WMU professor advises on internationalization initiatives in Brazil

Western Michigan University professor of political science, Dr. Jim Butterfield, returned in August from two weeks in Brazil consulting with higher education institutions on internationalization efforts through a Fulbright Specialist Award. Butterfield was invited to work on a project titled Strategic Planning for Internationalization of Brazilian Higher Education Institutions, jointly designed by the Brazilian Federal Agency CAPES and the Brazilian Fulbright Commission and led by the University of Santa Catarina.

Butterfield visited three southern states—Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, and Parana— doing site visits to gather information on internationalization efforts in Brazilian universities, then workshopping with them on how to extend and improve their internationalization planning.

“Research and discovery are increasingly the result of international collaborations. Helping and incentivizing faculty to forge and sustain such collaborations is a critical aspect of internationalization. Brazilian universities are mostly at the early stages of the process and through this project are seeking guidance,” Butterfield said.

Internationalization planning in Brazil was his most recent of four Fulbright awards. According to Butterfield, this Fulbright Specialist experience was very different from his previous Fulbright projects.  

“My first specialist award was in Russia in 2014 where I spent two weeks giving lectures on various aspects of U.S.-Russian relations and conducting a workshop on publication in international journals,” said Butterfield.

Butterfield's research and teaching interests include Russian and Central Asian politics, democratization and institutional design and transition politics in post-communist societies. Fulbright opportunities allow Butterfield, and other Fulbright professors, to build upon their areas of interest and share that knowledge with their students.

"When a faculty member spends time in another country they bring their experience back and utilize it in the classroom," Butterfield said.

Butterfield has used his experiences abroad as a chair on the WMU Faculty Senate's International Education Council. In 2016, the Council's internationalization initiative, "Internationalizing the Student Experience: Preparing Students for a Globalized World," was passed by the Senate.

Butterfield was also a 2014 recipient of the College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Achievement Award in global achievement. 

"It's critical that universities become internationalized institutions across multiple dimensions. Our students are graduating into a different world than my generation did; now the workforce is highly mobile, markets are global, and workplaces are multicultural, multilingual, and international. We owe it to our students to prepare them," Dr. Butterfield said. 

Faculty applying for a Fulbright Specialist program go through a peer review process to be placed on a roster. From the roster, international universities select faculty to give lectures, assist in curriculum development or consult with faculty and academic advisors at their university. 

Butterfield has twice been a visiting associate at the University of Cape Town's Centre for African Studies and in 2013 was a visiting faculty at the Kazakh Agro-Technical University in Astana, Kazakhstan

Butterfield has also received two Fulbright Core Awards, 1-2 semester programs which give a student or professor a chance to teach or conduct research abroad.

In 2009-10, Butterfield received his first Core Award, studying small business associations in Russia while teaching at Saratov State University. In 2016-17 he received his second to travel to Vietnam to teach courses in international relations. 

Butterfield is interested in civil society, transitions and development, especially in post-communist societies. As a specialist on the former Soviet Union and several of the successor states, he has been to the region over 40 times. Proficient in Russian, he has traveled extensively throughout provincial Russia, including to many cities that were formerly closed to foreigners.