Lucas de Souza Martins: An Ambassador for Global Citizenship
PhD Diplomatic History
Second-year PhD candidate Lucas de Souza Martins’ lifelong passions and community-mindedness come to a natural confluence in his studies at Temple. Born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, Lucas studies Latin American and United States history to contextualize and inform current diplomatic issues.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How would you describe your research at Temple, and what impact do you hope it will have on the world?
In my research, I explore the relationship between the United States and Latin America during and after the Cold War. I focus on Latin America because I am Brazilian, born and raised. I started my professional career working for the government in Brazil, and I had always wanted to find a way to connect my work to the United States. In my research now, I am analyzing this moment in which South American nations are finally back with their democratic institutions, and I am studying the United States’ reactions to these transformations. This connection is important because many South American countries are transitioning from the end of military dictatorships to democracy, and it is the first time in around 20 years that they are not too heavily influenced by the desires of American policymakers. In other words, they finally have the protagonism to control their own destiny. My research aims to offer American policymakers insight on how they should engage with Latin America in this important moment.
What kind of work do you do outside of academia, and how does it relate to your studies at Temple?
Recently, I have been working for a Brazilian NGO called Vila Brazil. That means in Portuguese, “the Brazilian village.” We teach Portuguese to Spanish-speaking children that have just immigrated, many as refugees, to Brazil. This is a really valuable exchange; I get to help these kids feel more at home in Brazil while also practicing my own Spanish, which I have been working on since last year. These cultural and educational encounters are deeply connected to what I do because I am a Latin Americanist, and I have seen how language can be a barrier between Brazil and some Hispanic countries. I am glad that I can help a new generation of students open up to experiences in a new land, while encouraging them to preserve their culture from home.
In what ways have you found community at Temple?
Since I started this project of becoming fluent in Spanish, I wanted to connect with people who are from Spanish speaking countries and have English as a second language. At Temple, I have formed some amazing friendships with people in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. We exchange a lot about our cultures, and our informal conversations have helped me become more confident with the Spanish language. Recently I attended a reception by the Pan American Association of Philadelphia, where I challenged myself to communicate with Spanish-speaking diplomats in their mother language. I spoke Spanish all day and made lots of connections, many of which I think were due to the fact that I took the initiative to show my appreciation for their language and culture. Initiating a conversation in Spanish with a diplomat from Mexico was a really powerful moment that would never have been possible without the support from my community at Temple.
How have your advisors and peers at Temple helped you to accomplish your goals?
My advisor, Dr. Alan McPherson, is the director of CENFAD (Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy). I work with him to bring scholars in Latin American-US relations to speak at our Speaker Series. Recently we were able to bring one of the most prominent Brazilian scholars in Brazil-US relations, Dr. Fernanda Magnotta, to give a lecture about the Brazilian presidential election. I also participate in a monthly academic workshop for graduate students and faculty, led by the Latin American Studies program. There, I received insight from my peers on a paper that I later went to present at the James Barnes Conference alongside student speakers from all over the world. I really enjoyed my experience at the conference, so I decided to join the committee that organizes it. I helped the committee secure the keynote speaker for next year’s conference, Dr. Ashley Jordan, CEO and president of the African American Museum in Philadelphia.
What advice do you have for students considering graduate school at Temple?
I think graduate school is a wonderful opportunity for you to learn more about what you really care about. As I conduct my doctoral research, I have had many opportunities to visit the countries I’m studying, to meet with policymakers, and to network with important figures in my field. In grad school, you have the freedom to develop your own project and to create an inspirational piece of work that’s unique to your specific area of interest. My advice to prospective graduate students is to make sure you bring your passion to the program.