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Next Stop: Portugal

University laying foundation for future opportunities in Southern European nation

Southeastern Massachusetts is home to many Portuguese Americans, and sitting in the heart of the region is Bridgewater State University, which recently took steps to strengthen its ties with the land of poets and codfish.

Thousands of BSU students, alumni, and employees can trace their heritage to Portugal or to former Portuguese territories.

“We sit in a region that is predominately Portuguese,” said Gregory DeMelo, director of travel services and special projects at BSU. “We want to be at the forefront of connecting first, second, and third generation families with their heritage through education.”

To achieve this, President Frederick W. Clark Jr. recently traveled with a delegation to Portugal to sign an agreement with the University of the Azores and laid the foundation for three more higher education agreements in Lisbon, that will increase opportunities with those universities as well as with the Luso-American Development Foundation (FLAD).

A man and woman are at a desk signing documents

“It was not only a wonderfully productive week, but an important trip as BSU seeks to deepen our international relationships in Portugal on behalf of our university and region,” Clark said.

Along with University of the Azores, the delegation met with leaders from Catolica University, the University of Lisbon, and The Institute of the University of Lisbon.

“The entire trip was successful,” DeMelo said. “We were able to meet with (university) presidents, professors, students and other community partners and show that we are committed to building this into a vibrant relationship.”

According to Vinny DeMacedo, special advisor to President Clark, one way BSU will make these connections is through the school’s new cyber range that opened last month.

The schools BSU is partnering with do not currently have physical cyber ranges, but there is still a way to work together.

 The goal is, through BSU’s cyber range, to have students from Bridgewater and Portugal meet online to work through cyber security scenarios/modules.

“This provides an opportunity for our students to collaborate on an international level. To have that international engagement on an issue that everyone is dealing with globally, it’s a great partnership to add,” DeMacedo said.

Another way to connect, DeMelo said, is through study abroad programs.

“By offering exchange programs, both BSU and Portuguese students can benefit,” he said. “We will be able to create pathways for our students to go and see the world as part of the full liberal arts education in a space they are comfortable with.”

And, DeMacedo added, Portugal is extremely affordable.

“It’s (also) a beautiful country and the people are very welcoming,” he said.

Now that the agreement has been signed, DeMacedo said BSU looks forward to keeping the conversation going and finding innovative ways to collaborate with these new partners while also honoring those with Portugal roots living in the area.

“We value this relationship. We want to create a sense of belonging and want the Portuguese people in this region to know we appreciate their nationality, who they are, the values they carry,” he said.

“We are happy to be leading this charge,” DeMelo added. “We are committed 100 percent to building on this relationship.”

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