The recent issue of the prestigious International Educator magazine featured a detailed, scholarly article by Janet Hulstrand, entitled, "Partnering with Cuba: New Opportunities for Forming Collaborative Academic Initiatives."
She writes: "The recent restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba has inspired a flurry of interest in establishing academic partnerships with institutions of higher education in Cuba. And while organizations have been working consistently and diligently over years to encourage, promote and support collaboration between U. S. and Cuban institutions of higher education, the recent changes have inspired new initiatives that can be helpful to institutions that want to form partnerships with institutions in Cuba."
One of those scholars who Hulstrand quotes at length about how to approach building relationships with Cuban institutions, is Ann Marie Stock, William and Mary's libraries scholar and a professor of Hispanic studies and film and media.
Hulstrand notes that Stock attended a film festival in Havana in 1989, where she developed relationships with Cuban filmmakers, film critics, festival organizers, and others in the world of Cuban film. Later, as the director of William and Mary's Reves Center for International Studies, she didn't want to do a traditional study abroad program.
"I sought instead to develop partnerships that would allow us to serve a range of student learning needs – everything from conducting undergraduate research to blending learning and practice through internships. I also wanted to engage in true collaboration, so that both my institution and that of our partner would benefit." Stock is quoted saying.
Through her attendance at film conferences, Stock had met the leadership team of the Fundacion Ludwig de Cuba, a non-governmental, autonomous, non-profit cultural organization. They talked about possibilities for teaming up.
"Because I knew them, and because we shared an appreciation for Cuban culture, it was quite easy to begin working together. They hosted William & Mary students at their location ... I was serving as a member of the board of their sister organization in New York, and invited some of the Cuban artist and filmmakers who worked with them to come to William & Mary. We have a rich and multifaceted partnership that has been in place for almost 20 years," Stock said.
Stock told Hulstrand, "I have three words of advice for colleagues who may want to set up a partnership with a Cuban institution. Listen, look, learn. We know so little about the island from the perspective of those living there ... Think about all you don't know, and be receptive to developing a more nuanced understanding ... Cuba is not frozen in time. It is a dynamic place that has undergone remarkable changes."
She added, "It is important that Cuban partners know our motivations, our goals, and that they trust us as professionals and as educators. This only happens through personal attention, and constant contact."
I asked Stock what she considers the major achievement of her more than two-decades-long relationship with Cuba in the field of education and cultural exchange.
"Being an effective "connector," she said. "I am pleased to have helped hundreds of individuals and organizations – in Cuba, in the U.S. and elsewhere – develop relationships, enhance their understanding of one another, and collaborate in meaningful ways."
Stock has been interacting with Cuba, as a scholar, teacher, consultant and friend for 28 years. "William & Mary has been a wonderful base from which to work," she said. "I dream of leading one day a foundation that would continue to build bridges between our two countries. We have a shared history ... there is so much potential."
Shatz is a Williamsburg resident. He is the author of "Reports from a Distant Place," a compilation of his selected columns. The book is available at Bruton Parish Shop and Amazon.com.