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For Grad Student, Philadelphia a Launchpad for International Career

August 31, 2012

Renata Carneiro
Not only does Renata Carneiro have an eye for some of society’s most unnoticed issues—she sees them through a global lens.

So when Carneiro decided to pursue a Ph.D., she wanted to study at a location with access to the corners of the world.

“I’m from a big city in Brazil, so I wanted to be in a big city with a lot of cultures in it,” said Carneiro, who hails from São Paulo. “There’s a bit of everything and everyone in Philadelphia.”

Carneiro is now in Drexel’s couples and family planning program—a curriculum she said was a perfect fit for her interests in social justice and activism.

“In individual therapy, we focus on individuals, but also on ourselves,” Carneiro said. “That made me more aware as to how I could use myself to be an advocate for change, for families and for societies as well. And it also made me more aware of social issues within countries and internationally, as well.”

“The program’s social justice perspective mixed with many multicultural aspects—they fit well with my philosophy of what a good therapist should be like,” Carneiro added. “I knew it could help me become someone who is aware of themselves, and someone who uses themselves as a tool for their work beyond their surroundings.”

Her dissertation is focusing on gender dynamics in therapy, with hopes of applying it to a career in activism for human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

“In a dream world, I would like to work with the human traffic beats on a global level,” Carneiro said. “I think a social justice perspective would be valuable in both understanding these issues but also for spreading awareness about the ways [people] are all connected.”

“Human trafficking is a new form of slavery—and not many people are looking at it from that perspective,” Carneiro added. “Part of what I would like to do is to raise awareness of that and how people are impacted by it.”

Carneiro’s interest in global female issues in particular stemmed from her first 10 years in the United States, when she studied psychology and individual counseling at the University of Baltimore. While there, she worked closely with students in the Baltimore City School District.

“I was working primarily with teenage girls,” Carneiro said. “Just by working with them, you see their sexuality becomes very apparent when you work with that population. It becomes very obvious how young women are being objectified at that early age. Entering relationships and finding love—for them, a way of doing that is having sex. I knew this wasn’t just happening in Baltimore, but everywhere, and it needed to be addressed at global scale as well.”

For Carneiro, Drexel was the place she wanted to start addressing those issues, she said.

“When I started here, I didn’t know anything about Philly—I just knew that there was a lot here going on,” Carneiro says. “Now that I’m here, it has been a great place to start my international career.”