WVU’s Brazil study abroad trip brings invaluable experiences to students, professor

By Corinne Lincoln-Pinheiro | Jun 12, 2017

WVU Professor Alison Peck on 2015 Brazil Trip   Alison Peck

MORGANTOWN – West Virginia University College of Law annual study abroad program aims to enrich the perspectives of law students entering the legal realm in energy and sustainability issues, among others.

This year, the study aboard program went to Brazil, visiting a total of three cities over a total of 18 days. The program offers real-life experiences regarding human rights, law and policy and the impact on the environment. The Brazil program began in 2005 but WVU has two other study aboard programs in Guanajuato, Mexico and Geneva, Switzerland.

“(During our visit) to rural Amazon, urban Vila Velha and Rio, students have a nuanced picture of both the challenges and opportunities there,” Alison Peck, professor of law and director of International Programs at West Virginia University College of Law, told The West Virginia Record. “This year, much of the discussion was about the challenges of development in the face of corruption.”

Peck, one of the lead facility professors on this year’s trip, has been on four iterations of the program. This year, after spending a week in Manaus and traveling through the Amazon, the group visited the University of Vila in Espirito Santo for one week and Rio de Janeiro for a few days.

“I was deeply affected by the contrasts (in urban Brazil) and the difficulties for (them) and the world in protecting the critical natural resources and traditional lifestyles in the Amazon – things that have been nearly lost in the U.S. through aggressive development – while also alleviating the extreme need of people in crowded urban areas,” she said.

Peck is a professor of sustainable development and teaches and researches natural resources law, international trade law and property law. She said many of the U.S. and Brazilian students from past programs have remained in contact beyond law school. Students from the University of Vila Velha have also traveled to WVU in the past.

“One (WVU) student returned to the Amazon after graduation and volunteered in an orphanage for six months before entering JAG Corps,” she said. “Through those ongoing relationships, students who go on to work on energy and development issues in the United States and beyond have a better understanding of the stakes and potential of rapidly developing countries like Brazil.”

But it’s not just students who have returned to the region. Peck did as well.

“I decided to return to Brazil for the summer of 2012 to learn Portuguese, which now enables me to expand the resources I can bring to my teaching about Brazil and the contacts I can bring to the study abroad program," she said. "Having a deeper knowledge of Brazil contributes to my teaching and research.”

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