Officials at Drake University and the University of Havana have signed a long-term agreement to enhance the academic experience and maximize the educational opportunities that arise from blossoming relations between the United States and Cuba.
The five-year, renewable Memorandum of Understanding between Iowa’s largest private university and Cuba’s largest public university builds upon 30 years research and collaboration between Drake and various groups in Cuba. The schools are now formally committed to ongoing partnership on special programs; research activities; and exchange of faculty, staff, and students.
Drake University President Marty Martin traveled to the University of Havana’s campus to sign the agreement on December 10.
“This partnership is a fine example of Drake becoming a truly global institution of higher education,” Martin said. “Cuba, given its unique place in the world and emerging relationship with the United States, offers a particularly appealing partnership.”
Although relatively few U.S. citizens have set foot in the country since travel restrictions were established in 1963, Drake students, faculty, and community members have been traveling to the country to study law, politics, and agriculture since at least 1985, when Emeritus Professor of Philosophy Jon Torgerson took numerous groups to the country.
More recently, Drake’s Agricultural Law Center has done pioneering research with a faculty member at the University of Havana Law School. Neil Hamilton, the center’s director, works with University of Havana Law School professor Maritza McCormick to study parallels between Cuba’s agrarian land reform program, which transitions state-owned farmland into long term private use agreements, and the challenges faced by new and upcoming farmers in the United States. The research—which began in 2011 and continues next month with a January Term trip to Havana—is designed to aid food production and agricultural law reform in both countries.
The research has established major milestones in the relationship between higher education institutions in the U.S. and Cuba. In 2012, a group of 18 Drake Law students became the first U.S. legal group to visit Cuba to study agricultural law. In April 2013, McCormick delivered a guest lecture at Drake, becoming the first Cuban law professor to visit the U.S. since the 1963 travel embargo.
The formal partnership signed this month between Drake University and the University of Havana places both institutions in a key position to explore new opportunities that arise as U.S./Cuba relations continue to evolve.
“From Drake’s standpoint, part of the University’s interest is to stake a flag, so to speak, as opportunities continue to expand with Cuba,” Hamilton said. “We’re going to see lots of universities and other education programs wanting to go to Cuba.”