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Rector Suely

The first woman to command USP, a pharmaceutical professor, wants to strengthen undergraduate courses

Women are still in the minority among the almost 5,000 professors of the University of São Paulo (USP). For every two men who lecture at the university, there is only one woman. But one of them, for the first time in the 71 years of the institution’s history, is going to manage the largest Brazilian public university. Suely Vilela Sampaio, a professor at the Pharmaceutical Sciences Faculty of Ribeirão Preto (FCFRP), was nominated as rector by State Governor Geraldo Alckmin on the 23rd of November. The pro-rector of Post-Graduation under the management term of Adolpho Melfi, fifty one year old Suely was placed second during the first voting round, only some 14 votes behind the then vice-rector, Hélio Nogueira da Cruz. However, during the second round of voting, in which only the members of the University Council and the central councils’ vote, which defines the triple list sent forward to the State Governor, she took the lead. “The choice represents an important space of women in modern society”, praised Governor Alckmin.

The new rector announced that her major priority would be the strengthening of undergraduate courses and stated that one of her greatest challenges would be to widen the presence of the entry of public school students into the university. This will not happen, she has already alerted, by way of reserved quotas, but above all by measures that will assist pupils from poor backgrounds to prepare themselves for entry into USP. One of the goals is to increase the number of student openings for evening courses. “Over the last few years there’s been a considerable increase in the number of vacancies. But we’ve not advanced sufficiently to guarantee the diversity of our new students”, says Suely. During the last university entrance exam, USP offered 9,952 openings, as against 7,811 in 2001. But only 20% of those approved came from public schooling. She is also planning to widen the international character of USP. “We need to give more mobility to our staff to carry out traineeships or research with professionals from abroad.”

Suely believes that she was elected by USP’s community because of her recent actions, developed within the university’s post-graduation program. “I always had dialogue with the professors and students and all of the themes were put to a vote only after they had been thoroughly discussed and accepted”, she says. “I was elected through ideas and proposals, not because I’m a woman, or by a provincial campus, but this choice represents a change of paradigms at USP.” She should be announcing the names of her pro-rectors on the 20th of December.

Born in 1954 on a farm near the town of Ilicínea, in the interior of Minas Gerais State,  Suely took all of her academic training at USP of Ribeirao Preto, from her graduation in pharmacy and biochemistry, concluded in 1975, then her master’s degree in 1980, her doctorate degree in 1985, until her post-doctorate work in 1990 and she became an associate professor in 1991. Since 1996 she has been a full professor at the Clinical Analysis, Toxicological and Bromatological Department of FCFRP. Starting in 2002 she assumed the position of pro-rector of Post-Graduation. Her scientific career has been dedicated to research in the area of toxins, principally serpent venoms.

A assistant professor at the São Paulo State University, rector Suely acted as a visiting professor at the University of Nice, France in 1993, the University of Chile (1996), the University of Costa Rica (1997), University of London, England in 1999, Degli Studi University, Parma, Italy, the University of Havana, Cuba, Rutgers University, USA, the University of Barcelona, Spain and Ohio University, USA during 2004. She is divorced, and has one son, a 24-year old lawyer. Rector Suely maintains two addresses: a flat in Sao Paulo and a house in Ribeirao Preto.