Augustana receives medal honouring 20-year partnership

Presented by the provost of the Universidad de Oriente in Santiago de Cuba, the medal recognizes the importance of university partnerships.

Debbie Yee - 30 August 2023

University of Alberta representatives with the medal presented by the Universidad de Oriente.
University of Alberta representatives with the medal presented by the Universidad de Oriente. Left to right: Karsten Mündel, Dean Demetres Tryphonopoulous, Provost Verna Yiu, Sandra Rein and Roger Epp (former dean of Augustana).

In April 2023, as part of a 75th Anniversary Celebration of the founding of Universidad de Oriente (UO), in Santiago de Cuba, its provost awarded the Augustana Faculty with a gold medal recognizing the strength of the partnership and the importance of a continued relationship between the universities. 

In particular, the provost’s declaration cites the contributions of professors Sandra Rein, Karsten Mündel, Russell Cobb, Frank Tough, Roger Epp and many other scholars who have enriched the relationship through their participation in workshops and teaching at Oriente. The participation of University of Alberta undergraduate students in the Canadian Studies-focused workshop is also highlighted as an important contribution.

The relationship between the U of A and Universidad de Oriente began in 2000 and has continued with successive Memoranda of Understandings since 2011. The core program in the partnership is a faculty-led semester abroad in Santiago de Cuba, originally led by Roger Milbrandt, who received an award in 2007 from UO for his work establishing the program. In 2008, program leadership transferred to Rein, who still leads the program.

For the program, U of A students can take up to 15 credits in a variety of subjects that include Cuban politics, fieldwork practice (coastal and agricultural focus), history, film and art studies.  All U of A students must also take six credits in Spanish (ranging from beginner to advanced and interpretation studies). In addition, there are Community Service-Learning components to courses and the opportunity to participate in the Annual Canadian Studies seminar during an international conference hosted by Universidad de Oriente. 

Rein explains, “One of the impactful and meaningful elements of this program is that English Language majors at Oriente are able to complete their practicum by providing simultaneous translation for courses delivered in Spanish by Cuban professors (excluding language courses, of course!). Because it is extremely difficult to travel outside of Cuba for undergraduate students, this is a key ‘exchange’ for them.” During the program, students live with Cuban families and are embedded in local community organizations and family units. 

Running alternate years since its beginning, more than 200 U of A students have participated in the program (frequently with the support of U of A International funding) and more than 250 Cuban students have completed their practicum requirements within the program.