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Geneseo Eyes Cuba for Next Study Abroad Program

Sam Cardamone, associate director of the Study Abroad Office, at right, and Melanie Medeiros, assistant professor of anthropology, second to right, with representatives in Cuba.

Sam Cardamone, associate director of the Study Abroad Office (far right) and Melanie Medeiros, assistant professor of anthropology (second to right), pose with representatives they met with while in Cuba. SUBMITTED PHOTO

SUNY Geneseo may soon add Cuba to its list of destinations for study abroad. 

Provost Stacey Robertson and Associate Director of the Study Abroad Office Sam Cardamone were part of a 21-member, nine-campus SUNY delegation attending the Congreso Universidad 2018 in Havana Feb. 11-17. Organized by the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education, Cuba’s biennial higher education conference is one of the largest of its kind in the world, attended by more than 2,000 delegates from 60 countries, as well as nearly 1,000 Cuban university representatives.

Since the SUNY System first signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education in February 2017, the historic agreement has opened new doors of collaboration between SUNY’s 64 campuses and the Ministry’s 22 institutions. There are now seven SUNY-Cuba partnership agreements — and Geneseo could be next.  

“I’m excited that we are becoming a part of this SUNY cultural exchange initiative,” noted Robertson following her first-ever visit. “Cuba is so close yet so far. It’s important for our students to experience the rich history and vibrant culture of this country. It would be an incredible study abroad opportunity.”

Robertson and Cardamone met with representatives from the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education and the Universidad de Holguín while in Havana. Midweek, Cardamone then traveled 14 hours by bus to meet Assistant Professor of Anthropology Melanie Medeiros, who joined him for a site visit at the Universidad de Holguín to build upon previous discussions to establish a partnership with the university. Cardamone represented Geneseo on a fact-finding visit in October 2016, while Medeiros traveled to the country in 2015 as part of a delegation assembled by the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges.

Robertson, Cardamone and Medeiros will share their findings and solicit ideas from faculty, students and staff at an open campus forum Tuesday, March 20, at 3:30 p.m. in Erwin 206.

Medeiros would be the first Geneseo faculty member slated to lead a program in Cuba — anticipated in January 2019 during the winter intersession — beginning with an anthropology course, “Race and the Black Experience in the Americas.” She has shared a syllabus and is obtaining feedback from representatives at the Universidad de Holguín.

“This is a remarkable time in Cuban history and in Cuban-U.S. relations,” she said. “Geneseo students will have the opportunity to experience Cuba in this moment of transition and learn how the shifts in economic, political, social and cultural spheres are affecting Cubans from Cubans themselves. It has the potential to transform how students perceive Cuba, Latin America, and their own positions in the world.”

According to Cardamone, SUNY campuses are strategically partnering with Cuban institutions that present a good academic match, and he believes Geneseo and the Universidad de Holguín would complement each other. The Universidad de Holguín offers focused areas of study in education and the arts and sciences, including one doctoral program in pedagogical sciences.

“I think Cuba presents a unique destination for students to learn about U.S. involvement around the world — and its impact with regard to creating global opportunities and shaping the future of diplomatic relations,” he said. “What excites me the most about this partnership is the reciprocal emphasis. Cuban professors will offer guest lectures, so that they have a voice in providing education to our students.”

This classroom activity is a unique feature of the Cuba partnership. “Cuba insists on sharing the responsibility of instruction and sharing in the education of visitors,” Cardamone said. As it stands now, Cuban professors would not travel to Geneseo, though there is great interest in having our faculty work collaboratively with Cuban researchers and develop joint research activities.

As far as next steps, Geneseo will continue to correspond with the Universidad de Holguín. Once Medeiros’ syllabus is finalized, the College will create a budget and promote the program. Cardamone added that the program will expand based on interest among faculty who would like to partner with the Universidad de Holguín.

— By Tony Hoppa