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NU offers new course in Cuban affairs

LEWISTON – A new course on Cuban politics and society at Niagara University includes an intensive, two-week program in Havana and surroundings.

The U.S. and Cuba re-established diplomatic relations in July 2015. As a result, Americans are permitted to travel to Cuba as long as their purpose falls within 12 categories of activities, including “educational activities by persons at academic institutions.”

The faculty-led, field-based research component of the course, Cuban Politics & Society, is scheduled for May 16-29. NU professors David Reilly, Ph.D., and Chris Lee, Ph.D., and Nicole Gerber, Ph.D., emergency manager for Roswell Park Cancer Institute, are co-teaching the six-credit course and accompanying the 22 students on the trip. The travel itinerary, accommodations and meetings will be coordinated with Spanish Studies Abroad, which has provided unique learning experiences for students since 1969.

While in Cuba, students will have the opportunity to meet with government officials and diplomats, as well as U.S. ambassadors. They also will attend lectures by professors from the University of Havana who are experts in the Cuban economy and U.S.-Cuban relations.

The curriculum mirrors previous successful programs that involve a semester-long course on the NU campus, followed by a research component abroad, including one in Ireland that Reilly participated in 2008.

Reilly is the director of international studies and chair of the political science department at Niagara, while Lee is an associate professor of comparative politics.

“This is a unique and potentially life-altering opportunity for our students,” said Lee. “They will be going to a country that they only know about through what has been, for the most part, a Cold War-era sort of narrative. They have a chance to experience, firsthand, a country that has endured decades of a hostile relationship with the U.S., yet is now at what is probably a very important point in their history, as the relationship between Cuba and the United States is revised. Cuba is unlike any other country in the world.”

The course will introduce students to conflict resolution, peacemaking, community building and dispute management. Students will be familiarized with community development theory, conflict theory, principles of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) strategies and the application of these concepts to the historical sociopolitical development of Cuba. The course also will investigate emergency management strategies of the country, its disaster recovery processes and its success with health care programs.

“I am most excited to experience the culture of Cuba and see how Cubans operate, bond and build their community with so few resources. I also want to learn more about their way of life and their views on politics,” said NU student Isis Kay, a native of Liberia. “Also, because I’m majoring in hospitality, I’m interested to hear how the locals feel about the expected rise in tourism to Cuba due to the borders being opened.”

Reilly, Lee and Gerber visited Cuba in February.

“The country is safe, captivating and an excellent location to research political, social and economic change,” Reilly said.

For more information, call 286-8088 or email dreilly@niagara.edu.