• Isabel “Bel” Pesce Mattos ’10 is the founder of FazINOVA, a private business school in Brazil.

    Isabel “Bel” Pesce Mattos ’10 is the founder of FazINOVA, a private business school in Brazil.

    Photo courtesy of the MIT Alumni Association.

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Two school foundings, 63 years apart, link MIT with advances in Brazilian education

Isabel "Bel" Pesce Mattos

ITA and FazINOVA share a bold vision for Brazilian higher education — and a source of inspiration at MIT.

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Stephanie Eich
Email: seich@mit.edu
Phone: 617-253-2066
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One is a prestigious engineering university with its roots in Brazil’s Ministry of Aeronautics; the other is a fledgling business school with mainly online offerings, launched by a young entrepreneur. But what ITA and FazINOVA have in common is a bold vision for Brazilian higher education — and a shared source of inspiration nearly 5,000 miles to the north at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Seventy years ago, MIT professor of aeronautics Richard Harbert Smith was hired by the Brazilian government to develop a plan for an institute of aeronautics in São José dos Campos — an eccentric idea in an era when agriculture ruled Brazil’s economy. The Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica (ITA, or the Aeronautics Institute of Technology) account of its founding notes that the ministry official tasked with acquiring American airplanes extended his trip to visit MIT, and “came back enchanted with the idea of creating a similar institute in Brazil aiming to train engineers with excellence and develop aeronautical technology.”

Smith went on to serve as ITA’s first rector and, since its 1950 founding, the school has often been referred to as the “MIT of Brazil.” In recent years, MIT and ITA students and faculty have encountered one other through such varied projects as an entrepreneurship workshop called Diiaki-ITA, the International Development Design Summit, and research on unpiloted aerial vehicles supported by a grant from MIT’s MISTI-Brazil program.

Decades later, Isabel “Bel” Pesce Mattos ’10 has established another educational link between MIT and Brazil. In 2013, the MIT alumna founded FazINOVA (“do innovate”), a private business school unique within the educational landscape of her country. FazINOVA’s online courses, offered for free, teach students professional and personal development, and place a strong emphasis on empowerment. “If someone is 18 today they will have five careers in their life — not jobs, careers,” Pesce told TIME magazine, which included her on its list of “Next Generation Leaders” last November. “But the most important part is that three out of these five don’t exist yet… People need to learn how to learn.”

With FazINOVA’s flexible offerings, Pesce aims to expand access to that kind of learning. Although many of Brazil’s top universities offer free tuition, the admission process is highly competitive and often out of reach for members of the country’s large lower-middle class, who typically cannot afford to leave the workforce while earning a degree. According to TIME, since FazINOVA’s launch, nearly 70,000 people of all ages have taken its online courses, in addition to the 2,000 students who have paid to attend courses at its São Paulo headquarters. The organization also has a strong network of volunteers who spread the word about FazINOVA’s mission in public schools.

Pesce’s personal experiences as a student at MIT, then as a successful entrepreneur and author in Silicon Valley, inspired her to return to Brazil and help others achieve their dreams. Her self-published book, The Brazilian Girl from Silicon Valley, had been downloaded more than a million times and reached the top of Brazil’s best-seller list while she was still in the U.S.

“I had to use this momentum to do something great for my country,” Pesce explained in a recent interview, “so I came back to Brazil to set up a school.”

Topics: MIT-Brazil, MISTI, Aeronautical and astronautical engineering, International initiatives, Global, Alumni/ae, Startups, online learning, Massive open online courses (MOOCs), SHASS, School of Engineering, Education, teaching, academics, Brazil, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E), Sloan School of Management


I earned my PhD in Aeronautical and Mechanical Engineering from Technological Institute of Aeronautics (ITA), and now, I am a postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT and supported by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) and Aeronautics and Space Institute (IAE). My research with Prof. Wardle at MIT focuses on carbon nanotubes (CNT) in ceramic matrix composites (CMCs). Both Institutions (MIT and ITA) are very importante in my professional life.

All the respect to Mrs Bel, but comparing her borderline self-help lectures to a serious research institution is just absolutely nonsense. For one, they are very different things, so it is not only a matter of merit, they are simply not comparable.
Now on a more critical note. If the impact of FazInova for Brazilians should be in the same grounds as ITA's, Americans should shut down MIT business programs and start reading Rhonda Byrne. Read the books and compare for yourselves.

ITA, founded in a successful partnership with MIT in 1950, is the leading Institute of Technology in Brazil and a source of pride to our nation. It has also strong links with Embraer, one of the largest and most respected aerospace company in the world.
Dr. Elaine Lizeo

Brazilian Chair - MIT Educational Council

While at MIT, Bel honed and shaped her leadership skills through active
participation in both years of the immersive Gordon-MIT Engineering
Leadership Program (GEL). Congratulations Bel on the founding of
FazINOVA, and on being named a Next Gen leader by Time Magazine!

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