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2012.07.16 > For Immediate Release
contact: Tim Kaldahl - University Relations
phone: 402.554.3502 - email: tkaldahl@unomaha.edu

UNO Students Take Study Abroad Trip to Cuba

Omaha - As a part of the University of Nebraska at Omaha Office of Latino/Latin American Studies Summer 2012 Study Abroad Program, faculty member Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado will lead six UNO students on a travel study trip to Cuba to engage in an innovative service-learning experience in conjunction with the course LLS 4950/8956 – Latin American Travel Study Abroad: Cuba in the 21st Century.

The UNO delegation will collaborate with Proyecto Espiral, a Cuban community service organization made up of students and young professionals, to assist Okan-Tomi, a community-based Afro-Cuban collective dedicated to preservation and advancement of dance and culture, in the renovation of their theater in the Havana suburb of Marianao. Benjamin-Alvarado is a professor of political science and assistant director of the Office of Latino and Latin American Studies of the Great Plains. The UNO group will be in Cuba July 15 through 22.

The trip includes lectures and conversations with Cuban academics, artists, community activists and students, as well as, visiting schools, museums and touring the greater Havana area. The course focuses on Cuba’s attempts to maintain a semblance of order and sustainability in the midst of dramatic changes taking place in the politics, economy, environment and society of the island nation.

"This promises to be a unique and transformative experience for the students because through service learning they will become a part of the change they are seeing on the island, and in a small but meaningful way, they become a part of that legacy.”

“One thing that excites me the most about traveling to Cuba is being able to see first hand how Cuba has developed since the Cuban Revolution,” said UNO student Gabriel Gutierrez. “It will be interesting to see if Cuba is really like so many people in the U.S. imagine it.”

UNO graduate student Lisa Kent adds, “I am learning something new, seeing new places, experiencing something that I have never experienced before. This may sound overly simplistic, but is is so true, just the sense of experiencing something that I have never experienced before excites me!”

Benjamin-Alvarado’s long-term objective is for UNO students to leave their mark on the theater and pave the way for delegations of dancers and artists from Nebraska to begin an exchange with Okan Tomi, with the first exchange taking place in the summer of 2014.

“The real prize will be when we bring them to here to Omaha,” he said. “It will be a real celebration of collaboration and solidarity of something of great importance to both societies.”

In addition, the students will maintain a blog during the trip and will be regularly posting reflections and pictures from the trip. The blog will go live on July 13 and can be accessed at http://www.unomaha.edu/ollas/Cuba2012.php. For more information contact: Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado, (402) 960-3846 or jalvarado@unomaha.edu.

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The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s metropolitan university. The core values of the institution place students at the center of all that the university does; call for the campus to strive for academic excellence; and promote community engagement that transforms and improves urban, regional, national and global life. UNO, inaugurated in 1968, emerged from the Municipal University of Omaha, established in 1931, which grew out of the University of Omaha founded in 1908.

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