Faculty-Led Cuba Study Abroad Program Planned for May 2018

Posted on 10/12/2017 9:47:41 AM

Jose Marti statue in Cienfuegos, CubaIUP and other Pennsylvania State System students now have the opportunity to participate in a faculty-led study abroad program to Cuba, a country that few Americans have been able to visit for the last half-century. A limited number of State System faculty and staff may participate, as well. The program is planned for May 12–24, 2018. The information and application are posted on IUP’s Education Abroad website.  

The Cuba program will have a table at IUP’s Education Abroad Fair on Wednesday, October 18, from noon to 3:00 in the HUB Atrium.

Information sessions for the Cuba program will be held on the following dates:

  • Thursday, October 19
    6:30–7:30 p.m.
    Humanities and Social Sciences Building, Room 217
  • Wednesday, October 25
    6:00–7:00 p.m.
    Humanities and Social Sciences Building, Room 125

The study abroad program will include a three-credit course titled “Cuba, Yesterday and Today” about the island’s history, culture, and society. At IUP the course can count toward graduation, as well as for a minor in Latin American Studies and/or in Pan-African Studies.

Spanish skills are not required for the program, as interpreters will be provided for classes and tours. Participants will have contact with Cubans in various contexts throughout the experience, including opportunities to engage with Cubans who work in their academic or professional field.  

The program’s faculty leader is Marveta Ryan-Sams, an associate professor of Spanish in the Department of Foreign Languages and coordinator of the Pan-African Studies program. Ryan-Sams has been teaching Spanish language and Latin American culture at IUP since 1999 and has led two study abroad programs to Mexico.

“Cuba is culturally, politically, and economically very different from the US. No matter what your academic major or professional area, there is something interesting to explore and learn in Cuba,” Ryan-Sams said. “I have visited Cuba four times between 1996 and 2016 for research and conferences; every time, I learn and see different aspects of the island. I am glad that undergraduates can now travel there, since that was not allowed when I was in college.”  

In 2015, changes in US law made it easier for US citizens to travel to Cuba for academic and professional purposes and for people-to-people cultural programs. Since that time, thousands of Americans have visited the island. Ryan-Sams spent spring break of 2016 in Cuba, taking part in an educational tour about Afro-Cuban cultures and religions. The tour was co-hosted by Civitas Global Educational Services and the Universidad de Cienfuegos, an institution on Cuba’s southern coast. Civitas is handling logistics for the 2018 program, which will have classes on UCf’s campus.

Civitas and UCf co-host an annual conference on international education, which in October 2015 was attended by Michele Petrucci, associate vice president for International Education and Global Engagement (Office of International Education) and by Yaw Asamoah, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Since their trip, IUP has worked to establish an agreement with UCf and a relationship with Civitas.

Red classic car in front of a green house in Cuba The 2018 program is still being planned, despite the US government’s issuing a travel warning on September 29, 2017. The warning was a response to incidents of sonic attacks on US diplomatic staff in Havana, incidents that began in late 2016. Investigations about the source and nature of the attacks are ongoing. The IUP Cuba program continues to recruit participants because of the apparently specific and targeted nature of the attacks, and because there has not been evidence that non-diplomatic persons were harmed in these incidents.  

If you have questions, please contact Ryan-Sams at mmryan@iup.edu.