September 26, 2012, marked a significant step for Southern Illinois University (SIU) as well as the University of Havana, as the two universities signed a formal agreement for academic exchange and collaboration. After a three-year effort between the two universities, the agreement was formalized during a week-long series of meetings held at the University of Havana.
“This is an ambitious step in a part of the U.S. where there has been little interaction with Cuban academic institutions,” explained Jorge Hernández, University of Havana Director of the Center for Hemispheric and U.S. Studies.
Representatives for SIU included: University President Glenn Poshard, Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe from SIUE, Chancellor Rita Hartung Cheng from SIU Carbondale, and Aldemaro Romero, director of the SIUE Cuban Caribbean Center and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Representing the University of Havana were University President Gustavo José Cobreiro Suárez and Vice President for International Relations Lourdes Alicia Díaz Fernández.
A step in bridging the gap between Cuba and the United States, this agreement serves as an example of academic diplomacy. The agreement will allow for exchange of students and faculty between the two universities as well as for the collaboration on various research and academic projects. One of the first such exchanges will be the establishment of the Cuban History and Culture course offered by SIU next fall that will include travel to Cuba and focus on history between Cuba and the U.S. from 1959 to present. Other direct exchange efforts will include several Cuban graduate students coming to study at SIUE along with other collaborative academic efforts from both students and faculty.
“I believe that these actions will not only improve communication and understanding among people but also improve the political climate between both countries,” said Furst-Bowe.
Moving forward, the Cuban Caribbean Center will be working on establishing more exchange courses across a variety of fields including Political Sciences, History, Mass Communications, Foreign Language, and Biological Sciences. Additionally, they will be providing more opportunities for Cuban scholars to visit SIU as Guest Scholars.
“All these initiatives will help to expand horizons for all faculty and students involved,” explained Cheng.
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