An International Experience: Brazilians Travel to MIT for a Lesson on Leading Innovation

“People at MIT work with great vision of the world. I came here to learn with them – to make innovation happen in my city and in my country,” said Alline Jajah.

Jajah was among the more than two dozen working professionals who traveled from Brazil to Cambridge last summer as part of an international academic program run by Fundacao Getulio Vargas (FGV), a wellknown business school in Latin-America. Each year, FGV offers students and alumni the opportunity to study abroad. More than 20 foreign schools are included in the program, including Stanford, University of Hong Kong, and Steinbeis in Germany. However, this was the first time MIT was included on the list.

MIT’s debut course — which was led by MIT senior lecturer David Niño, titled Leading Innovative Teams — was a huge draw. “Nowadays, all companies have to lead and be innovative. It’s very important,” said Juliano Perlin, a commercial manager at one of Brazil’s largest container ports.

“We learned things like how to listen and talk with people without confronting them, how to understand different points of view in your team, strategies for evaluating your team, and how to put it all into practice,” said Jajah, who runs a digital marketing firm in Brazil.

Participants — some of whom relied on portable translators to access the content — took part in small group exercises, role-played, practiced giving and receiving feedback, and worked through case studies. They also toured the campus, which organizers said had a surprising impact.

“I think we gained a greater appreciation for learning communities – we don’t have this in Brazil. We don’t see so many people dealing with science, knowledge, and development. I think seeing all those pieces come together will make many participants rethink how education contributes to economic development in a country,” said Pedro Carvalho de Mello, coordinator of international academic programs at FGV.

That focus on innovation is likely to continue, as plans are now in the works for a 2018 FGV course led by researchers at the MIT Mobile Experience Lab. Overall, in the past five years, Brazil has had the highest number of Short Programs registrations of any country outside the U.S. — demonstrating a tremendous interest in professional education opportunities such as these.