they think of a tropical region with lots of rain…the Amazon Rainforest comes to mind. The Brazilian economy is the world's sixth largest and is home to diverse wildlife, natural environments and extensive natural resources. You're also likely to see John Deere machinery harvesting a variety of crops in Brazilian fields…that's definitely something you also see in Iowa!

The University of Northern Iowa hosted a professor and five students from the Universidade Federal de Goiás in Brazil for an agricultural business tour of Iowa. The tour, in partnership with Hawkeye Community College and Kirkwood Community College and two universities in Brazil, was part of the Iowa-Midwest Brazil Exchange Program. The consortium was founded in 2009 to strengthen the educational relationship between Iowan and Brazilian students and faculty.

The Iowa-Midwest Brazil Exchange Program also allows UNI students to spend a semester in Brazil, both studying and practicing business operations.

"This relationship opens up opportunities for faculty and student research and it builds networks for future career opportunities," said Christine Schrage, an instructor of marketing at UNI.

During their visit, the Brazilian students visited a variety of destinations across Iowa including several local farms, the Department of Natural Resources, where they learned about forestry management and environmental preservation, the John Deere tractor plant and UNI's National Ag-Based Lubricants (NABL) Center in Waterloo.

"I showed the group from Brazil two greases that I made," said Gwen Fine, a UNI sophomore majoring in biology who is interning at NABL. "We showed them that NABL is more than just a testing laboratory, it's also a research center. The information we shared with the group will help them back in Brazil because they will see that the exotic oils we use here may be native to them."

"Similar to the producers in the U.S., the group expressed interest in developing value-added opportunities for their agricultural commodities through the development of new biolubricant products and improved plant genetics," said Wes James, associate director of NABL.

A lot of the information the group heard during their time in Iowa can be applied to their careers and everyday lives.

"This tour has changed my life," said one student from Brazil. "It's possible that I can copy some things [we learned] on my farm and in my life."