Canyon, TX - West Texas A&M faculty are preparing for a historic trip to Cuba that will mark the beginning of a new opportunity for the university and their students.
The Institute of International Education asked WTAMU and eleven other universities to help make a country once off limits to students, now available. Together, the universities will create an exchange program that will put their students at the forefront of a new educational experience and give other universities across the nation an example to follow.
Students at WTAMU have studied in more than 50 countries across the globe, but Cuba is not one of them.
That is something professor Paul Clark hopes to change. "If we get a reciprocal exchange going, our students and our faculty will be able to go down, their students and their faculty will be able to come up here and we'll be able to learn a great deal more about each other and maybe break down some of the barriers we've been encountering over the years," explained Clark.
A team of faculty is visiting Cuba in October, which will be the first step in expanding educational horizons between Cuba and the Panhandle. "So we'll go down and make contacts," said Clark. "We'll be visiting with seven or eight different universities in Cuba, not just the University of Havana, but seven or eight other universities. Many have never been able to study abroad and they've never been able to leave the country."
The team will spend the next six months studying the pros and cons of a possible exchange program and how it would work.
Clark believes an exchange would benefit WTAMU. "It will allow our students to learn different kinds of Caribbean Spanish, which we are really in no position to learn right now. We'll be able to learn about some of their farming techniques and of course the reciprocal will be the same. They will be able to learn from us and we will be able to learn from them. It's really a terrific opportunity."
It's an opportunity that has not been available for more than 50 years. "This is very much a historical moment for us at WT and to be in on the ground floor is quite an honor," said Clark.
If all goes well with the planning process, Clark said WTAMU students could be studying in Cuba within 12 to 18 months.