Grambling's President visits Cuba to explore educational advantages

Courtesy: GSU
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GRAMBLING, La (GSU News Release) - Grambling State University’s President Dr. Willie D. Larkin is looking to expand both educational borders and the GSU brand in Cuba. As Auburn University’s College of Agriculture and California State University, Fullerton currently have agreements in place with the University of Havana, the possibility for Grambling State to develop such collaborative programs with universities in Cuba is taking shape.

In 2014, President Obama announced that the United States would be restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years. The announcement sparked interest and presented opportunities for entrepreneurs, corporations and for institutions of higher learning to expand their borders.

For the higher education community in particular, the benefits are numerous. According to a 2015 article in The Wall Street Journal, Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business are eager to enroll students from Cuba as soon as possible. “The Cuban market is attractive in part, because the country’s higher-education system has a reputation for developing students who are strong in math and the sciences,” according to Dr. Derrick Bolton, director at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

Grambling State University’s president, Dr. Willie D. Larkin, sees many possible prospects, as well. “One of my goals is to expand Grambling's international footprint over the next 5 years.” Dr. Larkin is currently visiting Cuba to become more acquainted with the country’s culture and educational systems. It is important that all of our supporters know that I am constantly mining for unique advantages for our students, faculty and staff. I am looking for golden prospects, as they relate to higher education. Cuba is a goldmine just waiting to happen.”

The Tom Joyner Foundation is also currently on an educational 4-day exploratory trip in Cuba. A spokesperson for the Foundation noted, “We want to provide an opportunity for HBCU presidents to begin to figure out how Cuba may play a role in providing exciting opportunities for their students and research for their faculty.”

Dr. Larkin continued, “Grambling must get in on the ground floor as the educational prospects open up in Cuba. We cannot be left behind. Other universities are racing to get there, fast and in a hurry! The next major step in the process is to assemble a select group of faculty, administrators and student leadership at Grambling to visit the country and engage in detailed discussions about specific programs and options for a partnership with the university.”

Grambling State University’s Dean of the College of Graduate, Educational and Graduate Studies, Dr. Larnell Flannagan, is in agreement and added, “There are opportunities to partner with the Cuban higher education system to develop faculty and student semester or academic year exchange programs, collaborate with Cuban scholars on research projects, and with the Cuban higher educational system to expand our degree programs in business, teacher education, nursing, social work, criminal justice and STEM fields.”

“Study abroad and student exchange programs, both visiting and hosting, are components of the collaboration incentive of The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), our College of Business accrediting body; these efforts are greatly encouraged”, according to Grambling’s College of Business Interim Dean, Dr. Erick Valentine.

“Art, music, and theatre provide the gateway of opportunity to explore the history of all people, because they serve as the window into the souls of mankind. Collaborations with Cuban artists, professors and their students would be valuable assets to the growth and expansion of our intellectual properties as a university. Creating new paradigms of intellectual and artistic discovery could be viable and worthy entities and would prove to be great vehicles for establishing an exchange program of study for students and faculty alike. The concept of study abroad is the wave of the 21st century; GSU should welcome the opportunity to partnership with Cuba’s academy of scholars who are artists”, according to Dr. King David Godwin, Dean of Grambling’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Larkin noted, “As we have just finalized our Strategic Plan for 2016 - 2021, part of our mission for the University is to seek to reflect in all of its programs the diversity of the world. My visits to Havana, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara and Matanzas have begun the process of educating ourselves on Cuba’s rich culture and strong educational system. Opportunities are before us; we are looking forward to building relationships with this beautiful country.”