Declaring that “Cuba has never been more interesting,” Dean John Coatsworth of the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University opened a seminar on academic and scholarly relations with Cuba yesterday at NAFSA’s annual conference in Vancouver. Dr. Coatsworth spoke extensively on the current political, economic, and social climate in Cuba, laying the groundwork for renewed exchanges with the island.
Renewed academic exchanges between the United States and Cuba are now possible, with the advent of relaxed regulations announced by the Obama administration in January. Speakers from the United States, Canada, and Cuba provided a political and historical context for the exchange of students and scholars between the two countries. Dr. Mayra Heydrich from the University of Havana spoke about Cuba’s rich history of academic exchange and study abroad with nations around the world, including the United States.
Dr. Catherine Schittecatte of Vancouver Island University outlined the history of the diplomatic relationship between Canada and Cuba, and Dr. Eric Popkin of Colorado College provided background on Cuba-U.S. relations over the past 60 years and expressed optimism for the future of U.S. academic exchange in Cuba. This sentiment was echoed by Dr. Coatsworth, who proclaimed that recent moves by the Cuban government toward political and economic reform mean that now more than ever, “Cuba is open for business.”