"I knew I wanted to be at a place like I experienced in college; a smaller campus that allows students to explore their interests, abilities, and career possibilities to the fullest."
When dos Santos was 16 years old, his mother ran for public office in his hometown in Brazil. “This was my first direct experience with politics and it was exciting,” he says. “She didn’t win, but it clearly made an impression on me.”
It wasn't until he was in college and took a class on world governments that his interest in politics manifested itself again. “After that course, I started taking more political science classes and realized that I really enjoyed learning about various political systems, and I liked doing the academic research to discover more about them,” he says. “In graduate school I found there were many other nerds like me that obsessed over things like the small details involved in electoral rules.”
Most of dos Santos’ research today focuses on the election of women to Brazilian legislatures. “It brings me full circle to the experience I had when I was sixteen years old,” he says.
Dos Santos chose to attend a small liberal arts college in Kansas because of a basketball scholarship. “I had no idea what the liberal arts was until I arrived on campus,” he says. “I found the environment enabled me to explore potential career paths and intellectual interests.”
After graduating, dos Santos worked in the corporate world for a year. Then he decided to pursue a graduate education in political science. “From the day I entered my graduate program, I knew I wanted to be at a place like I experienced in college; a smaller campus that allows students to explore their interests, abilities, and career possibilities to the fullest.”
Dos Santos is currently working on two research projects. “The first is a co-authored book project on the impact of Brazil's first woman president, Dilma Rousseff, and on women's representation in the country,” he says. “Because Rousseff was impeached less than two years into her second four-year term, our research also looks at the impact of gendered dynamics on the impeachment process.”
His second research project is an extension of his role as Luther’s director of international studies. “I’m looking at the development of the international studies curriculum in undergraduate education in the last twenty years,” he says. “We’re trying to gather some of the similarities and differences between most programs, and situating Luther’s in this academic field.”
Both of dos Santos’s projects rely on dedicated student research assistants.
Dos Santos has taken two groups to Brazil. “The first group studied the connection between the World Cup and politics in the country,” he says. “The second looked at the relationship between inequality and race in the Brazilian society. “
A major highlight of both trips was when he took the students to the various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Brazil that do good work in poor communities. “It’s always great to see the students energized by the work done by others and inspired to do more when they return to the U.S.”
I played semi-pro basketball in Brazil before moving to the U.S. Also, one not-so-well-kept secret is that when I go to conferences in big cities I try to find an open-mic where I can perform stand-up comedy. I’m not that funny, as my students will sure attest, but I really enjoy the atmosphere of open mic nights.
—Pedro dos Santos