By Matt Collette | Northeastern News | May 31, 2013
There are two ways to learn about Brazil’s language, culture, and government. The first way is in a classroom, through lectures, class discussions, homework, and exams.
The other ways is to simply go to Brazil, the largest country in South America.
A group of Northeastern students chose the second option, arriving in Brazil in early May for one of the university’s Dialogue of Civilizations programs. Since then, they’ve toured the country, living in Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte while studying the Portuguese language and Brazil’s education and political systems.
“I came on this trip to see my roots and family,” said Leonard Ziviani, a second-year business administration student who grew up in Brazil before moving to Boston nine years ago. “But I was also looking to meet new people and make a lot of connections for future internships and co-ops.
“I feel like I am going to come back to live and work here,” he added, “so knowing more about my own country and how its political system and economy works were huge reasons for wanting to participate in this program.”
Guided by assistant professor of political science Thomas Vicino and Simone Elias, a doctoral student and the Portuguese program coordinator, the students are getting firsthand exposure to topics they previously explored through textbooks and PowerPoint presentations. After morning classes, the students embark on excursions to key cultural and governmental sites, meeting with top state officials and civic leaders. One time, they stopped at Mineirao Stadium, one of the central sites for next year’s World Cup, which Brazil is hosting.
With events like the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics—the first to be held in South America—Brazil’s presence on the world stage is increasing. Its fast-growing economy makes it a key player alongside emerging economies in countries such as China, Russia, and India.
For students on the Dialogue, however, the understated moments often prove the most enlightening.
“I like to play soccer and a bunch of us have been going to a park right up the street where we can play with Brazilians,” said Alex Rodriguez, a second-year student studying international affairs. “They’re so much better than us, but it’s still a lot of fun. And we get to learn a lot of the conversational language and slang that we don’t pick up in our classes.”
Taking part in the Dialogue in Brazil helped fourth-year international affairs major Katherine Dopler land an international co-op. From August to December, she’ll be in the country teaching English and helping run a language learning center.
“I’ll have a solid footing for when I return to work and live in Brazil for a semester,” Dopler said.
As part of the program, students pair up with their Brazilian counterparts at Centro Universitário UNA in Belo Horizonte. Dialogue teaching assistant Allana Leigh, who participated in the program last year, noted that face-to-face interaction reinforces the lessons learned in the classroom and on the site visits.
“It gives you a new perspective,” added Dopler. “It’s one thing to learn about a country from the United States, but it’s another thing to live and learn side-by-side with people in their own country.”
By Matt Collette | Northeastern News | October 10, 2012
A 750-mile pipeline across Canada cuts through First Nation lands and pristine environments to bring oil-rich tar sands to a new terminal on the Pacific Ocean. The company behind the project, the Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge Inc., argues that the pipeline will create thousands of jobs and an influx of cash from the Asian companies that will buy and process the tar sands.
But the economic analysis presented to the Canadian government does not account for the pipeline’s environmental impact, including the potential for a spill, said Matthias Ruth, a Northeastern professor with dual appointments in the College of Engineering and the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs.
Ruth is at the forefront of the emerging field of environmental economics, which focuses on developing methods to account for unquantifiable environmental contributions to the economy.
He and his doctoral student, Rebecca Gasper, a researcher at World Resources Institute, testified before the Joint Review Panel of Canada’s National Energy Board in September. They argued against Enbridge’s economic analysis, explaining that the oil company overstated the economic impact of its project by as many 200 times.
“There are a lot of things for which there is no market, like ecosystem goods and services — from water retention and purification to carbon uptake,” Ruth said. “There are a lot of costs that come from disturbing these environments that never made it into the economic analysis.”
Ruth noted that the amount of money First Nation tribes are being paid by pipeline developers does not even begin to measure the project’s impact on the land’s delicate and long undisturbed ecological balance.
“We’re only now beginning to understand what projects like these can do to an environment and the costs that come with that,” Ruth said. “But now that we can measure it, we can include it in economic analyses.”
The project is similar to the stalled Keystone Pipeline, which would deliver crude oil from Canada to locations in the United States for refinement and export. Ruth said a similar environmental analysis could be applied to that project, to explore whether the environmental damages from a pipeline may outweigh its economic benefits — even when applying top engineering standards.
Though Ruth’s testimony may not sway the Canadian panel, it has already sparked a conversation with the general public and in the media, which has started covering the pipeline project from an environmental angle.
“It’s a total game-changer,” Ruth said. “It’s becoming clear that by pointing out these typically nonmarket goals, they become part of the national energy dialogue.”
By Megan Woolhouse | Boston.com | July 27, 2012
Massachusetts’ economy continued to grow at faster rate than the nation’s largely due to the strength of the state’s technology industry, but national and international developments are expected to slow the pace to the recovery here, according to a quarterly analysis released Friday by the University of Massachusetts.
The state economy grew at an annual rate of 4 percent between April and June, more than double the national rate, according to UMass. The US Commerce Department reported Friday the nation’s economy grew at a 1.5 percent, a sluggish pace, but slightly better than economists forecast.
“The national report was stronger than expected but still much weaker than what’s going on here in Massachusetts,” said Michael Goodman, an editor of the analysis and public policy professor at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. “With all the stuff going on in the world, the risk factors on the national horizon, one has to wonder how long this can last.”
Uncertainties on the horizon include unresolved economic crisis, including particular concerns about deep-seated problems in Greece, Spain, and Italy. Massachusetts depends heavily of European commerce. About 40 percent of the state’s exports are sold in Europe, about double what the nation as a whole exports there.
A slowing of consumer demand in another of the state’s biggest export markets, China, could also slow the Massachusetts economy, UMass analysts said.
Alan Clayton-Matthews, a Northeastern University professor who did the economic analysis for the report, noted that Massachusetts merchandise exports declined in first five months of the year.
“We’re expecting things to get worse,” Clayton-Matthews said. “It looks like we’ve been lucky so far.”
The state growth estimates are published by MassBenchmarks, quarterly economic journal published by UMass. Clayton-Matthews said the state showed unexpected strength in wages, salary, and income in recent months.
He attributed that to workers who have jobs receiving more hours and increased employment in the high tech sector, which tends to pay high salaries.
Among Massachusetts key high tech products are semiconductors and semiconductor equipment. Demand for these products slowed last year after the earthquake in Japan and flooding in Thailand, where many companies buy these Massachusetts products for manufacturing electronics. Those sales have steadied this year, though they are not growing at an “explosive” clip, Clayton-Matthews said.
Artur Mas, the 129th president of the government of Catalonia, Spain, said on Wednesday morning at Northeastern University that his community of roughly 7 million people strives to emulate Massachusetts’ economic success.
“We can learn from each other,” Mas said. “Of course we would love to have your [gross domestic product] and are envious of your universities and research centers.”
Mas addressed more than two dozen members of the Northeastern community and a contingent of reporters who gathered in the Raytheon Amphitheater for a transportation seminar with Catalonian experts from government and the private sector. Later in the afternoon at the BIO International Convention in Boston, Mas signed an agreement with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to expand Catalonia’s innovation partnership with the state.
The World Class Cities Partnership, an initiative of Northeastern’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, hosted the event. The goal of the WCCP is to bring together civic, business and academic leaders from cities throughout the globe for the purpose of creating sustainable social change through policy research, and the development and implementation of best-practice solutions to common challenges.
The all-day program featured panel discussions on the expansion of Barcelona’s public transit system and the organization and financing of public transportation infrastructure.
Catalonia, an autonomous community in northeast Spain, has become a world leader in sustainable and economically efficient transportation infrastructure, due in large part to its high-speed railway service to Paris.
Mas said Catalonia has developed one of the most-used metro systems in world, eclipsing more than 1 billion passenger rides in 2011. Children under 12 ride for free and low-income residents receive an 80 percent discount. Handicapped metro users have easy access to elevators and escalators.
“Our transportation system is truly for everyone,” Mas explained.
Catalonia, he said, must often do more with less. The Spanish community lacks natural resources and land, but makes up for its shortcomings with intellectual capital.
As Mas put it, “We have created a wealth of knowledge and technology.”
Northeastern’s Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Michael Dukakis, who has long advocated for a national network of high-speed rail lines, expressed disappointment with our country’s mass-transit system.
“We are not exceptional when it comes to transportation infrastructure,” he said in his welcoming remarks, noting the dichotomy between the transportation systems in the United States and South Korea, which he called “one of the finest” in the world.
Alan Solomont, the United States ambassador to Spain and Andorra, praised Catalonia’s high-speed rail in his introduction of Mas, saying, “It’s never been late, it’s smooth and it’s quick.”
He highlighted the close relationship between the U.S. and Spain, pointing to his political strategy of “putting economic policy at the forefront of foreign policy.”
“We have helped American companies in Spain compete on a level playing field,” Solomont explained. “Spain has more assets and the economy has more strengths” than the country gets credit for, he added.
Brains In Spain Thrive In Entrepreneur Eco-System
Monday, February 6, 2012 | Global Enterprise
By Michael Lake and Robert Buckley
Special To Banker & Tradesman
The Boston region has the opportunity to leverage the development growth at Kendall Square and Longwood Medical area while building the South Boston innovation district and, accordingly, shape the future of our region’s innovation economy.
The challenge lies in how to most effectively attract and retain talent in order to create a thriving entrepreneurship ecosystem. To succeed, we need to look at successful projects around the globe utilizing innovation-related practices.
Recently, 11 business, civic, and academic leaders from Greater Boston traveled to Barcelona and Madrid as part of the World Class Cities Partnerships’ Inaugural Policy Exchange Mission. The delegates explored Barcelona’s unique strengths, which have developed and fostered innovation in that city, with a focus on talent attraction and retention. What they found was a well-branded innovation district with government support for entrepreneurs.
New Jobs In Barcelona
Over a decade ago, Barcelona planners began to define the geography of innovation in their city. The historically industrial neighborhood of Poblenou had become obsolete. The abandoned factories that remained were transformed into 22@Barcelona. Similarly to Boston’s Innovation District, this was not accomplished without overcoming certain permitting issues. Stretched over 115 blocks, 22@Barcelona is an extensive economic redevelopment site and innovation district that today showcases new public facilities, homes, green space and businesses. There are currently 7,000 companies in 22@Barcelona with 130,000 new jobs and 1,500 new housing units.
This transformation would not have been possible had it not been for the support from the local development agency, Barcelona Activa. The first of its kind, Barcelona Activa uses government funds to invest in the local knowledge economy. It also helps entrepreneurs align their business goals with the economic development strategies of the city. The agency houses 16 projects in its state-of-the-art facilities, each of which aids in the mission of stimulating human capital, entrepreneurship business, employment and technology.
Haifa Holds Promise
In 2010, a Boston fact-finding delegation visited the innovation hub of Haifa, Israel. Haifa recognized a strong university presence in its city and leveraged the scientific knowledge and technology transfer opportunities to build its innovation economy.
Like Barcelona, the public sector in Haifa supports entrepreneurs. The Israeli government created a venture capital fund to directly assist entrepreneurs, and built the Hi Center, an extensive incubator space, to house these startups. Building an innovation-based economy began with the construction of MATAM, a business park that houses companies such as IBM, Microsoft and Google .
Unlike Barcelona and Haifa, which have strong public sector support, Boston’s innovation-related development is being funded by the private sector. Here, developers need capital before they can build, and the demand needs to be real.
To create such a demand, Boston’s innovation district must be branded and consistently marketed as a place-making space. It should be attractive to entrepreneurs. For most, attractive is synonymous with affordable. Like 22@Barcelona, on-site housing should be built side-by-side with incubator space in order to maintain an entrepreneurship ecosystem. Recent efforts to create micro-units for housing should be applauded. However, the price point has to be far lower than the proposed $1,500 per month to attract or retain the desired talent.
There are interesting models around the world, such as Amsterdam’s conversion of shipping containers into modular housing units. Imagine the opportunity for developers in the Seaport district able to make greater use of underdeveloped land by temporarily supplying housing units consisting of stacked shipping containers. Could this be our opportunity to create a living laboratory, experimenting with innovative housing models in the Seaport District or other underdeveloped land in Cambridge, Somerville and other surrounding communities?
To further brand the district, Boston should host its own big event: an Innovation Expo that calls global attention to the district as an entrepreneurship hub. Finally, because we are relying on private finance with limited demand driving development, we need to be careful not to fill the district with only larger companies that can afford to build. We need to reserve a place for entrepreneurs to fill and fuel the innovation ecosystem.