An essential element of Unicamp’s pedagogical and social mission, the initiatives aimed at bringing the institution closer to the community of which it is a part are the responsibility of PREAC (Office of the Vice-President for Extension and Outreach). The office is responsible for receiving and stimulating proposals for university outreaching activities and implementing these with the joint efforts of technical, administrative and operational staff using the institution’s own funds or funds obtained from partnerships with other teaching institutions, institutional funding agencies, non-governmental organizations or public or private companies.
The initiatives developed by PREAC, which take a variety of forms, including programs, events, publications, technological, educational, cultural and social products and the provision of services, must always promote the development of physical, cultural and social well-being, foster and guarantee democratic values and equal rights and participation and ensure respect for the individual and for sustainable environmental actions. Furthermore all outreach activities are inseperably joined with teaching and research.
These guidelines are reflected in the initiatives supported by PREAC in recent years, which have included popular culture; the history and memory of social movements; restoration of citizenship to street dwellers and indigenous people; social inclusion of individuals with special physical needs; socio-environmental education; sustainable agriculture; socially responsible economics; and the appreciation of culture as a tool for promoting health and well-being. In one word, PREAC is responsible for Unicamp’s social commitment.
Even in the area of technological extension, PREAC attaches great importance to the social relevance of extension activities, as reflected in its involvement in the development and evaluation of important drugs for neglected diseases, such as Malaria or Chaga’s disease.
Initiatives of this nature also serve to underline the academic excellence of Unicamp, which is attested to by the presence of major public and private companies and agencies, both Brazilian and international, as partners and funding entities in many of the initiatives. These organizations entrust Unicamp with a leading role in the development of their scientific, technological and innovative projects and in the preparation of professionals for the job market.
PREAC also works to give a human dimension to the institution’s own spaces by means of programs such as the Espaço Cultural Casa do Lago, which consists of yearly cultural, educational and artistic events attended by around ninety thousand people. There is also a Department for the Coordination of Cultural Development which promotes and stages cultural and artistic exhibitions in suitable, readily accessible spaces, both within as well as outside the university’s campus.
PREAC’s activities are not limited to Unicamp’s own facilities but also take place outside its borders, in, for example, the Cultural Center for Social Inclusion and Integration (CIS-Guanabara), which is housed in an old railroad station and is today considered one of the largest and most representative items of historical and cultural heritage in the city of Campinas, as well as a proactive and everpresent location for social inclusion and integration.
It is with initiatives such as these that PREAC makes Unicamp’s mission as an institution of promoting social development a reality and prepares students, faculty and employees of the university to disseminate the knowledge generated at Unicamp in the fields of biological and biomedical sciences, technological sciences, exact sciences and the humanities. During this process PREAC always seeks to make such knowledge an agent for the development of policies which, by fighting exclusion and promoting citizenship, can help overcome problems and realize society’s aspirations and overcome society’s needs.