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FACING MECCA FROM LOGAN: Muslims gather for Friday prayers in a new Pixel photoessay. / Photo by Sarah Ali

Today's word on journalism

Monday, May 15, 2006


PETERSBORO, Utah -- Gloom like a Bulwer-Lyttonesque pall hung heavily over the Cache Valley as word came that the WORD had gone.

"As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire. . . ." No, wait. . . . That's actual Bulwer-Lyttonism. Scratch it.

We conclude, with joy and trumpets and a tankard or two, the 10th season of TODAY'S WORD ON JOURNALISM. What began in 1995 as a professor's strategy to get his students to read email (guess that worked!) now has spread, birdflu-like, far beyond that unwilling audience to self-flagellating WORD volunteers on five-and-a-half continents. But the willing and unwilling alike--the halt and addled and addicted and deluded--will have to get a life and smell the roses, for a while anyway.

Today marks the end of the WORD for this academic season. Even ere the rosy dawn that didth bust o'er this glade, this vale, this happy home. . . . ooops. Avert already, Sir Bulwer, you mangy cur!!!!

See you in the fall. . . TP

'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 settle down.

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 studies.

"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," he said.

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 soccer coach.

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, laughingly.

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 curious person."

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.


Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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