MA in Latin American Studies Alumni
November 15, 2014
Coming from Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro, Claudio and Suzana Padua gave up their lives in business and design, respectively, for a life of adventure as conservationists. In the late 1980s, they moved with their three children to the Pontal do Paranapanema in western São Paulo State. What began as a project to study the black lion tamarin developed into the NGO Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas (IPE), which today comprises more than 70 professionals working in 45 projects throughout Brazil. Claudio focuses on the environmental and technical part of the projects, while Suzana dedicates her time to environmental education and the socioeconomic integration of communities where IPE works. Claudio has a MALAS degree and a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of Florida. Suzana holds a Ph.D. in Sustainable Development from the University of Brasilia and a Master’s Degree in Environmental Education from the University of Florida.
Suzana: I think the whole experience of UF, MALAS, and TCD, is important because they address the complexity of our world today, and introduced us to interdisciplinary perspectives. That is important with our work now - mixing broad social and environmental views in our changing world today.
Claudio: The networks of students I met while I was there has made a difference as well as the fantastic interdisciplinary combination that I haven’t seen in many places.
Suzana: The empowerment of young people - seeing young professionals changing their lives and the world they live in is gratifying. The challenges are immense and discouraging, which is why we need to train professionals who can make the changes that may lead to a better world.
Claudio: We are creating knowledge and research results that are changing policies. It is a way to scale up—give answers to decision makers to implement solutions.
Suzana: We thought that moving into the “real world” was going to be easier, and helping people understand about conservation and the importance of nature is not always an easy task. But, MALAS prepared us for many of the challenges we faced. We feel that the UF programs are like a sun and we a ray of its light in Brazil!
Claudio: MALAS was a turning point in my life and the life of many people. We all left and went to other places but the base MALAS gave us was fantastic, preparing us to face challenges. Besides, we built a network of amazing resources that have been valuable overtime.
Suzana: I think it is a renewal, touching base with people and sharing our experiences after many years of working in the field and teaching in Brazil.
Claudio: Our program has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with TCD and we want to strengthen and make it happen. We have to start organizing broader, global graduate programs and I believe our institutions are in tune.
Suzana: The MOU was signed years ago with the idea that students could come to Brazil and our students come to UF. We want to strengthen this.
Claudio: And we are just excited to be in Gainesville.
Suzana: Gainesville is our second home!