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Posted November 22, 2005 by publisher in Cuban Healthcare

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BY EMILY SCHMALL | Miami Herald

The University at Buffalo has a dual-degree program with the University of Havana, the only one in the United States.

The only university to have a graduate level dual-degree program with the University of Havana is 3,000 miles from Cuba in the northernmost reaches of New York state—the University at Buffalo.

The program’s director, professor Jose Buscaglia-Salgado, considers the distance an advantage. ‘‘Buffalo is one of the farthest cities away from Miami,’’ he jokes.

The year 1997 was the first time that U.S. universities were allowed to host study-abroad programs in Cuba.

Buscaglia-Salgado, a fresh recipient of a doctorate from the University at Buffalo, part of the State University of New York, recalls the excitement of the time.

‘I went up to the vice provost of international education. I walked into his office and I introduced myself and said, `I’m interested in starting a study-abroad program in Cuba.’ He stood up, he opened his arms, and said, ‘Jose, I’ve been waiting for 20 years for someone to come through my door and say those exact words.’ ‘’

Thus the exhausting process began of building a program that satisfied U.S. government regulations and followed a Cuban curriculum. The first year, Buscaglia led five students on a one-month study venture in Havana. By 2001, he had proposed developing a joint-degree program with the University of Havana for bilingual U.S. and Caribbean students.

‘‘The university gave me its full support, even though this was a very precarious bridge we were crossing,’’ Buscaglia said. In 2003, the master’s in Caribbean studies program opened its doors.

Then the government changed the rules. In June 2004, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issued two regulations regarding travel to Cuba: Cubans living in the United States can visit relatives on the island once every three years, and students attending study-abroad programs must stay in Cuba for at least 10 weeks.

According to the U.S. Treasury, the regulation has curtailed Cuban-American travel to Cuba by 60 percent. Only one-third of ‘‘special travel’’ visas—including for academic study—have been granted.

More than 60 programs across the country were forced to stop operating, including the program at Florida International University, whose Cuban Research Institute produces the largest body of scholarship on Cuba in the United States.

Jose Gabilondo, a law professor at FIU who goes to Cuba on special visas at least twice a year, says the latest regulations for scholars of Cuba “displace academic collaboration to the detriment of U.S. universities.’‘

The University at Buffalo decided this was the time to expand its program. Having secured a pact in 2003 with the University at Havana for students to receive a dual degree by splitting their time between the two schools, Buffalo welcomed its first master’s in Caribbean studies class last fall.

All students spend the first semester of the two-year program in Cuba, the second in Buffalo and the third anywhere from the Yucatn in Mexico to Kingston, Jamaica. Buffalo has partnered with six institutions throughout the Caribbean. Students write their thesis during the final semester in Buffalo or Havana. So far, only one student from Cuba has been able to attend.

Last fall, Buscaglia recruited three Cuban students. Only one came: Denisse Rondon, the curator of fine arts at Casa de las Americas, a publishing house, art gallery and speakers’ forum in Havana.

She enrolled in the program because she saw it as the academic parallel to the work she was doing at the Casa de las Americas with Caribbean art. Aside from practicality, however, she saw a greater opportunity. ‘‘I think it’s the responsibility of young students to translate the dialogue between these two countries that are so close and so alike to one another in many ways,’’ she said. “Student exchange will have a really positive effect because it operates under a principle of total respect and democracy.’‘

Although Rondon doesn’t know whether she’ll be granted a visa to return to Buffalo in the spring for graduation, her presence this past spring was a major victory for the program.

The privilege of studying in the United States, however, has turned out to be somewhat of a mixed blessing for Rondon, who is now back in Cuba.

She explained: “There’s not a lot of opportunity for Cuban people to go abroad, and when you go off to study, you can feel the difference with the rest of the young people when you return. You come back to your country basically thinking in another way and with an open mind and with an experience it’s impossible to get in Cuba.’’

  1. Follow up post #1 added on January 03, 2006 by Bohlouli

    I am an Iranian MD and I intend to apply for postgraduation study in one of medical universities in Cuba,Would you please name me those universities.
           


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