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The University at Buffalo, which has sponsored a study-abroad program in Cuba for the past two summers, has signed a landmark exchange agreement with the University of Havana.

The agreement -- first of its kind between the University of Havana and an American university since 1959 -- calls for the joint development of a Caribbean studies curriculum, including a master's degree program in Caribbean studies that is expected to be in place at UB by this fall.

Other initiatives of the agreement include creation of a joint master's degree in the arts and letters of the Caribbean; establishment of a research center in Caribbean studies at the University of Havana; and expansion of UB's summer study program in Cuba.

"Students need to be in a new country long enough to go from being a stranger to seeing things as curious, to developing an understanding of the conditions that give rise to circumstances that trouble them to finally recognizing deep changes within themselves," said Kerry S. Grant, dean of UB's new College of Arts and Sciences.

He praised the Havana-UB pact, noting that UB also recently signed first-time agreements with universities in China, South Africa and the Vadodara Gujarat State in India.

Jose F. Buscaglia, a modern languages professor who directs the Cuban and Caribbean programs at UB, accompanied five UB students to Havana for study in the summer of 1997.

At the time, UB was one of only four institutions to take students to Havana with the sanction of the U.S. Treasury Department.

Last summer, 33 UB students took part in the Cuba program. At least 35 are expected to participate this summer, earning both undergraduate and graduate credits.

They will take classes from three University of Havana professors plus UB's Buscaglia and Henry Louis Taylor Jr., an associate professor of American studies and the director of the UB Center for Urban Studies.

Grant, who fostered the Cuban and other new foreign exchanges with UB, said:

"One thing that I am not in favor of is academic tourism -- the short stay that is just long enough for the participant to say, 'My, isn't this an odd place,' and then leave."

Thus, the new exchange programs are meant to immerse UB students in foreign cultures as well as bring more international students to UB. They also are meant to help UB students who want to get in touch with their heritage.

The other new international programs, to include faculty exchanges, are with China's Hangzhou University; South Africa's University of the Western Cape; and India's Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda.

The new exchange between UB and China's Hangzhou University comes as Hangzhou is about to merge with four other institutions in the Zehjiang region of China.

UB's exchange with the Indian university was suggested by Muchand Patel, chairman of UB's biochemistry department, who is an alumnus of Maharaja Sayajirao University.

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