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UConn Wins Grant for US-Cuba Student Research Exchange Program

UConn Wins Grant for US-Cuba Student Research Exchange Program

The 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund has awarded UConn with a grant to establish a U.S.-Cuban exchange program aimed at studying food production and security.

Read more below.

Anna Zarra Aldrich & Jessica McBride, Office of the Vice President for Research

The University of Connecticut (UConn) has received a grant from the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund for a U.S.-Cuban exchange program aimed at studying food production and security. The project is the culmination of collaborations between UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, the Office of Global Affairs, and Cuban partner institutions.

The 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund is the dynamic public-private sector partnership between the U.S. Department of State, Partners of the Americas, and NAFSA: Association of International Educators. The fund aims to increase the number of U.S. students studying abroad in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Marlene M. Johnson Innovation Challenge that is supporting this project is sponsored by the Association of International Educators and CAF Development Bank of Latin America.

The grant will cover the study abroad expenses of 12 UConn undergraduate students from the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources and six Cuban graduate students from the country’s leading agricultural schools, the Instituto of Ciencia Animal, Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Agrícolas, Centro Nacional de Sanidad Agropecuaria and Universidad Agraria de La Habana.

UConn students will work with a diverse group of Cuban professionals and workers including farmers, government officials, scientists, urban agriculture practitioners and community leaders to learn about the history and future of food production and stability.

According to collaborators from UConn, the project will foster student mobility and allow them to interact with people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds whom they are unlikely to encounter at home.

“This exchange system will help students nurture a greater understanding of the culture of another people and promote a sense of global humanitarian responsibility,” said the Principal Investigator of the project, UConn Global Training and Development Institute Director, Dr. Roy Pietro. “We hope that participation in the program will help students from both nations expand their world views, understand a different culture, and form lasting connections that will promote continued communication between individuals from the two countries.”

On a larger scale, the program aims to encourage cooperation between the U.S. and Cuba on vital economic, environmental and societal issues that impact agriculture. Ideally, this increased cooperation will alleviate historical tensions to promote significant mutual interests in both nations.

Pietro and co-PIs Ana Legrand and Guillermo Risatti are confident that the program will attract students interested in studying food systems to consider performing research in Cuba given the program’s targeting research focus and financial support that alleviates the economic burden of studying abroad.

The collaborative relationship between UConn and this Cuban educational and research consortium  was established in January 2017 with the support of UConn’s Office of Global Affairs and encourages an enhanced level of understanding and appreciation of each other’s culture, society, values, and institutions after participating in the program; and that they will gain new knowledge and insights into issues and challenges around agriculture. The exchange program and collaborative relationship is supported jointly by UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources and Global Affairs.

Students involved in the program will travel to Cuba for two weeks in May 2018. Cuban students are expected to participate in the exchange during two weeks over the summer of 2018.

Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI)

Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI)


Since fall 2015, the University of Connecticut (UConn) has welcomed over 100 student leaders from Southeast Asia to work on social entrepreneurship and economic development!

The Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) on Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Development will be hosted by UConn each fall and spring semester – (four weeks on campus, one week study tour). Each institute comprises of 21 college student leaders from ten countries in Southeast Asia: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The educational and cultural exchange program is developed and delivered

YSEALI Spring 2017
YSEALI Spring 2017 participants enjoy snow at UConn.

by the University’s Global Training and Development Institute (GTDI). Numerous faculty members from throughout our institution will be participating in these five week programs, along with subject matter experts from institutions of higher education across New England. The GTDI is partnering with UPEACE on this program. UPEACE’s work in advancing social entrepreneurship is well known and highly regarded across the globe. This Institute is sponsored by the Study of the U.S. Branch in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Student Leader Institutes promote a better understanding of the U.S. abroad and help to develop future world leaders. These Institutes explore the principles of democracy and fundamental American values such as individual rights, freedom of expression, pluralism and tolerance, and volunteerism. Participants have the opportunity to meet their American peers, engage in local community service activities, and learn about the United States. The specific program objectives of this institute are to: 1) deepen participant understanding of the U.S.; 2) provide participants with an overview of how to use business techniques and entrepreneurial skills to address social issues; and 3) develop participants’ leadership and collective problem-solving skills, and inspire them to apply these skills.

YSEALI Fall 2017
YSEALI Fall 2017 visit the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.

The curriculum will cover several fields of study including: Political Science, American Studies, History, Business, Leadership Development, International Studies, Environmental Studies, Women’s Studies, Global Citizenship, and Civil and Human Rights. Through a creative mix of workshops, group exercises, site visits, homestays, and cultural activities, participants will explore the defining events, time periods, and leaders in American history who addressed social issues and shaped the evolution of the U.S. Participants will develop a social entrepreneurship project idea and business plan during the program. The UConn based portion of the program will conclude with business plan presentations from each participant. The program will include project start-up funds (to be awarded on a competitive basis) and follow-up support for participants when they return home and launch their social entrepreneurship ventures.

The four week intensive residential program at UConn’s main campus in Storrs, CT, will be followed by a week-long trip to cultural sites of significance in New City, Philadelphia, and Washington DC. The short-term anticipated result of the program is that participants will gain a deeper understanding of the U.S. and social entrepreneurship. In the long-term, we hope that they will stay in touch with new American friends and use these new relationships to build stronger international ties. In addition, we hope that participants will use new knowledge and skills to address social issues and transfer lessons learned to their home community.

For more information, contact: Global Training and Development Institute at 860-486-0235