Former President Barack Obama made his historic first trip to Cuba last March.
The Rolling Stones entertained more than 200,000 in Havana that same week.
Later this month, junior Journalism major Tai Jackson from Tacoma and 14 of her classmates are following in their footsteps, and traveling to Cuba. This expedition will be Tai’s first international trip, and she is delighted.
Tai’s enthusiasm about her upcoming adventure to the once off-limits island is infectious. The study-abroad trip is sponsored by the College of Arts and Humanities’ interdisciplinary program, Africana and Black Studies (ABS). Students were also recruited for the Cuba trip by CWU’s Scholars Without Borders, which champions diversity and inclusiveness and promotes international travel to produce culturally sensitive graduates.
The nine-day Cuba visit will take place over spring break. It is the culminating experience of the ABS Seminar, “Afro-Cuba: Art, Politics, and Education.” For ABS Director and English Professor Dr. Bobby Cummings, this will be her second trip to Cuba. Her initial venture was five years ago as part of a People-to-People exchange. This trip will be her first visit leading students to the island nation.
Accompanying the students and Dr. Cummings for the trip are: ABS/English instructor Xavier Cavazos, Political Science Associate Professor Dr. Gilberto Garcia, and academic advisor Saeed Mohamed.
Dr. Cummings, who has taught and mentored students at Central Washington University for 26 years, is already challenging the team-taught, interdisciplinary seminar students to leave their preconceived notions behind.
In preparation for the trip and especially during their week-plus time in Cuba, ABS students will be repeatedly asked to examine their perceptions and assumptions about life on the island, and most important to ask questions.
“Has the revolution worked?” Dr. Cummings rhetorically asked in preparation for the questions she will pose to students. “If not, why not? We want our students to demonstrate their critical thinking as a result of their direct experience in Cuba.”
Students will explore various issues – including the career of Fidel Castro and the impact of the Cuban Missile Crisis. They will also learn about the complicated landscape of Cuba’s culture, including art, literature, architecture, dance, music, education, religion, and to the delight of all, food.
For Tai, who has both Japanese and African roots, she always thought her first trip overseas would be to Japan. She is thrilled to find herself preparing for a very different international expedition. She is especially eager to immerse herself in multiple cultures and to embrace a different perspective.
Dr. Cummings knows from experience that life in Cuba will be an eye-opening experience for the 15-student delegation, and she is personally interested in observing the pace of change in the country since her 2012 visit.
Cummings, who earned her Ph.D in Rhetoric Composition and Urban Education from the University of Michigan, remembers Havana being pitch black at night because of electrical blackouts. Cell phone connections simply did not work.
Dr. Cummings and her students are prepping for a transformational international experience that will broaden their horizons, enrich their minds and engage their hearts.