In the 1930s, higher-education programs created in Vitória by private institutions offered students from Espírito Santo the chance to study, for the first time, in their own state. Of these programs, three still exist in the Federal University of Espírito Santo (Ufes): Dentistry, Law and Physical Education. Unlike in other states, coffee trees were not able to provide Espírito Santo with the same benefits as in the neighbor states.

The governor at that time, Jones dos Santos Neves, saw higher education as an instrument of change, and thought to group the educational institutions, which were separate from one another, into one university. As a result of this process, the University of Espírito Santo was created, kept and managed by the state government on May 5, 1954.

The deputy at that time, Dirceu Cardoso, rushed to deliver administrative proceedings overnight to the Ministries in Brasília – an image of the urgency of the matter to the state of Espírito Santo. The State University, an ambitious but challenging project, was being transformed into a federal institution. It was the last administrative task of President Juscelino Kubitschek, on Janury 30, 1961. It was, for the state of Espírito Santo, one of his most important tasks.

A new vision was created by the university reform, the ideology of the military government, the federalization of most higher education institutions in Brazil and in Espírito Santo, and the dispersion of universities. The merger of schools and faculties in a single place was planned in 1962. Five years later, the federal government acquired a lot in the neighborhood of Goiabeiras, north of the capital city, that belonged to the Victoria Golf and Country Club, known as the Farm of the English people. The main campus now covers an area around 1.5 million square meters (1.8 million square yards).

The redemocratization of the country was mobilized, in great part, at universities, where freedom of thinking and expression developed strategies for survival. Resistance to dictatorship during the “years of steel” and during the period of return to democracy created, within Ufes, leaders who, even nowadays, are in command of public and private institutions in Espírito Santo. Student activism was realized in different stages, the first of which included marches, confrontation and arrests. Then, there was slow reorganization to establish ideological focus and activism, which had been lost during the period of repression.

It was reductive, however, to think that everything could be solved with a simple change in government. As a Brazilian song says, “food is not the only thing we want...” The movements called “Idleness” and “Magic Balloon” called for public attention. Free to grow, Ufes chose its own path. Educating the major part of the human resources in Espírito Santo, Ufes moved South, by building the so-called Agricultural/Farming Center, in Alegre and São Jose do Calçado; and North, with the creation of the so-called University Coordination in Nova Venecia and São Mateus.

The expansion was not only geographic. The university moved beyond its walls to meet the demands of a society eager to share knowledge, ideas, projects and experiences. The last two decades of the millennium were defined by the expansion of outreach activities, mainly among excluded communities, and the establishment of partnerships with private companies. Both cases were successful. For Ufes it was something priceless: the building of its own identity.

The goal of dreamers from the 1950s became a powerful reality. Ufes established itself as a nationally recognized point of reference in higher education. Ufes has around 1,600 professors, 2,200 administrative staff, 22,000 undergraduate students, 2,000 e-learning students and 3,000 graduate students. It comprises 105 undergraduate courses, 58 master degree courses and 26 PhD courses. It is a university that, inspired by its creators, does not stop its growth. It is a place where the dreams of Brazilian people live, especially the residents of Espírito Santo.

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