Auburn University’s exchange programs with Cuba creating opportunities for campus and community

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Less than a year since President Obama announced the U.S. would reopen diplomatic relations with Cuba, Auburn University has been energetically working on developing partnerships and exchanges with the island nation.

Auburn's College of Agriculture and two Cuban universities signed a historic agreement in May to create a five-year instructional and research partnership among the institutions. University Outreach, the Office of International Programs and other university divisions also are creating opportunities for faculty, students and community partners to visit and develop collaborative interests with Cuban institutions.

In February, University Outreach launched the first of what is now a series of regular exchange delegation visits to Cuba for both campus and public participants.

"I visited Cuba along with several university faculty and other interested parties," said Royrickers Cook, assistant vice president for University Outreach. "It was an informative and fascinating trip, and I could readily see the possibilities for future educational exchanges between Auburn and institutions on the island."

University Outreach conducted two subsequent tours to Cuba with delegations including university academic officials, business leaders and alumni. While in Cuba, participants were able to meet with counterparts in government offices, universities and businesses on the island. "The goal of our delegations is to explore evolving educational and business interests in Cuba," Cook said. "We must be ready to act upon these opportunities as we strive to better Alabama's economy and quality of life for our residents."

The Office of International Programs is promoting opportunities for the university and community to explore Cuban interests. International Programs will host a dinner on Nov. 16 with Ambassador Carlos Alzugaray Treto, Cuban diplomat, writer and educator. Treto will present a lecture titled "Cuba and the United States: What Kind of Leadership for Change?" The dinner and lecture are by invitation only for members of the Auburn community with a demonstrated interest in Cuba; however, interested parties can contact Jenn Mason, director of international initiatives, at for an invitation on a space-available basis.

"We are excited to provide faculty and the community an opportunity to interact with Carlos and learn more about today's Cuba as opportunities for collaboration begin to open," said Andy Gillespie, assistant provost for international programs.

"Establishing relationships is the key to creating substantive partnerships with Cuba," said Chippewa Thomas, University Outreach director of faculty engagement. "We plan to offer several more delegation tours to Cuba in 2016." For more information on these tours, contact Chippewa Thomas at or (334) 844-5701.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.