Memorandum of Understanding signing ceremony between SIU and the University of Havana

Creating opportunities -- Attending the Memorandum of Understanding signing ceremony from SIU and the University of Havana (UH) were, from left: Thomas Cheng, Paul Sarvela, Ana Romero, Julie First-Bowe (SIU); Raul Rodriguez, Jorge Hernandez (UH); Rita Cheng, Aldemaro Romero (SIU); Hilda Leon Castellanos, Lourdes Diaz Fernandez, Milagros Martinez, and Carmen Castillo (UH). (Photo provided)

October 10, 2012

Pact with Cuban university creates opportunities

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A new agreement with the University of Havana in Cuba creates study-abroad opportunities for Southern Illinois University Carbondale students and formalizes opportunities for faculty research.

SIU Carbondale Chancellor Rita Cheng signed a memorandum of understanding with University of Havana officials during a visit to the island nation Sept. 24-29. She was part of a seven-member delegation that also included representatives of SIU Edwardsville and the SIU system office.

"It is a fascinating place," Cheng said. "Cuba is culturally rich and its people are very open to partnering with U.S. institutions. They are very interested in creating new educational opportunities for their students and for ours, and in conducting joint research. We want to work with the university there to create more and deeper relationships in higher education."

The University of Havana, which dates to 1728, enrolls about 6,000 students and is the largest university in Cuba.

During the trip, the delegation met with faculty members and the director of the Center for Hemispheric and U.S. Studies to discuss specifics of a course that will be available to SIU students in Havana next summer. The course will be co-taught by faculty from both universities. There also were discussions about combined scholarly efforts by faculty from both institutions in the areas of political science, history, economics and mass communication.

The SIU delegation also met with the curator of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, the National Museum of Fine Arts, to discuss five projects that will bring Cuban visual arts to the U.S. beginning in 2013.

Other meetings focused on Spanish courses for SIU students in Cuba, entrance requirements and living arrangements at the University of Havana, and possibilities for collaboration with the Jardin Botanico Nacional -- the National Botanical Garden.

Cheng said extensive re-building is under way in Havana, noting that the section of the city called Old Havana -- designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Center -- was founded by the Spanish in 1519.

"This will create wonderful cross-cultural opportunities," Cheng said of the new agreement, adding that SIU students will benefit from the knowledge they gain about Latin American and Caribbean history, culture, and economics.

Other members of the delegation included: Julie Anne Furst-Bowe, SIUE chancellor; Aldemaro Romero, dean of SIUE's College of Arts & Sciences; Ana Mayayo Romero, instructor in SIUE's Department of Foreign Languages; Cory Michael Byers, instructor in SIUE's Department of Mass Communications; Thomas Cheng, executive assistant for commercial innovation at SIU Carbondale; and Paul Sarvela, vice president for academic affairs in the SIU system office.