UMBC and Portuguese Naval Academy launch partnership to promote academic and cultural exchange

A delegation from Portugal visited UMBC earlier this month to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlining plans to develop collaborative exchange programs for teaching, learning, and research between the Portuguese Naval Academy (PNA) and UMBC. Initial projects will focus on cybersecurity, an area of strength for both schools.

Antonio Moreira, vice provost for academic affairs at UMBC, earlier named an “advisor of Portugal in the world” by that nation’s president, spearheaded the formal collaboration after meeting Admiral Torres Sobral from the Portuguese National Security Agency at a conference in Lisbon. Similarities emerged between the PNA and UMBC in their conversation, especially in cybersecurity and naval science. Moreira shared, “It became natural to focus on collaborations between the two institutions.”

High-level Portuguese officials have embraced the collaboration. “I think it is important to be here and be aware of what’s happening in our two countries,” said Navy Captain Afonso Galrito, Portugal naval and air attaché, at the signing event. “As soon as I heard we were taking this next step I asked, ‘Can I go?’”

The newly formalized relationship, which will initially last five years and is slated for automatic renewal, will support faculty exchanges for research and teaching, student exchanges at the undergraduate and graduate levels, joint seminars and conferences, and collaborative publication efforts.

UMBC is particularly excited to collaborate with the PNA this year, as the university’s Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) program kicks off. “It is fitting we are signing on the first day of classes and on the first day of our new NROTC program,” Moreira said. In addition, UMBC has strong ties with the U.S. Naval Academy, and the PNA signed an MOU with the Annapolis, MD institution in February 2016, providing opportunities for triangular collaboration.

UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski emphasized to the Portuguese dignitaries that an NROTC program within the University System of Maryland offers local students a compelling new path to military service and leadership development. “I am so proud of getting this program,” Hrabowski shared, having worked for many years to bring NROTC to UMBC.

While the initial collaborative focus is on cybersecurity, “What we sign here is just a start of the collaboration between these two institutions,” said Commodore Henriques Gomes, superintendent of the Portuguese Naval Academy, “We look forward to expanding it to other fields.”

Image: Antonio Moreira (r), UMBC’s vice provost for academic affairs, and Commodore Henriques Gomes (l),  superintendent of the Portuguese Naval Academy, shake hands after signing the MOU between their two institutions in the presence of other UMBC and PNA representatives. Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.