BHC president visits Cuba; closer ties may result
Posted: Friday, March 6, 2015 8:26 pm | Updated: 11:48 pm, Fri Mar 6, 2015.
MOLINE -- A trip to Cuba could mean closer ties between America's neighbor and Black Hawk College.
Black Hawk President Bettie A. Truitt was among a group of Illinois community college officials who visited the island nation from Feb. 15 to 22. The trip was organized by the Illinois Community College Board and the delegation met Cuban professors, students and education administrators, and observed farming and small-business practices.
Ms. Truitt said she hopes to establish exchange programs for professors and students. She is already working to bring one professor, Mario Mas Vidal, to Black Hawk as a speaker because his lecture on Cuba's history and culture impressed her so much.
"We're thinking he would be a great fit for our students," she said.
His talk, early on in the trip, spanned the era from around the Cuban Revolution to the 1990s, when Cuba experienced scarce food and limited electricity because of the loss of support from the Soviet Union after that nation broke up.
She said she would like to give other professors the same opportunity and establish an exchange for students, first in the arts -- where she said the Cubans have put a lot of emphasis -- but later broadening it to other fields.
Adding a section on Cuban art into Black Hawks' art appreciation classes is another idea Ms. Truitt is considering, she said.
The group also visited a family that raised goats and produced honey and fruit on a small farm, she said. The farm was largely self-sufficient.
Cuba's government has begun allowing small-scale entrepreneurs to operate businesses like restaurants, often from their homes, she said.
The farm family, for example, was running a small pottery business to supplement their income from agriculture, Ms. Truitt said.
There is a lot of opportunity there for an exchange of ideas on business practice, she said.
Ms. Truitt said she found the Cubans warm and hopeful.
In December, President Barack Obama announced that the United States will try to normalize relations with the island nation.
The U.S.'s relationship with Cuba, which has a communist government, has been dangerous at worst and chill at best for decades. Travel between the two nations has long been heavily restricted.
"They're (the Cubans) looking to America for what their tomorrow is going to look like," Ms. Truitt said.