Joint MBA/MA and JD/MA: Portuguese Language and Culture Program

An underlying premise of the Lauder Portuguese Language & Culture Program curriculum is that effective cross-cultural management requires both a high level of language proficiency, which demonstrates abstract thinking and conceptual communication, and a correspondingly strong understanding of the history, culture, politics, and business practices of the Portuguese-speaking world. The curriculum develops both dimensions and prepares students to understand the larger cultural context in which Portuguese business takes place.

Portuguese Language and Culture courses integrate applied language study and cultural analysis in a comprehensive program made up of the following phases:

May Courses
Summer Immersion
Academic Year

May Courses
Portuguese program students take two classes in May, including International Political Economy of Business Environments (INTS 721) with all first-year MBA/MA and JD/MA Lauder students. In addition, the students take the Latin America Area History (INTS 71X) with students in the Spanish program. Students also receive Portuguese language instruction and do coursework in May to prepare them for the upcoming overseas summer immersion in June and July. May language course activities are required, and along with the summer immersion, count toward the first academic unit of the INTS Portuguese Language and Culture curriculum. Activities related to the Portuguese Language and Culture Program include, but are not limited to, a review of the current social, economic and political events; introduction to the business environment in Brazil and relevant business topics; preparation of résumés in Portuguese; and one-on-one interviews in Portuguese, all of which are geared towards increasing language proficiency and cultural understanding.

Portuguese Summer Immersion
A core component of the program is the eight-week summer immersion in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The primary goals of the Portuguese summer immersion experience are to advance students’ language proficiency for academic and professional contexts, expand their cultural literacy/knowledge and develop an increased disposition for critical reflection. These are achieved through in-language classroom instruction, seminars, excursions and company visits.
Students complete about 100 hours of in-language classroom instruction focused on economic, social, political and business topics during summer immersion. The content complements the Latin America Area History course from May and provides an opportunity for students to reflect upon the historic, linguistic and cultural context of the Portuguese-speaking world. Over the summer, students develop the ability to discuss complex social, political, cultural, and economic issues; develop increasingly formal and culturally appropriate communicative abilities; and work towards obtaining a Superior level of language proficiency as defined by ACTFL guidelines. Students also conduct research and interviews in teams in order to write a short article on a business, economic, cultural, or political topic related to their summer immersion site. These articles are published by Knowledge at Wharton, as part of a new series called the Lauder Global Business Insight Report. Recent articles by students in the Portuguese program have included such diverse topics as the Brazilian housing market, the bioplastics industry, the emergence of the Brazilian middle class consumer, private equity in Brazil, education in Brazil, lessons from a Lauder student’s successful e-commerce startup in Brazil, expected economic impact of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the impact of qualified labor on the Brazilian economy, and entrepreneurial initiatives in Brazil’s favelas.  

Through a diverse agenda of national and multinational organization visits and guest speakers, students are exposed to the current economic and business landscape and future outlook of the region. While visits may change from year to year, examples of previous visits have include Boston Consulting Group, Braskem, Bematech, Bradesco, Folha de São Paulo Votorantim, Embraer, Citibank, Petrobras, and Odebrecht. During these visits, students discuss issues related to specific companies and industries as well as the social and political environments in which they operate.  Students can also expect to participate in gatherings with alumni, various cultural activities, and visits to the cities of Brasília, Salvador and Santos.

Academic Year
Upon their return from the immersion program, students complete their academic degree requirements through INTS Portuguese Language and Culture Program courses. The program complements the international MBA business and management skills developed at Wharton and in Lauder’s International Studies curriculum to prepare both MBA and JD students to confidently navigate a rapidly changing global economic, political, social and cultural landscape. The Language and Culture Program during each semester of the two-year program includes classroom instruction and specialized activities. Thematic content during the two years typically drawn upon political, legal, socio-economic, and market issues; literature, history, and philosophy; contemporary business and industry concerns; arts, film, media, and sports as contemporary expressions of a culture and its values; and issues related to current events. Our small, focused classes emphasize mastery of the language, with the goal of reaching a Superior-level of language proficiency, and develop students’ ability for critical thinking and problem solving within the framework of Portuguese culture. Students are expected to demonstrate their linguistic proficiency and content awareness through activities that range from debates, presentations, reports, and discussions. Some examples of specific themes that may guide the classroom include:

  • cultural and socioeconomic perspectives in the Portuguese-speaking world
  • geo-economics of Brazil and spheres of influence
  • ideological perspectives of audiovisual and written material produced by media outlets
  • Brazilian regional leaders (major states, metropolitan areas, companies) and industries
  • Issues affecting modern-day Brazil and the role of Brazil within the BRIC community
  • Brazilian foreign policy
  • popular and erudite artistic expressions and its relationships with social movements and political activism
  • usages of language, including its historical and recent modifications regional differences and its associations with socioeconomic factors

In addition to class, students explore the different facets of the target culture in contexts that take them outside the classroom. One example is the spring semester mini immersions. These extended in-language activities vary from year to year but are usually related to the themes of the academic curriculum. Last year’s mini immersion including cooking Brazilian barbecue, attending a live performance of PhillyBloco (a group of local percussionists that plays Brazilian music), and a movie and guided discussion with faculty and the capoeira performer Adenilson dos Santos.

Lauder students complete their MA degree with a course sequence that includes International Political Economy of Business Environments and the Global Economic History, two approved electives from the School of Arts and Sciences, and the Global Knowledge Lab research project.