Rio Center Stories: Daniella Diniz, Columbia Global Centers | Rio de Janeiro
Senior Program Manager, Columbia Global Center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Years at Columbia
What She Does
Diniz (GSAS ’09, ’16) designs and implements programs and events intended to foster an exchange between Columbia and Brazil. They include symposia, lectures, courses and research involving faculty, students and staff.
She also represents Columbia in Brazil, acting as a liaison with institutions and individuals interested in forging partnerships with the University and with students and faculty interested in developing projects in Brazil.
Road to Columbia
A native of Rio de Janeiro, Diniz earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and economics from the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and an M.A. in international relations and history from the Universidade Federal Fluminense. Seeking a multidisciplinary approach to the study of history, literature and sociology, which wasn’t common in Brazil, she came to Columbia in 2008 to continue her graduate studies. She taught courses in Brazilian culture, literature and cinema in the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures and returned to Brazil in 2012 to spend a year doing archival research for her Ph.D. That’s when she met Thomas Trebat, the former executive director of Columbia’s Institute for Latin American Studies who had just relocated to Rio to open the Global Center.
“It was a true fit for me,” Diniz says. “I love the academic setting, but I also need to see how ideas become actions. The Global Center gives life to it all.” She started as a program officer before the Global Center in Rio, which now has a satellite office in São Paulo, opened in 2013. She was appointed to her current position in August 2015. Two years later she returned to Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus to complete her dissertation, receiving a Ph.D. in Latin American studies in 2016.
The Best Part of the Job
“Working in an office that serves the whole University and has the potential to create opportunities in a large country like Brazil is fantastic,” she says. The job demands creativity and organizational skills, as well as academic curiosity, she adds. “One day, I am learning in some detail everything about technology involved in wastewater treatment and water reuse. The next day, I am preparing a paper on new challenges for investing and social entrepreneurship. I also work with some of the most talented and smart people you can imagine.”
For the official launch of the Rio Global Center in March 2013, some 40 Columbians arrived in the city to attend 12 events over three days—a major organizational effort for the small team in Rio, even with the support of University staff. “President Bollinger sitting right next to me watching a jazz performance I organized was very cool,” Diniz recalls.
This year, in a span of two months, Diniz arranged separate events with former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and the main prosecutor responsible in part for her impeachment, Judge Sergio Moro. The events were intended to discuss Brazil’s political turmoil and its impact on the democratic process. Organizing them was both challenging and exciting, Diniz says. “In times like these, it is hard to keep a neutral position and foster dialogue between those who do not agree, but being part of a University that promotes freedom of expression and truly fosters these values helps a lot.”
In Her Spare Time
“I am a movie addict,” Diniz says, noting that she has watched most of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies. “I can easily spend the day in a movie theater watching two or three films in a row.” She likes all genres—classics, romantic comedies, drama and action. She is also learning Arabic, and her favorite musicians now include Egyptian singers Umm Kulthum and Abdel Halim Hafez. And she enjoys spending time with her dog, Bidu, a 3-year-old long-haired dachshund who, she says, is “a real charmer.”