Hiram College

Scholars from Hiram College’s Garfield Institute for Public leadership will get first-hand look at the state of U.S.- Cuba relations and policies when they visit the island nation during spring break, March 4-9.

Designed as the culminating experience of a political science course, “US-Cuba Relations,” the trip will be led by James Thompson, assistant professor of political science, and include 18 of the 23 undergraduate Garfield Scholars. Preparations for the course and trip began in the fall semester with three lectures by experts on U.S.-Cuba relations, and will end following the trip, when the students will write papers on policies based on their experiences.

“This trip is not only aimed at giving students a historical perspective,” Thompson said, “but to focus on the overriding purpose of the Garfield Institute: public policy. Cuba is changing, and it is a hothouse like very few others, to see, develop and analyze the changes that will inform public policy going forward.”

The trip will begin March 3 with a stop in Miami, where the scholars will tour the “little Havana” expatriate community, and hear a lecture by a survivor of the disastrous Bay of Pigs Invasion of April 1961, in which a CIA-led force of Cuban expatriates were defeated in their attempts to reverse Fidel Castro’s communist revolutionary regime.

They will spend the next two days in Havana, where the Hiram travelers will hear lectures on Cuban history, and have a chance to meet with representatives of the Cuban medical community on the island’s healthcare system. While in the Cuban capital, the students will stay at the Hotel Nacional, a playground for international travelers, gamblers and mobsters in the 1930s and 40s, and will also visit the house where American author Ernest Hemingway lived for many years.

The next two days will take the group outside of Havana to the Cuban countryside, and the small cities of Cienfuego and Trinidad, where they will meet emerging local entrepreneurs, and discuss agricultural and economics with policy farmers and families.

On the way back to Havana the group will stop in Santa Clara, near where revolutionary icon Che Guevara defeated the forces of dictator Fugencio Batista to solidify Castro’s and the revolutionaries’ hold on power in 1959.

The Garfield Institute for Public Leadership prepares students to assume the responsibilities of public leadership by developing expertise in matters of public policy, foreign and domestic, grounded in Hiram’s traditional liberal arts education. The scholars are specially selected for the Institute’s intensive undergraduate public leadership program.

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