Reflection by BRIC Lab Visiting Scholar Maria Vitória Ramos

After five years of working non-stop building my nonprofit organization, the Center on Global Economy and Governance BRICLab’s invitation to spend the spring in New York City as a visiting scholar allowed me to take a few months to stop, breathe, reflect, and learn. Columbia University provided me with the exhilarating experience of shattering old assumptions and the rewarding process of conceiving a new perspective on the world.

September 05, 2023

My only challenge was choosing only three classes from Columbia’s extensive and captivating course catalog, spanning multiple schools. My primary objective was to step back from daily stress and allow creativity to flow freely into my life. Looking to be unexpectedly inspired to innovate when returning to work, I allowed pure curiosity to guide my curriculum choices. Ultimately, I opted for all my courses at my host institution, the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (SIPA).

“Governing the 21st Century City” was love at first sight. Professor Ester Fuchs’s personality and teaching style was a precise match. It was invigorating to listen to someone as knowledgeable and experienced as her passionately “tell it like it is.” It was just what I was craving: solid theory combined with real-world case studies. Her experience working with New York City’s ex-mayor, Michael Bloomberg, taught me a lot about the challenges of implementing local public policy. And Central Park’s Bird Sanctuaries were the perfect setting to immerse me in her extensive reading list entirely, and it was worth it. Moreover, the opportunity to share the classroom with talented individuals from around the globe was a bonus, enriching the overall experience.

In the course “Comparative Social Welfare Policy,” taught by Yumiko Shimabukuro, I discovered the extent of my limited knowledge regarding welfare systems’ history, concepts, and structures. However, through my professor’s thoughtful and kind guidance, I gained a comprehensive framework to understand and compare different philosophies, establishing meaningful connections to economic structures.

It would be a shame not to cite the vast array of libraries on campus, which seemed endless, and became my haven. As a journalist passionate about history, accessing old print newspapers from nearly every country was genuinely magical. I was even more positively surprised when researching for papers and found librarians specialized in different areas and a whole center just dedicated to data!

My time as a visiting scholar at Columbia University has been transformative. It provided the space and resources to challenge my preconceptions and exceptional networking experiences and create lifelong memories.

Maria Vitória Ramos, 2023 BRIC Lab Visiting Scholar