[Brazil at Harvard] "Brazil, Boston, and Beyond: HGSE Master's Student Mariana Simões"

DRCLAS Brazil Studies Program drclas-brazil-list at lists.fas.harvard.edu
Fri Jan 14 18:49:54 EST 2011


Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) 
News Features & Releases

"Brazil, Boston, and Beyond: Master's Student Mariana Simões"
January 11, 2011

By Mateo Corby

Master's candidate Mariana Simões is no stranger to Harvard. A native of
Brazil, she spent a year in Cambridge with her family as her father
completed his postdoctoral degree in engineering. "I lived at 29 Garden
Street, studied at Cambridge Rindge and Latin, and crossed Harvard Yard
every day on the way to school," she recalls.

A decade later, Simões is trekking across the Yard once again, only now
she's on her way to classes at HGSE. "Here I am, so many years later,
visiting my old neighbors and living on Oxford Street, one block away from
my dad's old office," she marvels. "It really is a small world after all."

Simões has always liked working with young children; as a teenager in Brazil
she used to serve in the nursery and teach Sunday School to toddlers. But
her passion for the science of early childhood development came later,
during her undergraduate studies in psychology at the Federal University of
São Carlos. "I really enjoyed learning how humans develop in the early years
of our lives, and how preventive interventions can be efficient in producing
positive future results," she remembers.

Fascinated by the power of early intervention and deeply bothered by
ingrained social injustices in her country, Simões decided to dedicate her
life to improving the outcomes of underprivileged groups and struggling
youth. During her college years, she took part in various research projects
related to children with learning disabilities and behavior problems.
Repeatedly finding strong positive associations between lack of opportunity
in impoverished communities and educational special needs, Simões became
interested in investigating multilevel holistic interventions that both
diminish the negative effects of risks and promote protective factors, thus
providing children with a greatly increased chance of healthy development.

In 2007, Simões took a one-year leave of absence from her undergraduate
studies to work as a research assistant at the Shriver Center of the
University of Massachusetts Medical School, where she participated full time
in an investigation project on novel behavioral methods for teaching and
evaluating children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. Back in Brazil,
she helped develop a computer-based program that teaches basic reading and
writing skills to at-risk elementary school children from low-income
communities. "Despite some expected limitations, that study was very
significant and our program continues to be improved and implemented in
schools across the country," she says.

Convinced that her psychology background focused too much on individual
interventions to effect substantial universal changes in Brazil, Simões
looked for a master's program with a wider reach. She found it in the Ed
School's Prevention Science and Practice Program (PSP). "The first time I
read its description, I immediately fell in love," she says. "It was exactly
the type of program that I needed to broaden my perspective from an
individual approach to a large scale community intervention."

Simões, who is supported in her studies by a fellowship from Jorge Paulo
Lemann and the Lemann family, raves about the abundance of resources at the
Ed School, from libraries and electronic journals to career advisors and
involved professors. "The faculty members are so approachable and so
knowledgeable about their topics of interest and research," she says. "They
know how to teach effectively, they encourage our professional development,
and they inspire us to become catalysts of social transformation."

When asked to choose her favorite aspect however, she hardly hesitates. "My
peers, definitely. The students here are so diverse, with so many incredible
life and professional experiences. I feel really blessed with the chance to
get to know lots of them, and humbled to think that these friends I'm making
now will eventually be future world leaders in education."

Her positive experience in PSP has her reformulating her short-term plans.
When she arrived on campus a few months ago, Simões had no intention of
staying more than the time it took to get her master's; now she's hoping to
pursue a doctoral degree. "I've been presented with lots of incredible
opportunities here in the Boston area, all of which are encouraging reasons
to stay. I still have a lot to learn, and I can't think of a better place to
be than here!"


Tomás Galli de Amorim
Program Officer, Brazil Office
Harvard University
David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS)

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