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​At her Dec. 13 retirement reception, outgoing director of the Institute for Portuguese and Lusophone World Studies Marie Fraley (left) joined Silvia Oliveira, the institute’s newly named director. 

Silvia Oliveira, associate professor of Portuguese Studies in Rhode Island College’s department of Modern Languages, will assume the position of  director of the Institute for Portuguese and Lusophone World Studies (IPLWS) starting Jan. 1.

Oliveira succeeds Marie Fraley, who is scheduled to retire on Dec. 31. 

Launched in 2006, IPLWS promotes the study of the Portuguese language and Portuguese-speaking cultures. Fraley, who has been director since 2013, has also served as consultant, associate director and interim director capacities for the institute.

RIC President Frank D. Sánchez called Fraley “the driving force at Rhode Island College for all things Portuguese and Lusophone in the state and in the region. While all of us in the RIC community will greatly miss Marie’s passion, commitment and guidance, we wish her the best in retirement and look forward to building on her remarkable foundation with the institute.’’

Fraley said the word is out that the institute, community and Rhode Island College are intertwined and “that’s a big benefit.’’

Oliveira added, “It’s very important that the institute maintain a strong relationship with the Portuguese and Lusophone community that called for its existence and helped to build it.’’

Fraley said she believes the signature achievement of the institute during her tenure was the establishment of a Portuguese Studies major at Rhode Island College in 2010.

The Portuguese Studies major at RIC offers courses in beginner through advanced Portuguese language and in the literature and culture of all Portuguese-speaking nations. 
“RIC is still the only public institution of higher learning in Rhode Island with a major in Portuguese,’’ Fraley said. “When the administration revamped the bachelor’s degree in Modern Languages and made Portuguese Studies one of the concentrations, that was the dream. It solidified the groundswell of interest in Portuguese that simply needed institutional support.’’

​​​ Oliveira shared a toast with Fraley at her retirement ceremony. ​

​Both Oliveira and Fraley are promoting efforts to increase study abroad opportunities in Portuguese-speaking countries. Earlier this year, five students from RIC’s computer information systems program participated in a study abroad experience, where they toured companies in Lisbon, Portugal to explore the culture, values and customs of business operations and customer support. Another group of nine RIC students spent two weeks in Portugal creating a business plan for a nonprofit. Also, in 2016, nursing student Roniza Fortes interned at a hospital in the Azores.

“It’s so gratifying to see our study abroad programs really starting to get momentum now, and that’s something Silvia (Oliveira) had a big part in,’’ Fraley said. “I know she’ll continue to do that because these programs are raising the profile of Portuguese Studies from a social level to a professional level.’’

Oliveira agreed, and noted that she intends to reach out to several RIC departments to explore how the study of the Portuguese language can be infused in their fields of study.

“For example, a decade or so ago, Portugal implemented the decriminalization of drugs to fight HIV,’’ she said. “It’s a role model for its policies in that regard. I’d love to see a team of RIC nursing students and professors go to Portugal to meet the people who drafted that policy and see what they did. Perhaps it can be replicated here.’’

Additionally, Oliveira said she’d like to see more RIC students declaring Portuguese as a minor. Currently, more than 300 students at RIC enroll each year in Portuguese courses and 25 students are minoring in the language.

“I want academic departments to see the benefit of encouraging students to acquire proficiency in Portuguese, which is one of the highest-growing languages in the world,’’ she said. “When you start with Portuguese, you can easily transition to any of the other neo-Latin languages.’’

RIC junior Nelida Silva, a business management major, said attaining an ability to be bilingual is one of the reasons why she declared Portuguese as a minor.

“I believe I’ll have an advantage when I pursue a career in banking or business consulting in either my native Cape Verde or Portugal,’’ she said.
​​RIC administration presented Marie Fraley with a plaque. Pictured, from left, are Rhode Island College Foundation Executive Director Edwin Pacheco, RIC Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Joshua Hamilton, Fraley and Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Earl Simson.                                                                                                                                                                         
Oliveira said the institute also intends to build upon Fraley’s influence, which drew local, national and international leaders–such as last ​year’s visit from Timor Leste Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araujo–to make appearances on campus.

​​“The one element that I believe Marie brought to the institute and RIC is an awareness that the college should continue connecting with those who represent Rhode Islanders,’’ Oliveira said. “We need to maintain and help those relationships flourish, not based on the people but what the people represent.’’