Recent trip to Cuba was memorable for students, faculty

CHADRON – Fifteen Chadron State College students and Dr. Tom Smith, associate professor in the communication and social sciences department, recently returned from an eight-day educational trip to Cuba.

The tour of the island nation culminates the semester long class, Cuba Libre (HUM 401), taught in the Fall 2016 by Smith and Dr. Deane Tucker, professor of English and Humanities. Cuba Libre is a variable credit course and the credit can be applied to a variety of majors, as well as the Essential Studies Program (ESP), including satisfying the ESP Capstone requirement.

“The educational agenda on the ground was intensive, said Smith, who also guided CSC students to Cuba in 2014. “We visited many places so the students learn and experience a radically different society and culture. They immerse themselves as much as they can. The class was really excited about diving into Cuba. They learned a lot.”

Prior to the trip, Smith said he and Tucker take an interdisciplinary approach to teaching students.

“A large part of the class is understanding the political history of Cuba and we convey that to students in an interdisciplinary way, but the real learning is on the ground,” Smith said. “The class adapted well and they were enthusiastic.”

While in Cuba the class learned to salsa dance, visited several museums and the Plaza of the Revolution, took walking tours of plazas, markets and farms, and even saw a performance of “The Nutcracker” by the Cuban National Ballet and Cuban National Symphony at the Gran Teatro de la Habana, or Cuba’s national theatre.

“Our days in Cuba were busy,” Smith said. “We were out of the hotel at 8 a.m. and didn’t return until 6 p.m.”

Smith said the class also experienced how Cubans were mourning the death of Fidel Castro, a national revolutionary and politician who died Nov. 25, 2016.

“There are no advertisements in Cuba but the saying that was everywhere was ‘Somos Fidel,’ meaning ‘We are Fidel.’ The main message by the Cuban people is that the revolution lives,” Smith said. “His death has been a rallying point for them and it was a great experience for our students to see it firsthand.”

The Chadron State Foundation also helped students experience Cuba. Smith said the Foundation helped fund scholarships for all degree seeking students and he and Tucker are appreciative of support from CSC’s administration.

Smith also said he is hopeful Cuba Libre will be offered in the Fall 2017 semester.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for our students,” Smith said. “They can completely immerse themselves into Cuba and relate it to their own academic discipline for credit.”

Alex Helmbrecht, Director of College Relations, Chadron State College

February 1, 2017

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