As a business student aspiring to spend some time working in Brazil for a multinational company, I can say with confidence that attending Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV) in Sao Paulo was one of the very best decisions I could have made.
FGV is arguably the most prestigious business school in Brazil and South America, with distinguished alumni, exceptionally qualified professors, bright students, and highly cited research in top business reviews, news articles, case studies, and other academic works.
Perhaps this credibility lends to the nickname that has been bestowed upon FGV—“The Harvard of Latin America.” With this level of recognition, I have found association with the FGV name to be a powerful personal brand-builder in Brazil. Of course, this aspect of personal branding leads to the million-dollar word—networking.
Now for the “classroom experience.” FGV offers module or quarter-length courses in English, which are heavily populated by international students. It is also possible to take regular courses in Portuguese with Brazilian students; however, this, of course, requires high proficiency in the language. My biggest personal regret was not preparing my language skills enough in advance to participate in at least one of these classes.
On the other hand, I must acknowledge the benefits of the English courses as well. Being in a classroom of students from highly diverse backgrounds from countries all over the world lends to truly meaningful and unique class discussion. Additionally, while some of these international classes may not exactly fulfill any specific course requirement for me at UW-Madison, I have found many of my classes to be priceless supplements to my more “practical” course path.
For example, I have taken courses in Brazilian Foreign Policy, International Strategy, and Macroeconomics of Emerging Markets, to name a few. It is absolutely fascinating to learn about these topics from the perspective of Brazilians, especially in regard to establishing a new understanding of emerging markets such as the BRICS countries. It is very different to see Brazilian foreign affairs (especially foreign affairs with the U.S.); to see the internal problems of Brazil; and to see domestic, regional, and international historical events through the eyes of an emerging market native, through the eyes of a Brazilian.
Another focus of the English courses is on, essentially, the ethical responsibilities of business. The topics for two of these courses are Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Brazil and Development & Sustainability. As a student majoring in marketing and environmental studies, these classes have been, so to speak, my academic sweet spot. Exploration of the ethical issues facing business and development in an emerging market like Brazil was a key driver in why I wanted to study in Brazil in the first place. Environmental concerns are especially relevant in a country abundant in natural wealth—specifically, the Amazon Rainforest, which is incredibly rich in biodiversity. Social issues are also particularly pertinent, as the country has been through significant political turmoil over the past century, and today there is very evident wealth disparity, with poor infrastructure or systems in place to improve these social conditions. These classes have provided me with both practical skills and more philosophical understandings of what Brazilian companies and governments are doing in relation to sustainability and CSR in business. As a part of these courses, I also had the opportunity to participate in impactful supplemental activities, as pictured below.
While the Bovespa, or Brazilian stock exchange, is no longer utilized as a trading floor (all the trading is now done electronically), it was interesting to take a class field trip to see where trades were historically made in São Paulo, and to participate in a seminar discussing the investment climate and financial markets in Brazil.
As a part of the course Corporate Social Responsibility, we were invited to participate in the GIFE (Grupo de Institutos Fundações e Empresas) conference at the World Trade Center in São Paulo. GIFE is an organization that promotes social investment, and the conference highlighted leadership in business sustainability and other topics related to social investment and sustainability. This image highlights a conference timeline of corporate social responsibility and public policy in Brazil.