Ten faculty members in the College of Education at Michigan State University recently returned from a study tour of Cuba. With one the highest literacy rates in the world and a historically restricted relationship with the United States, Cuba offers a particularly unique opportunity to explore another nation’s education system.
The MSU group interacted with educators and leaders at various types of schools, community programs and the University of Havana. They also experienced the Caribbean country’s art, music, food and culture.
“As a college, we take seriously the responsibility that our undergraduate and graduate students should be globally conscious and competent,” said Reitu Mabokela, assistant dean of international studies and a leader of the trip. “This is evidenced by programs such as the Fellowship to Enhance Global Understanding and the Global Educators Cohort Program.
“If we expect our students to be globally competent, we need to have faculty members who are also globally competent.”
The tour was coordinated by Donna Rich Kaplowitz, a Cuba scholar and MSU faculty member in the Residential College and Arts and Humanities. Michael Kaplowitz, chairperson of the Department of Community Sustainability at MSU, also participated in the six-day trip.
The College of Education delegation included (from Educational Administration) Muhammad Khalifa; (from Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education) Richard Prawat, Cindy Okolo and John Carlson; and (from Teacher Education) Terry Flennaugh, David Stroupe, Chris Kaiser, Susannnah Van Horn and Gail Richmond.
Richmond said it was a powerful experience, in which she learned about and with her colleagues, and about issues of educational access and equity. Cuba’s school system is fully state-supported.
“It reminded me of how much we don’t know about Cuba, and it’s only 100 miles south of Florida,” said Richmond, who believes Cuba would also be a valuable destination for a graduate student study tour. “The people there were very approachable. No matter what the politics, we really value the exchange of ideas.”