The University of Alabama

UA Commemorates 10th Anniversary of Alabama-Cuba Initiative with Research Trip

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Some 35 University of Alabama faculty researchers are traveling to Cuba Feb. 5-11 for a series of academic meetings with their Cuban counterparts.

The meetings mark the 10th anniversary of the Alabama-Cuba Initiative, which has brought UA and Cuban educators together to establish opportunities for graduate student research, teaching and formal course work for undergraduate students at Cuban academic institutions and has also allowed Cuban educators to come to UA for collaborative work.

The week-long series of meetings will take place at three Cuban educational institutions: the University of Havana, the Institute of Art (Instituto Superior de Artes) and the University of San Gerónimo. UA faculty members will present proposals for future educational and research collaborations and discuss project descriptions with Cuban educators working in comparable areas.

“In 2002 The University of Alabama and Cuban educators began exploring ways to advance knowledge and our educational missions through academic collaborations,” said Dr. Robert Olin, dean of UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, which has spearheaded the Alabama-Cuba Initiative.

“The last 10 years have been highly productive with fruitful research partnerships and opportunities for our students to participate in study exchanges,” Olin said. “With this trip, we seek to launch a new series of research and educational collaborations that deepen and expand our intellectual exchanges.”

A milestone in the trip will take place at the University of San Gerónimo where Olin will present a new book, “La Habana Vieja/Old Havana,” to Dr. Eusebio Leal Spengler, Cuba’s historian for Havana and director of the Old Havana restoration project.

Authored by Chip Cooper, a faculty member in UA’s department of art and art history, and Néstor Martí, a photographer of the Havana Historian’s Office, “La Habana Vieja,” published by The University of Alabama Press this month, presents 200 pages of photographs of the people and places of Havana taken by both Cooper and Martí.

The two photographers have been collaborating since 2008 to produce a body of photographs that capture the spirit of the city and its people during this pivotal time in Cuba’s development.

Cooper and Martí will discuss this research collaboration as part of the week-long events. Other researchers and scholars will explore topics in history, chemistry, law, modern languages, poetry, art, music, theatre, literature, writing, anthropology, geography, biological sciences, cultural studies, engineering, human nutrition and others.

For example, Dr. David Brommer, assistant professor of geography at UA, and Dr. Enrique Rodríguez-Loeches Diez Arguelles of Cuba’s Institute of Tropical Geography, will discuss comparative research on hurricane hazards in Cuba and the United States. Dr. Yasmin Neggers, professor of human nutrition, and Dr. Kristi Crowe, assistant professor of nutrition, will present their work on risk factors associated with low birth weight in Cuba and Alabama and seek research collaborators in Cuba.

Since 2002, UA has received academic travel licenses from the U.S. Department of the Treasury that permit travel to Cuba for specific academic activities as part of the Cuba-Alabama Initiative. More than 45 disciplines and departments at UA have participated in the initiative.

UA and the University of Havana have previously participated in three comprehensive educational activity planning sessions, in addition to a number of faculty-to-faculty interactions.

In 2003, UA hosted the Alabama-Cuba Conference and invited 10 Cuban photographers, economists, writers, scientists, poets and other professionals to join with UA Latin American experts for three days of workshops and presentations. The participants exchanged ideas about differences and similarities between the two cultures regarding subjects as varied as baseball, the mambo and drinking-water standards.

The University of Havana hosted a planning session in April of 2006. UA and UH faculty participated in a three-day exchange regarding a range of diverse academic topics to identify areas of interest for teaching and course of study exchanges.

UA’s College of Arts and Sciences again hosted Cuba Week in October of 2010, which included a keynote address by State Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Ron Sparks. More than 20 Cuban scholars came to UA to discuss topics ranging from “Early History and Archaeology of Cuba” and “The State of Ceramic Arts in Cuba” to “The Biodiversity of Cuba: Insights into the Marine and Terrestrial Realms.”

For more information about the Alabama-Cuba Initiative, go to http://cuba.ua.edu/

UA’s College of Arts and Sciences is the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

  • CONTACT: Kelli Wright, communications specialist, College of Arts and Sciences, 205/348-8539, khwright@as.ua.edu