LACIS Alum Thasís Passos

By Eli Weiner (LACIS Social Media/Outreach Intern, BBA – Marketing, BA – LACIS ’15)

Thaís Passos graduated from LACIS with her MA in the summer of 2015, and her story is as unique as they come. We decided to catch up with her to see what we could learn about her interesting path to and beyond LACIS!

Where are you from? 

I was born and raised in Brazil. My hometown – São José dos Campos, SP – is located between the cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

What was your undergraduate degree in and where did you obtain it? 

In 1995, I received a Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Medicine from UNESP-Botucatu, São Paulo, Brazil. For more than 10 years, I worked in the Brazilian dairy industry. I managed milk quality issues in a dairy co-op, trained technicians on milking machines, advised dairy farmers, and coordinated training on agriculture topics, mostly in (the) Minas Gerais state.

I moved to the U.S. in 2007 to study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I earned a Master of Science in Agroecology (2010), doing research on some of the environmental impacts of different dairy systems. Next, I started a PhD program in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, but then realized I would rather work with languages… So in 2011 I decided I wanted to become a professional translator!

What inspired you to pursue a Masters in LACIS? 

I sought a UW program that could encompass my interest on how languages get translated into one another, including both cultural and linguistic perspectives – and found much more than that in LACIS!

What was your principle concentration in the LACIS Masters Program? 

My master of Arts program in LACIS concentrated in language, linguistics and translation.
My research focused on the translation of the French term “Économie du Don” – which was conceptualized by French sociologist Marcel Mauss in the 1920s – into Brazilian Portuguese. I was intrigued by how it has been translated into Portuguese – as either “dom” or “dádiva,” which can be associated to a natural attribute, ability, capacity, merit, advantage or spiritual good conceded by God and/or grace – and I wanted to find a more appropriate term to express Mauss’ concept.
In my project, I examined the choices of four translators of Mauss’ concept of the “don” through the lenses of various translation theories, and also considered potential target terms, namely: ‘doação‘ (donation), ‘presente‘ (present), ‘aliança‘ (alliance), ‘vínculo‘ (link), and ‘elo‘ (link).
It was a fascinating journey, at the end of which I now ask: “If the “économie du don” is a socio-economic model in which people give presents to each other, could it be called in Portuguese (where the act of giving gifts can be translated as ‘presentear‘) ‘presenterarismo?’
What about UW’s LACIS Masters program stood out to you and made UW the right choice for you?
In LACIS, I encountered an amazing framework to study translation, accounting for elements of culture, linguistics, philosophy, psychology, rhetoric and even computational sciences!
It was through LACIS that I met my advisor, professor Martin Gaspar, who is now at Bryn Mawr College. He had taught a course on translation at UW-Madison a few semesters earlier, and after I attended one of his lectures on the topic, I knew I was on the right track with my new path!
In LACIS, I had incredible co-advisors such as professors Alberto Vargas and Luis Madureira, who guided me with wisdom and always supported me in my studies, and to whom I am very thankful!
How does the LACIS Masters program fit into your future/personal goals?
I graduated from LACIS in the summer of 2015 and I am a freelance translator from English and Spanish intro Brazilian Portuguese. It is so gratifying to use my fondness for language – and for my dear Portuguese – in my daily work, diving into the world of ideas and the words that express them!
Thaís is continuing her work as a freelance professional translator at this very moment. You can learn more about her work by visiting We wish Thaís all the best moving forward with her life and her career!