On the Ground Perspectives: Q&A with Professor Sérgio Guerra

Rio de Janeiro Law School of the Getulio Vargas Foundation, Professor Sérgio Guerra
November 10, 2020

The following interview is part of the European Studies Council and Council on Latin American & Iberian Studies collaborative collection titled “On the Ground Perspectives.” This new series features our international academic collaborators and institutional partners, investigating their research and other institutional priorities during the pandemic. The series aims to surface common challenges and showcase best practices for ongoing collaboration during this unusually challenging time.

Sérgio Guerra is Dean and a full time Professor of Administrative Law at the Rio de Janeiro Law School of the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV). Following a semester as a visiting researcher at the Yale Law School in 2014, Professor Guerra has been serving as Yale’s ambassador to Brazil since 2015. A recognized expert in administrative law, Professor Guerra is also editor of the Journal of Administrative Law and legal adviser to the Public Law Commission of the Rio de Janeiro branch of the Brazilian Bar Association. With decades of legal research and teaching experience in public administration and regulatory law, Professor Guerra connects Yale to the best legal minds in Brazil today.

The Rio de Janeiro Law School of FGV is a close institutional collaborator of the Council on Latin American & Iberian Studies. In 2018, Professor Guerra co-hosted a landmark conference on Brazilian Studies in the United States at CLAIS, where he contributed to a panel considering the question: “How can the foreign perspective of U.S. academia help develop research on Brazilian policies and institutions in both countries?” Professor Guerra is working with CLAIS and a faculty committee in organizing a continuation of the 2018 conference scheduled for April 2021. For more information on these conferences, visit the Brazil & US initiatives website.

These are unprecedented times. Could you tell us about a few lines of faculty and graduate student research at FGV that tackle the challenges of the present moment?

Certainly, we live in difficult and challenging times in every way. As soon as the Brazilian government announced the existence of the pandemic in the country, we created the FGV Direito Rio COVID-19 Workforce to assist students, professors, and administrative employees by providing 24-hour assistance. In one week, we converted all academic activities from physical to online without losing academic quality and while receiving good feedback from students and faculty. To assess this new reality of the work environment, we maintained constant satisfaction surveys that showed high levels satisfaction with our response. Faculty and the administrative staff gradually migrated to work from home, where they are maintaining their productivity and receiving daily technical support from FGV IT and Human Resource departments.

Are there important lines of research at FGV related to COVID-19 that you would like to describe?

We have built up a series of initiatives related to the impacts of COVID-19. I would highlight the series of 13 webinars, developed within the scope of the Graduate Programs of FGV Direito Rio, in which there were interesting academic debates with researchers, professors of the School, government authorities, and international speakers. We also still actively participate in the media to clarify legal issues related to COVID-19 for the public.

How is the pandemic affecting FGV’s researchers’ ability to do their work?

Fortunately, despite the challenges imposed by social isolation, no FGV Direito Rio research has suffered negative impacts on its timeline or operation. Of course, we had to replace in-person events with virtual ones. With the help of several programs and software, it was possible to quickly train the teams and maintain the integration between researchers and their audience while minimally impacting ongoing research.

What are your top priorities at FGV as related to engagement or other partnerships with other institutions at this time?

We seek to maintain a good structure for our students, teachers, and researchers that provides several international opportunities. Our priorities are joint activities and partnerships for teaching and research. Fortunately, we find, without exception, excellent reciprocity to face the challenges of international mobility in this period. Despite many work visits and undergraduate students exchange programs having been interrupted or postponed, our communication with the international offices of partner universities around the world has not been interrupted.

What benefits or opportunities do you see in your experiences collaborating with other institutions at this time?

The development of international partnerships and the emergence of new joint programs between institutions has been a positive response to our current challenges. Besides the greater participation of international experts in our initiatives, new courses, lectures, research, and other activities have emerged thanks to the wide adoption of virtual tools. Certainly, our hope is that these are projects have now come to stay, and we at FGV Direito Rio are very proud of our international partnerships that have been playing such central roles in our collective response to the current situation.