The historic changes in Cuba following President Obama's announcement that United States will restore diplomatic relations with that country are leading to many firsts. Hamline is proud to be a part of an academic first. Hamline is one of only ten universities selected to participate in an educational partnership with a university in Cuba through a multi-agency government grant for the International Strategic Conference for the Internationalization of Higher Education.
“We are thrilled to be one of the ten universities selected to formalize an agreement with an educational partner in Cuba,” said Kari Richtsmeier, director of Hamline’s International and Off-Campus Programs. “It’s important to us that our students experience Cuba early in this important transitional period for a first-hand view of the impacts of the embargo and government restrictions on Cuban life, and how this new era will change that country.”
Hamline formalized a partnership agreement with Cienfuegos University which is located about 150 miles southeast of Havana. Although there are numerous universities in Cuba that are eligible to participate in the partnership, Richtsmeier says after meeting with representatives from the various schools Cienfuegos is the best fit for Hamline.
“Cienfuegos very much mirrors Hamline in many ways. They have a college that is particularly strong in the sciences, a School of Business, School of Education, and a dedication to the liberal arts,” Richtsmeier said. “At the same time, even though Cuba is geographically near the U.S., in many ways it’s a whole different world culturally, socially, and politically because of the decades of separation between the countries.”
The first combined class for students from the two universities will be held during the January-term of 2017, when Hamline students travel to Cuba with Professor Andrea Bell for a course entitled Culture & Art and Transcending Barriers, which primarily focuses on literature and public art. The class will work together to design a concept for a mural which they will then paint on the wall of a public street that is dedicated to artists.
“This is just the first of what we hope will be numerous opportunities for faculty and student exchanges and other collaborations between our institutions,” Hamline Interim Provost John Matachek said. Having experienced the beauty of the country and the warm relations extended by its people during a recent trip to Cuba with Kari Richtsmeier, Matachek further comments,“It will be exciting to provide cross-cultural and academic opportunities to faculty and students in the areas in which both schools excel: The humanities, science, art, and mathematics.”
The opportunity for Hamline faculty to teach in Cuba will likely be the next step in this partnership followed by the chance for Hamline students to participate in semester-long study abroad opportunities starting in the fall of 2017.