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UB Delegation to Celebrate Unique Program with University of Havana

UB operates 2 of only 7 American university programs in Cuba

Release Date: May 16, 2007

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- University at Buffalo President John B. Simpson will lead a UB delegation that will travel to Havana, Cuba, to attend ceremonies marking the fourth graduation of the Master of Humanities (MAH) Program in Caribbean Cultural Studies jointly operated by UB and the University of Havana.

The program in Caribbean cultural studies is the only joint graduate program ever established between a university in the United States and a Cuban university. Of the seven academic programs offered by American universities in Cuba today by such schools as Harvard University and American University, two are operated by UB -- the MAH program and a semester-abroad program for undergraduate students.

During the visit from June 3-7, Simpson and UH Rector Rubén Zardoya Loureda will sign a new agreement for scholarly exchange and collaboration between the two universities.

Also that week, faculty from both universities will present the second Caribbean Cultural Studies Symposium at which papers on Caribbean culture will be presented in French, Spanish and English -- the languages of the Caribbean. Simpson will make opening remarks at the symposium. He also will attend a thesis presentation by the graduating students and a presentation by leading UH scientists on their current research in the natural sciences and biotechnology.

The graduation ceremony on June 6 also will mark the fifth anniversary of the establishment of the MAH program, which is designed for American and Cuban students who are fully bilingual in Spanish and English. This year also is the 10th anniversary of UB's academic programs in Cuba in which 268 students have participated since the university launched its first summer abroad program there in 1997.

Simpson said that UB's "unique and evolving partnership with the University of Havana is an example of a new and innovative interdisciplinary approach to research and teaching, and an exciting and sustainable model for international cooperation in higher education."

He added: "As UB implements the ambitious vision of UB 2020, and UH sets out to celebrate its 280th anniversary under the banner of "A new university for a new world," I have the strong sense that our institutions share a vision of what the university of the future can look like."

Stephen C. Dunnett, Ph.D., UB vice provost for international education, noted, "In the recent period, no other U.S. university has had such an extensive and enduring presence in Cuba as UB.

"In light of the transition now underway in Cuba, it is a particularly propitious time for our president to visit the country in order to reaffirm our longstanding relationship to the University of Havana and our joint program in Caribbean studies."

In addition to Dunnett, Simpson will be accompanied on the trip by his wife, Katherine G. Simpson; Jose Buscaglia, Ph.D., founder and director of the collaborative programs; and members of the MAH Program faculty from UB. They are Jorge Guitart, Ph.D., professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, Shaun Irlam, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Comparative Literature, and David E. Johnson, associate professor, Department of Comparative Literature.

Buscaglia describes the Masters of Humanities (MAH) Program in Caribbean Cultural Studies as one in which participants have the opportunity to study the Caribbean on its own terms.

"They gain first-hand knowledge of the complex cultures and traditions of the region through on-site investigations and direct participation in the processes that shape everyday life," he explains. "The program offers them the opportunity to spend up to three semesters studying and living in the Caribbean, starting with an initial first semester of studies in Cuba."

One of this year's MAH graduates is Reynier Perez-Hernández, a Cuban national, and five are Americans of Cuban descent: Kyle James Mittlefehldt, Sugey C. Palomares, Amanda M. Phelps, Meghan Dorothea Hern-Steed and Melissa Ventura.

Graduation speakers will include Perez-Hernández and Jose Antonio Baujín, dean of the UH Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Upon their arrival in Havana, the UB delegation will attend a dinner with UH Vice Rector Cristina Díaz, Dean José Antonio Baujín and Rogelio Rodríguez Coronel, Margarita Mateo Palmer and Yolanda Woods Pujols, UH professors who teach in the MAH program and are adjunct professors at UB.

During the visit the delegation will take a walking tour of Old Havana and spend time at Ernest Hemingway's Cuban home, El Vigía, in San Francisco de Paula, now a museum dedicated to the writer.

It also will visit the town of Viñales, Pinar del Rio Province, and attend the workshop "Casa taller Pedro Pablo Oliva" as guests of the artist Pedro Pablo Oliva, one of the masters of the first generation of artists produced by the Cuban Revolution.

UB will host a banquet at Havana's Hotel Sevilla in honor of the graduating MAH students and in celebration of the 10th anniversary of UB programs in Cuba.

Simpson will have an opportunity to visit the Convento de Santa Clara, where UB students and program faculty reside during the academic semester, and pay a courtesy call on the director of the National Center for Conservation, Restoration and Museum Studies.

The UB-UH MAH Program in Caribbean Cultural Studies is the only joint graduate program ever established between a U.S. and a Cuban university. It so far has graduated 28 students, and 13 more have been accepted for the Fall 2007 semester.

Another 223 students participated in UB's Summer Abroad Program in Cuba from 1997 until it was shut down in 2004 by a White House prohibition against academic travel to Cuba for periods of less than 10 weeks, which eliminated more than 300 programs offered there by U.S. universities.

UB replaced the summer program with an undergraduate semester abroad program in Spanish language, Cuban and Caribbean culture. Designed as an undergraduate counterpart to the MAH Program in Caribbean Cultural Studies, it has had 13 participants to date and five more are scheduled to participate in the fall semester.

In the fall of 2006, UB began to offer its Ph.D. students a fall semester abroad program in Cuba. They conduct research and take courses offered through the MAH program. One doctoral student completed the program last year and two more have been accepted for the fall semester.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York. UB's more than 27,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

Media Contact Information

Patricia Donovan
News Content Manager, Arts and Humanities, Public Health, Social Sciences
Tel: 716-645-4602
pdonovan@buffalo.edu