'Radical change' suits USU professor
Robson Chaves fine
"Like most Brazilians, I played soccer all my
life," says Robson Chaves. / Photo by JJ Netto
By JJ Netto
April 30, 2006 | If you need help to improve your soccer
skills, to learn about Portuguese grammar, world history,
and computer technology or even if you just need a public
defender, Robson Chaves can assist you with every one
of these things.
Chaves, a professor at
Utah State University, has been the classic multi-tasker.
At the age of 18, he joined the Brazilian Army, where
he graduated from the Army Reserve Officers' Training
Corps (ROTC) in two years. Shortly after graduation
he went to college, where he received a bachelor in
computer science from
SPEI College in his native Brazil. With a college
degree in his hands he decided to radically change his
life, so he joined a flight attendant school and decided
to work as a flight attendant for Varig
, a major Brazilian major airline. About his decision
to work as a flight attendant, which had nothing to
deal with his computer science degree, Chaves said,
"I decided to work as a flight attendant because I wanted
to travel around my whole country. I love diversity
and meeting new places, those were the main reasons
why I became a flight attendant."
After one year as a flight attendant Chaves decided
to move on and learn about different things. "I was
kind bored of planes. It was becoming tedious," he said.
So he decided to pursue another degree, and this time
he was accepted into law school at the
University of Parana, one of the most prestigious
Brazilian universities with the oldest law school in
the nation. He studied at night and worked during the
day, teaching computer technology to middle and high-school
kids, so he could pay for his studies. After five years
he graduated with a bachelor's degree in law, his second
one. After his junior year he started to work as a public
defender in small claims and later in criminal cases
together with his day job as a computer technology teacher.
Robson said he enjoyed his work. "I always liked to
question everything, so the job as a lawyer suited me
very well," he said. However, Chaves was not ready to
After almost two years working as a public defender,
unbelievably he decided to radically change his life
again. What was he planning this time? He was planning
to move to the U.S. and pursue his third degree, this
time in world history.
"I wanted to get an education abroad. I wanted to
see how it is to get an education in a totally different
culture," said Chaves.
This is where his Utah State story starts. He moved
to Logan and attended Utah State University, where he
majored in history. Because of his excellent grades
and his previous college credits he was able to start
his master's degree after one semester at Utah State.
During his master's program, Chaves started work as
a lab assistant at USU's
Crop Physiology Lab (CPL) . He said this job was
his first in the U.S. and it helped him pay for his
"Actually it was pretty hard to find a job when I
first got here, every time I applied for a job I was
turned down because people said I was overqualified
for the position. It was a time where I was struggling,"
Toward the end of his master's degree USU had an open
spot for teaching assistant for history classes. Chaves
applied for the spot and started working as a teacher
assistant while he finished his master's degree. "I
needed that job as an internship requisite to complete
my master's," he said. He earned his master's degree
in the history of Latin America from USU and kept working
as teacher assistant and in the CPL as lab assistant.
Of course for someone like him, that would not be enough.
During that period, USU also opened another spot for
a Portuguese lecturer in the
language department . Chaves got the Portuguese
lecturer job. He said he loves teaching Portuguese,
but he not only focus on grammar and vocabulary like
other teachers, but he also goes deep into the Brazilian
culture with students.
"I don't think you can master in a language without
incorporating its culture," said Chaves.
Today, he is still teaching Portuguese classes and
working as a lab assistant in the Crop Physiology Department,
but in the last few years he also got involved with
soccer coaching. Chaves coaches a girls' U13 soccer
club here in Cache Valley called
CV Arsenal , which is playing in the division 1
state level. Chaves said that coaching soccer was a
way he could get more involved with the community.
"I wanted to get more involved with the Cache Valley
community and like most Brazilians I played soccer all
my life and I have a fair knowledge of the game, so
coaching soccer was the best opportunity for me to use
what I know and get closer to our community," he said.
Beside all these different jobs, Chaves manages to
do all of them well. He is a successful teacher and
Joao Pinho, one of his past Portuguese students, said
that Chaves is a very funny, open minded and intelligent
teacher. "He became my friend. I am also from Brazil,
so he helped me a lot to adapt to Logan. Besides that
most people don't know about his unrevealed skills as
a chef. He often cooks some Brazilian food at my place.
He should also try to get a job as a chef," said Pinho,
He is also seeing some success on the soccer field.
He is in his first year at his new soccer club, CV Arsenal,
and his team is in first place at the state league.
"Robson is doing a fantastic job in his first season
here. He is very interested in learning more about the
game and developing his players," Reine Akebrand, CV
Arsenal soccer director, said. "It is also funny how
he brings his students to our matches to cheer for our
team. It actually works."
What are his plans for the future? Chaves does not
know yet. He said he never plans anything on his life,
just to enjoy each day. He can do something different
anytime. " I never plan anything. I like to live for
the moment," said Chaves. "That is why I have done so
many different things with my life. I love experiencing
new things, cultures, and to move around. I am a very
However, he has one sure goal for the future, which
is to write a book about differences between Brazilian
and American cultures. He has not planned when the book
is going to be released. Right now he has some thoughts
written and stored on his computer.
"Anytime something interesting happens, that is different
from my original culture, I write down to use in my
book. I just want to contribute to the knowledge of
both cultures," he said. Right now it seems like the
multi-tasking professor has settled down. Let's wait
and see what he is going to come up with next.