During the weekend of May 10th, the Portuguese-American Post-graduate Society hosted its fourteenth annual forum. The theme was Raising Portugal to new heights, and its location was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Tang Center.
Just over fifty members from PAPS and the Luso-American community attended to learn from an array of speakers and workshop conductors such as the Portuguese ambassador to the United States Nuno Brito, associate professor of finance at Duke University Manuel Adelino, Portuguese Consul General Paulo Cunha Alves and former Portuguese Minister of Education Eduardo Marçal Grilo. The forum ranged over three days and brought together members from at least seven chapters.
The weekend kicked off with an informal networking session on Friday night follow by dinner at Atasca- a Portuguese restaurant located in the heart of Kendal Square. Saturday was divided into three sessions (the economy, entrepreneurship and science) with four to eight speakers each.
A number of young entrepreneurs showcased their start-ups during the entrepreneurship session. Amongst them were Joaquim Valente, CEO of sports-focused social network Playnify and Alexandre Oliveira, founder of Storytree- a media start-up focused on the Portuguese-American perspective in politics. Tony Lafuente, a seasoned entrepreneur, spoke about his journey into the flag-making business. He encouraged the audience to consider being a business owner and expressed hope of seeing female entrepreneurs in the next forum.
In between the second and third session were workshops given by a number of groups and individuals. Among them were Lauren Celano, CEO of the Propel Careers who gave a career coaching session and Ricardo Mesquita of Beta-i, Portugal's first start-up incubator, on starting your own business. Says PAPS member Alexandra Bettencourt of the Ms. Celano's workshop, "[it] was really informative and [gave me] a fresh perspective on my resume and how to market myself".
On the last day, PAPS members met for the annual General Assembly to review the organization activities and finances of the past year. This was followed by a relaxing tour of Boston's famous Freedom Trail led by Boston Chapter co-leader Ângela Crespo.
So what can the forum tell us about raising Portugal to new heights? Any discussion on a country's economic potential can not be a serious one without recognizing standing obstacles. Manuel Adelino emphasized the need for nurturing innovation within its borders.
With the rise of higher education in the sciences and engineering, there is no doubt this generation has the tools to drive value-added growth. The question remains whether current government institutions will expand the framework necessary for a thriving economy.
PAPS, being a nonprofit entity without political affiliations cannot nor will not attempt to answer it. What we can say with confidence, however, is the rich human capital present in our community gives hope for the needed innovation to occur in whatever form it will arrive.