Faculty Find Ways to Incorporate Cuba into Classroom

By Dr. Chad Stebbins
Director, Institute of International Studies

Missouri Southern faculty incorporated Cuba into the classroom in a number of ways, although some found it more difficult than with previous themed countries.

“I have a Botanical Bulletin Board on the third floor of Reynolds Hall, and during the fall semesters I always try to put up information about the flora of the country,” said Dr. Dorothy Bay, biology. “Cuba was very difficult because they have destroyed most of the native vegetation, but I did come up with a few articles. We also covered Cuba in Economic Botany, which I teach every fall.”

Terry Marion, business, invited Mark Hitt, administrator for the International Marketing Program of the Missouri Department of Agriculture to his Current Issues in International Business class to discuss economic conditions and prospects for Missouri agricultural interests in Cuba. Marion also had students build a display and two bulletin boards featuring Cuba and campus activities.

Rusty Raymond, music, discussed the use of Cuban rhythms in Harry Connick Jr.’s “It Must’ve Been Ol’ Santa Claus. Raymond also attended an open clinic/masterclass on Cuban music and drumming by Cuban percussionist Michael Spiro and discussed it with his Concert Band class.

The music department, which brought Spiro to campus, had the artist-in-residence speak to a Music Appreciation class and perform with the Southern Jazz Orchestra. The ensemble premiered music commissioned especially for the Cuba Semester, including “Cubaneando” (Cuban jazz mombo), an original composition by Dr. Robert Washut from the University of Northern Iowa.

Dr. David Locher, sociology, discussed Cuban society and culture in his Introduction to Sociology classes and used Cuba as a contrasting example throughout the semester. He also required his students to attend a minimum of two Cuba Semester events.

In addition to serving as the technical director for the Cuban play Deviations staged by Southern Theatre, Sam Claussen portrayed the “Old Man” in the production. Dr. Alex Pinkson, who directed Deviations, required his Theatre Appreciation classes to attend the play and write a critique. Anne Jaros, who supervised the student costume designer, also encouraged her Theatre Appreciation class to see the play.

Some faculty took advantage of opportunities to welcome Cuba Semester speakers into their individual classrooms. Dr. Joy Dworkin’s Introduction to Creative Writing class joined with Dr. Bill Kumbier’s World Humanities class for a meeting with Cuban poet Virgil Suarez on Sept. 11.

“My students had been assigned to read a packet of Suarez’s poems,” Dworkin said. “They also had to respond in writing to at least two of the poems. Many chose to also use one of Suarez’s poems for a major assignment for the course — to compose an ‘imitation poem.’ The class responded very enthusiastically to Suarez’s poems and class visit.”

Dworkin also invited her English 101 and Creative Writing classes to attend a variety of Cuba Semester events and write informally about their experiences for class credit. She took her Short Story class to Mary Katherine Crabb’s Oct. 3 lecture on “Dengue, 1997: Case Study of a Cuban Epidemic,” which she said “tied in very nicely with stories we’d been reading about natural and man-made disasters.”

Dr. Barry Brown’s Comparative Religions class attended the Oct. 1 Cuban dance concert by Quimbombó and discussed Santeria, a religion similar to voodoo that originated in Cuba and Brazil.

Other Missouri Southern instructors who reported bringing their classes to Cuba Semester events included Dr. Ann Marlowe, English; Dr. Allen Merriam, communications; Dr. Joaquin Suro, communications; Dr. Jeffrey Macomber, music; Dr. AmyKay Cole, psychology; Dr. Maryann Weber, communications; Hartford Tunnell, computer information science; and Alice Knepper, art.