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February 2018 - SUNY Delegation to Cuba: Trip Report

Guided by NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, the first U.S. governor to take a trade mission to Cuba following the December 2014 joint announcement that relations between the two countries would soon be normalized, SUNY is the lead US institution engaging with Cuban institutions of higher education. The SUNY System, comprised of 64 campuses, offers every level of tertiary education in almost every discipline. Working with Cuba through a unique partnership with its Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) is a natural fit for SUNY given the analogous structures of the two institutions.

Chairman McCall, University at Albany President Havidán Rodríguez, UAlbany Professor Sanjay Goel meet three students studying abroad on the University at Albany´s Havana program
Chairman McCall, University at Albany President Havidán Rodríguez, UAlbany Professor Sanjay Goel meet three students studying abroad on the University at Albany´s Havana program

Last week, a SUNY delegation, led by H. Carl McCall, Chairman of the SUNY Board of Trustees and four campus presidents -- from UAlbany, Cortland, Old Westbury and Potsdam -- was the most distinguished US delegation at Cuba's biennial higher education conference. The conference, organized by the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education, is one of the largest of its kind in the world, receiving more than 2,000 delegates from 60 countries, as well as nearly 1,000 Cuban university representatives. The SUNY delegates were received as honored guests of the government of Cuba, met at the airport by representatives of the Ministry of Higher Education and invited to official events and receptions offered by the Ministry.

Despite the shifting regulatory climate around travel by US Citizens to Cuba, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control issues general licenses that support travel for educational purposes. In acknowledgement of the critical role higher education plays in people-to-people diplomacy, none of the recent restrictions introduced in Washington have constrained educational travel. The SUNY delegation was supported by non-state funds.

SUNY Chairman McCall addressed the conference, as part of a high-level panel of university leaders from four countries from throughout the Americas, on the topic of the role universities play in supporting the communities they serve. He was the sole US university representative invited to speak in this leadership forum. In addition, SUNY’s Associate Vice Chancellor for Global Affairs, Sally Crimmins Villela, was invited to share the US university perspective as part of a panel on US-Cuban higher education relations.

Cortland - University of Physical Culture and SportsSUNY entered into an MOU with the Cuban MES in February 2017. Since that time, eight campus-to-campus agreements have been signed between SUNY institutions and Cuban universities, extending educational relationships to provinces throughout Cuba. These new collaborations build upon longstanding ties between SUNY and the University of Havana, forged by SUNY Oswego and the University at Buffalo. During the conference, five new agreements were reached between SUNY campuses and their Cuban partners. Buffalo State – Central University of Las Villas It is anticipated that many more SUNY faculty members will conduct research and lead students in education abroad and service learning activities in Cuba as a result. The areas of faculty collaboration are diverse, ranging from anthropology and Afro-Cuban culture to sustainable energy and sports management. During the conference a working group was of language specialists was established, drawing from SUNY as well as from Cuban universities, to focus on methodology of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). The group includes representation from several SUNY campuses, led by Stony Brook and New Paltz.

Cuban TV interview at SUNY booth in exhibit hall (Sally Crimmins Villela)

Sally Crimmins Villela, 
Associate Vice Chancellor for Global Affairs, is interviewed for Cuban TV at SUNY booth in exhibit hall.

Office of Global Affairs