Family of Scholars Finds an Academic Home at UT Dallas

2 Sisters Earn Graduate Degrees as Mother and Sibling Pursue Their Own Studies

The Valente family after UT Dallas Spring Graduation 2013

The Valente family (from left): Sarah, who just completed her master’s degree in literary studies; father, Jorge; mother, Maria, who is an undergraduate student in sociology; Junia, who is pursuing a PhD in software engineering; Rubia, who earned a PhD in public policy and political economy; and Rubia’s husband, Frederico Araujo, who is also a PhD student at UT Dallas.

Rubia da Rocha Valente graduated this year with a PhD in public policy and political economy, but she wasn’t the only person in her family receiving a degree from UT Dallas.

Rubia’s youngest sister, Sarah, finished her master’s degree in the humanities this semester, majoring in literary studies and concentrating in translation and Holocaust studies.

“This is very exciting for our family. We have really found a home at UT Dallas – it’s a place we have shared together,” said Rubia.

Joining Rubia and Sarah in their studies is their sister, Junia, who is currently pursuing her PhD in software engineering, and the girls’ mother, Maria, is an undergraduate student in sociology.

“We’re all here,” said Rubia, laughing.

It’s been a long journey for the Valente family to arrive at this point. The entire family moved from São Paulo, Brazil, to Texas in 2000. None of them spoke any English.

“I was in the sixth grade,” said Sarah. “On our first day, we were given an oral English competency exam, and our chaperone, who spoke English and Portuguese, later told us that the teacher had asked us to raise our hands but we sat motionless in our chairs.”

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Sarah, like her sisters, overcame the language barrier and rose to the top of her class. She was named valedictorian at Jack E. Singley Academy in Irving.

“I always say I’m the smarter one,” joked Sarah. “But in truth, as the youngest kid, my sisters’ example and academic success created a well-structured path for me to follow.”

Rubia and Sarah both focused their studies around their home country. Rubia’s dissertation concentrated on the effects of racial discrimination on high school performance and college admission in Brazil.

“I focus my research on Brazil and Latin America, where there’s a dearth of research, it seems, especially on Brazil, in a lot of areas. There’s a lot to explore,” said Rubia.

Rubia is staying at UT Dallas for another year as a post-doctoral researcher under her dissertation advisor, Dr. Brian J. L. Berry.

Sarah has been awarded the Belofsky Graduate Fellowship from the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies. The fellowship provides financial assistance to students wishing to pursue a doctoral degree in the School of Arts and Humanities in the areas of Holocaust studies, modern Jewish culture, or comparative perspectives on the American and European Jewish experience.

“I plan on researching about and translating the memoirs of Holocaust survivors who fled to Brazil. It’s a field that hasn’t really been explored yet,” she said. “The Ackerman Center has opened up this avenue for me to combine my interests in literature, translation and history.”

In addition to their academic pursuits, all three sisters play in the UT Dallas orchestra. Rubia plays the violin, Sarah plays the cello, and Junia plays the viola.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].