Mays Business School hosted an inaugural visit to Texas A&M University of distinguished faculty from The University of Havana in Cuba. After meeting with Mays Professor Don Lewis, assistant director of Startup Aggieland, and with Professor Richard Lester, executive director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE), through Mays’ Center for International Business Studies, faculty were invited by CNVE to visit Lewis and Lester this summer in Aggieland. Lewis and Lester met the faculty in January while leading Texas A&M’s first study abroad trip to Cuba.
Three professors from The University of Havana accepted CNVE’s offer, including Anicia Garcia Alvarez, Jose Luis Perello Cabrera and Humberto Blanco Rosales. Alvarez and Rosales are expert economists, while Cabrera is a tourism expert. The cadre arrived in Texas from New York on May 31, but not without challenges as airplanes were late or diverted to different airports and required last-minute, late pickups.
During their first day on campus, Lewis introduced his Cuban guests to representatives with the Association of Former Students (AFS). The AFS provided a tour of campus, including visits to the George Bush Presidential Library, Kyle Field and Memorial Student Center. On the second day, Cuban faculty toured Mays Business School with management faculty members, including Department Head Wendy Boswell and Professor David Flint. Katy Lane with the Center for International Business Studies also joined the tour.
“This inaugural visit by faculty from The University of Havana is the start of a new global collaboration for Texas A&M with a country that has been closed off to Americans for a half-century,” explained Lewis. “The opportunities for both universities are endless and exciting. We look forward to sharing research and innovations with the Cubans and helping each other through joint initiatives.”
Former AFS Chair Jorge Bermudez, a retired Citibank executive and Cuban-born immigrant to the U.S., hosted Cuban faculty on a tour of the Federal Reserve Bank. Lewis’ students from his 2015 study abroad class and Startup Aggieland joined the visiting faculty membesr in Downtown Historic Bryan for the monthly “First Friday” event. AFS President-Elect Phil Miner, founder of The Miner Corporation in San Antonio, hosted the visitors on a tour of NASA and the Port of Houston – then attended an Astros game at Reliant Stadium.
The Cuban faculty members toured the Engineering Innovation Center on June 6 with engineering faculty Magda Lagoudas and Rodney Boehm, then enjoyed dinner at Christopher’s. The next day, they visited the College of Architecture, where Dean Jorge Vanegas hosted a tour of the Live Lab and Viz Arts programs, in addition to the BIM Cave. Faculty later visited the Corps of Cadets Museum and Miramont Country Club, then celebrated new faculty friends from architecture and Mays at Sodolack’s Original Steakhouse, where Rosales was surprised with a “Texas-sized” steak that hung over the serving platter.
On June 9, the day before the end of their 11-day visit, visiting faculty delivered presentations on tourism and the economy in Cuba for a classroom of Texas A&M University faculty, students and former students after a breakfast at Startup Aggieland. Upon their return to Cuba, Cabrera wrote Lewis a note:
“Dear Don. I want to thank all (for) their attention and efforts on the days we were there, where we learned the ways to achieve greater development. The days we stayed, were exploited to the maximum, at least for me. Convey my thanks to all (who) shared their time and chores: Shelly, Abby, Phil, Richard; and others. It is painful for us not to correspond with the same attention. At least for now…see you soon!”
Lewis will return to Havana in January 2017 with another group of students from Texas A&M for a two-week immersion experience in Cuban culture and entrepreneurship. Students will stay mostly in hostels. For more information about the trip, email Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to https://mays.tamu.edu/center-for-international-business-studies/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2015/03/Cuba-Winter-2017.pdf
Read a past student participant’s blog here: mays.tamu.edu/cuba/