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Cape Verde President Visits

José Neves attends celebration of 20 years of collaboration with African nation

As Luisa Pina and Alcione Delgado near the completion of their bachelor’s degrees, they look forward to using their Bridgewater State University education to make a difference in Massachusetts, as well as more than 3,000 miles away in their native Cape Verde.

The two seniors immigrated to the United States from Cape Verde years ago. These days, they work with their families to support their homeland through donations of money, supplies and more.

“My family is able to help other families back there,” said Alcione, who is studying criminal justice and hopes to one day share what’s she’s learning with her home country. “They don't have as much as we have.”

Luisa and Alcione are proud to know their university is similarly committed to supporting Cape Verde’s development and democracy, a partnership Cape Verde President José Maria Pereira Neves praised during a recent visit to campus to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his country’s relationship with BSU.

“We discovered that through education we could build this bridge,” Neves told faculty, staff, students, lawmakers and other guests at a luncheon in Dunn Conference Suite.

The partnership, forged by Neves and former BSU President Dana Mohler-Faria, is an important link between Cape Verde and its diaspora, which predominately lives in Southern New England.

The partnership has been productive in many ways. Bridgewater faculty helped Cape Verdean officials secure a major grant from a U.S. foreign assistance program. Faculty and students traveled to the African archipelago and Cape Verdeans came to BSU to attend workshops and earn degrees. BSU helped create the University of Cape Verde, which is the country’s first public university. Many of the university’s professors are BSU alumni.

BSU is home to the Pedro Pires Institute for Cape Verdean Studies, which builds academic and social engagement with Cape Verde. Undergraduate students can pursue an interdisciplinary Cape Verdean studies minor, through which they learn about the social, cultural, and historical contributions of the peoples of the 10-island nation.

“We feel like we’re the 11th island of Cabo Verde,” said BSU President Frederick W. Clark Jr. “We’re very proud of that. … Today we reaffirm our commitment to the future of this extraordinary partnership. Our vision is clear, and our intentions are nothing short of profound.”

To that end, Clark announced two new endowed funds to support Cape Verdean students attending BSU. The funds are named for retired administrator Mike Gomes, who is Cape Verdean and played a key role in developing and sustaining the partnership. Neves presented Gomes with a special medallion that is one of the highest honors the country awards.

Neves, who has grown the country’s economy, embraced clean energy, implemented financial reforms, and deepened democracy, said the partnership and support from members of the diaspora such as Luisa and Alcione are essential to furthering Cape Verde’s development. This assistance is even more important as the country recovers from the health and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Neves said.

“We must ask, ‘How can we use our talents, our capacity that we have in the diaspora, to help Cape Verde develop?’” he said. 

Luisa, a mathematics major who is considering a career as a teacher, has an answer: “Getting my education at Bridgewater will help me help the people back home in Cape Verde.”

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