KSU hoping for Cuban Studies Institute

Carrie Blazina

Proposed Cuban Studies Institute

The proposed Cuban Studies Institute has two upcoming opportunities for students to learn about the institute and Cuba itself.

What: Two Cuban artists who have been in residence at the Cleveland Institute of Art this year are visiting Kent State to discuss their work. The event is a collaboration between the Cuban Studies Institute, the School of Art and the Cleveland Institute of Art.

Who: Meira Marrero and Jose Toirac

When: March 13, 5 p.m.

Where: Room 202, Art Building

What: Relational Learning in Cuba, a five-week summer course.

When: Summer 2012. The course will culminate in a trip to Cuba June 8 to 15.

How: Students will learn about Cuban educational history and visit several schools of various levels, a maternity clinic and several spots frequented by writer Ernest Hemingway. Morrison said the students in the course can research anything they’d like while in Cuba, which is why they are visiting such a wide variety of locations.

Kent State may be incorporating a new Cuban Studies Institute, which would allow professors and students to do research in Cuba on a variety of topics.

“Access to Cuba is not easy for researchers, and this is one way of trying to help those who wish to go and look at Cuba as an area of study and help in that area,” said Tim Chandler, senior associate provost. “We’ll have a place to focus their efforts and people to support and help those efforts.”

The Educational Policy Committee has authorized the Institute, which would be housed on the eighth floor of the University Library. It has still to be approved by the Faculty Senate, at a March 12 meeting, and the Board of Trustees, at a June 6 meeting, before it would launch.

The Institute’s mission is primarily to encourage faculty research but may call for some participation from students. As the proposal to the EPC states, “faculty interest includes extending their research interests to Cuba and will provide opportunities for their students to partake in the studies. Study abroad opportunities will enhance graduate and undergraduate student experiences on our campus and abroad. These experiences will contribute to their unique development as professionals and citizens of the global society.”

Anne Morrison, an associate lifespan development and educational sciences professor, would be the director of the Institute. Her office in White Hall is covered with posters and maps of Cuba; Morrison has been interested in Cuba since she was young but didn’t rediscover her interest until she went on a trip to Havana about ten years ago.

“I was really interested and curious about the island,” Morrison said. “As I was there I remembered why as a college student I had tremendous interest in Fidel [Castro] and Che Guevara, and I had forgotten that, honestly.”

Chandler, who called this “an interesting cross-college research institute,” said researchers could potentially do socio-cultural, educational or public health research in Cuba. Morrison agreed and said there also could be useful research done in biology and in language development.

Morrison stressed the school would need to have lots of funding and grants to pay for regular trips to Cuba and the research done there.

Chandler said the institute would initially only work with Kent State students and faculty for research but could end up working with those not associated with the university, as well, due to funding.

“It has the potential to go further,” Chandler said. “There are agencies that are interested in funding it because they see the importance of the work that’s liable to be done there.”

Morrison said the institute would benefit Kent State, its students and Northeast Ohio in a number of ways.

“We have an advantage by being one of the schools that are actually connected with that country to build a collegial relationship with them and to consider future collaborations between students,” she said.

For example, Morrison said, Cubans need things Northeast Ohio can supply like plumbing services and paint, and Northeast Ohio needs things Cuba has like doctors to fill a shortage in the U.S.

However, any relationships the U.S. might establish with Cuba are only helpful to an extent because the U.S. has an economic embargo on Cuba. Even with this challenge, the institute could provide a lot of possibilities, Morrison said.

“If you’re there, you have a trusting relationship,” she said. “We can open up possibilities for Northeast Ohio academically as well as business-wise.”

Contact Carrie Blazina at [email protected].