Fulbright Specialist Program prompts ‘paradigm shift’ about global education needs

World Learning
3 min readJan 23, 2024

January 24 marks the International Day of Education, a UNESCO annual observance day dedicated to the power and need for education worldwide. It is a day to discuss, share, and celebrate success stories and reinforce education as a critical tool in making lasting change.

To celebrate the power of global education, we’re sharing a post that originally appeared on the Fulbright Specialist Program blog. A recent Fulbright Specialist to Angola shared how he worked to enrich the undergraduate experience at Oscar Ribas University through school counseling and social emotional learning.

A room of adults gathered in chairs around tables, with one sitting on a table looking at the camera.
Dr. Roberto Swazo worked with faculty and administrators to infuse best practices in social emotional learning and school counseling at Oscar Ribas University in Angola.

Dr. Roberto Swazo, a professor and the coordinator for the School Counseling Program at Indiana University Indianapolis, broke new ground this year as the first Fulbright Specialist to the nation of Angola. For nearly five weeks, Swazo worked closely with faculty and administrators at Oscar Ribas University in the capital city of Luanda, conducting a series of workshops and consulting with faculty and staff at the university’s Center for Diagnosis and Psychological Guidance. As a Fulbright Specialist, his goal was to infuse best practices in socio-emotional learning and school counseling into the undergraduate learning experience at Oscar Ribas University.

Swazo has more than 20 years of experience as a professor, educator of counselors, and former guidance counselor himself. He was drawn to this Fulbright opportunity to apply his vast experience in the field to benefit institutions in Angola, where school counseling is an emerging discipline. “The prospect of what this project could yield both in the short and long term intrigued me greatly,” he explains.

This experience broadened my understanding of global educational needs, enriching my own work with fresh insight.

“I was also drawn to Angola’s unique culture — its history, diverse ethnic groups, and vibrant traditions fascinated me,” shares Swazo. As the grandchild of immigrants to Puerto Rico who grew up in a home where Caribbean, Southern European, and American customs were intermixed, his time as a Fulbright Specialist was also an opportunity share his own unique cultural experiences.

Five adults stand in front of a poster.
Dr. Roberto Swazo hopes to continue his work with Oscar Ribas University, creating a Memorandum of Understanding for additional programming.

Reflecting on his time in Angola, Swazo says, “what’s particularly memorable is the thirst for knowledge that I’ve observed among the students and faculty at Oscar Ribas University. Their dedication to learning and their eagerness to engage in meaningful educational exchanges have been truly inspiring. It’s heartening to witness their commitment to academic growth and their respect for the American academic tradition.”

Swazo and his Angolan colleagues are now envisioning ways to continue this new relationship. They are already discussing several pathways to deepen the collaboration between his home and host institutions. For example, they are exploring signing a Memorandum of Understanding for future faculty or student exchanges, conceptualizing new certificate programs that would open more professional pathways for Angolans in the counseling field, and enabling an Angolan cohort of students to join the existing online School Counseling program offered by the Indiana University — Indianapolis School of Education.

What’s particularly memorable is the thirst for knowledge that I’ve observed among the students and faculty at Oscar Ribas University.

Swazo anticipates the impact on his own work will continue long into the future. “Returning to the United States, I foresee a paradigm shift in my perspective,” he shares, “this experience broadened my understanding of global educational needs, enriching my own work with fresh insight.”

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World Learning

World Learning works globally to enhance the capacity and commitment of individuals and communities to create a more sustainable, peaceful, and just world.