Maintaining Momentum with Cuba

December 15, 2017

By Jill Welch

As we approach the 3rd anniversary of the announcement of normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba, NAFSA remains committed to our advocacy campaign directed at Congress to ensure that Americans can travel freely to Cuba. Let’s remind ourselves of how far we’ve come in just a few years in opening relations between our nations:

  • On December 17, 2014, President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro first announced that our two nations would begin the process of normalization. In doing so, both presidents acted to further the interests of citizens and societies in both nations. While countries other than the United States have benefitted from international higher education partnerships with Cuba for decades, this relatively new process of normalization presented a unique opportunity to build mutually beneficial partnerships and to foster understanding and improved relations between the United States and Cuba.

  • Act Now on Connecting Our World to urge Congress to End the Embargo on Cuba

  • For more than a decade, NAFSA has advocated for more open relations and freedom of travel and exchange with Cuba, and for the past few years as travel restrictions were eased under the Obama Administration, we actively worked to facilitate greater academic partnerships and mobility between the two countries.

  • A centerpiece of our efforts is our participation in Cuba TIES, an annual workshop in Cienfuegoes, Cuba, in which this year, more than 100 international educational leaders representing 34 institutions from Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Spain, Sweden, and the United States joined representatives of 16 Cuban centers of higher education to build strategic alliances for the internationalization of higher education.

  • As higher education professionals in the United States and Cuba, together we have built positive momentum toward the full restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba. And with the full restoration of ties comes greater possibility for international partnerships, academic exchange, and research together.

  • NAFSA continues to actively advocate with Congress to pass legislation that would permanently lift trade and travel restrictions with Cuba.

Despite uncertainties that arise from the changes in the U.S. administration, NAFSA and our higher education community remain committed to maintaining open ties and mutual understanding with Cuban institutions. As international educators and advocates, we understand travel is inherently educational, and we are privileged to be part of a historical change that, while it may take many years to fully manifest, is a shift toward greater communication, cooperation, and collaboration. Join our advocacy campaign at www.ConnectingOurWorld.org.


Jill Welch is the deputy executive director for public policy at NAFSA: Association of International Educators.


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