BSU launches innovative institute dedicated to Cape Verdean Studies. Dr. João Rosa is the Executive Director of the recently created Pedro Pires Institute for Cape Verdean Studies at Bridgewater State University.
BRIDGEWATER — Bridgewater State University, with around 12,000 students, is the largest school within the Massachusetts public university system, outside of the UMass campuses. The school is now looking to add yet another distinction to its record. “The basic idea is to turn Bridgewater State University into the hub for Cape Verdean studies internationally,” said Dr. João Rosa, the Executive Director for the Pedro Pires Institute for Cape Verdean Studies, as well as a native of Santiago Island, located at BSU.
The Institute, which at the moment is little more than Dr. Rosa’s office in Boyden Hall, is still in its nascent stages of existence. Rosa, who left his post at UMass Dartmouth on Feb. 2 in order to take charge of the Pires Institute, says that although it is a tall order, he feels that it is within the realm of possibility. “It’s been in the works for a while, but it just started,” he said. “We have significant backing from the administration… While it’s an ambitious project, it’s also a very doable project.”
The President of Bridgewater State, Dana Mohler-Faria, who himself is of Cape Verdean descent, backs Rosa and the project and says it makes perfect sense to host it at the university. “We live in a region of the country that has the largest diaspora of Cape Verdeans in the world,” said Faria. “We hope to develop a center where we can bring artifacts.” Their main goals are to examine Cabo Verde from an academic lens as well as do social outreach. This includes finding the money to finance such projects. Faria also said that the Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture at UMass Dartmouth, another case where an institute was established with linkages to an ethnic group dominant in the area, was an inspiration for it. “This is similar to what happened at UMass Dartmouth,” he said.
While there are equivalents in other fields, according to Rosa, this is a first in terms of Cape Verdean studies outside of the archipelago.
“I don’t know of any other institution (like Pires) housed in a school of higher education,” said Rosa. “Part of the functions of the Institute is to seek out grant money.”
While Faria cannot point to where future funds will come from, he can say that at the moment there is a healthy endowment – a donated account to the institution – of approximately $2 million to get things started. This signals that in order to carry out its mission, there will have to be a constant consciousness of the financial situation that is never predictable. “The funding of the institute constantly fluctuates,” said Rosa.
Some projects that have already been initiated include capacity building at the University of Cabo Verde and plans to introduce Cape Verdean Creole courses at Bridgewater State. For Rosa, who also happens to be on the committee figuring out how to establish Creole as an official language on the islands – meaning that it would be used in governance and schooling – this is an important part of the work. “Daily life in Cape Verde occurs in Kriolu,” he said. “If you look at public schools in Cape Verde, you have some students who have intermittent and interrupted schooling,” leaving many unable to function in Portuguese, currently the only official language of the archipelago. The Institute also has close ties to the Pedro Pires Leadership Institute back in Cape Verde. This is partly to help in that institute’s mission of building the capacities for the economic and institutional development of the islands. With that in mind, they will be welcoming a cohort of graduate students from the University of Cabo Verde in July of this year.
“We’re tied to Pedro Pires and his institute in Cape Verde,” said Faria.
For Faria, who had already broken barriers by becoming the first Cape Verdean-American president of a university with his inauguration at BSU in 2002, it is a moment of personal as well as institutional triumph. “To be able to establish something, a working relationship with a country that is your ethnic roots is certainly gratifying,” he said. “But this is something that should happen with anybody who sits in my seat.”
BY KEVIN G. ANDRADE / OjornalNewspaper