Communist Cuba, the island nation spurned for half a century by its giant capitalist neighbor, the United States, will be the subject of study for two courses next spring that includes trips there by students of the School of Business Administration.
Students will see the Cuban economy from different perspectives during the separate eight-day trips.
Since the 1959 overthrow of a dictatorial government, Cuba has sought to create one of the purest forms of communism in the world and its economy and culture present many worthwhile learning opportunities, according to Dr. Bill Andrews, Management and International Business chair, who will lead groups of undergraduates and graduates on the field studies.
Andrews, an expert on entrepreneurship and business strategy, has traveled in Cuba twice in the last decade, once leading a group of Stetson business students. The enterprise of the industrious Cuban people and their entrepreneurship will be one focus of the trips.
“Entrepreneurship is a way of life there,” Andrews said.
“The Cubans are trying, with small scale entrepreneurship, to find ways to work around laws against private initiative. The current system forces citizens to spurn the law,” he said. “That is a troublesome cultural habit to instill in one’s citizenry.”
The government controls virtually all business, he said. It sets prices, rations goods, restricts capital investment and controls workers. Nearly all Cuban workers draw a small monthly stipend from the government and are issued ration cards to buy certain staples. The official line is that everything else is free or nearly so – housing, education, health care and other basic services.
“The truth of the matter is that monthly earnings of the Cubans with whom I spoke were depleted after only a week or two,” said Andrews, reflecting on his previous trips. “This leaves the whole population scrambling around looking for ways to make a buck to survive for the last two weeks of the month.”
“So what you have is a very enterprising population operating within a system that constrains them from any level of prosperity.”
He wants students to see the power of ideas at work in Cuba.
“The Cuban system is an object lesson on the power of bad ideas. I don’t preach that – it’s on display in force,” he said. “From a pedagogical perspective, it is important for students to see that ideas have consequences – and that well-intended idealism can be highly dysfunctional.
“Fortunately, there are some very encouraging signs associated with the leadership transition going on in Cuba, so it is an exciting time for one to be introduced to the Island.”
Andrews plans to have students meet with Cuban government officials as well as officials of the United States Special Interests Section. The section functions as an “embassy” in the absence of official diplomatic relations, severed in 1961.
An afternoon session discussing bilateral relations with students at the University of Havana is also planned. Several of the European and Latin American multi-national corporations operating there will also make presentations to the group.
“Of course, we also have some great cultural and historical visits planned,” added Andrews.
The trips are only part of the course work associated with the classes.
“We have been careful to ensure academic coherence and rigor in designing these programs. We want to make sure that students have the background to fully appreciate what they see there,” said Andrews.
Both courses have been approved by the business faculty and dean and await final academic approval. Andrews anticipates no problems. Undergraduates will make the trip in January and graduate students will go in March. Each will explore three areas of the island – Havana, Cienfuegos, and Trinidad, each with differing economies.
“We only anticipate taking about 15 students on each trip, so interested students should contact me as soon as possible,” noted Andrews.
For more information about the courses and the study trips, contact Dr. William Andrews in the Department of Management and International Business by phone at (386) 822-7430 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.