President Obama’s Plans for Educational Exchange with Cuba

President Obama’s Plans for Educational Exchange with Cuba

One key theme in President Obama’s is to increase opportunity for Americans and improve the lives of the Cuban people, including opening the door to increased travel and commerce between the two countries.

Educational exchange is a major part of this focus, and Obama has funded and organized partnerships to promote an academic and entrepreneurial dialogue a several fronts.

For the first time, Cuba will be included as a participating country in the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program, which brings 200 outstanding mid-career professionals from developing countries to the United States for non-degree study and related professional experiences, and the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, which offers grants for US undergraduates of limited financial means to pursue academic studies or internships abroad.Cuban girl in red

As part of the President’s visit to Cuba, the United States is proud to announce a new $1 million commitment from the Cuban American community to the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund, which provides opportunities to create university partnerships that enhance regional competitiveness and provide new study abroad opportunities. This funding will support Cuba-specific Innovation Competitions in both countries, to advance student exchanges focused on entrepreneurship, with a secondary focus on agricultural management, business and social innovation, environmental and sustainable energy, language learning, international trade and development, study abroad infrastructure, and cultural collaborations.

The 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund will also launch the 10th Innovation Competition: Promoting Study Abroad Partnerships for Innovation and Collaboration.  This competition is supported through a contribution from Santander Bank as part of their $1 million commitment to 100,000 Strong in the Americas.  All higher educational institutions in the Western Hemisphere that promote study abroad programs between the US and other countries in the hemisphere are eligible to compete.

At the request of and in coordination with the Cuban Government, the US will send English-language specialists to work with the Cuban Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education for programs to support English teacher training this spring and summer. The US also will offer a selection of online courses for Cuban teachers of English from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education later this year.

Over 250 young leaders from the US and the region will take part in Youth Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) fellowships this year that enable them to develop joint business and civil society initiatives while at universities, businesses, and other institutions in the US.  The United States will welcome 10-15 Cuban participants among the 250 YLAI Fellows who will be in the US in the fall of 2016.

Humans of HavanaThe US will invite up to 10 Cuban entrepreneurs to this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Silicon Valley June 23-24.  The event will include 700 entrepreneurs, representing every country in the world.  A total of 100 entrepreneurs from Latin America and the Caribbean will participate.  GES provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs to build new skills, grow their networks, and connect with peers, mentors, and investors from around the globe.

In June 2016, NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal will travel to Cuba for a Sports Envoy Program focusing on youth in Havana.  The program will be the first in which US Embassy in Havana will partner with the Cuban Ministry of Sports.  In November 2016, Misty Copeland, the American Ballet Theatre’s first Principal Dancer of color, will travel to Cuba to conduct master classes and speaking engagements.  She will also lead dance clinics for minority youth and hold inclusion workshops for coaches, with a special focus on building athletic programs for female youth.


The Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program offers students outside the US the opportunity of 10 months of professional enrichment and non-degree graduate-level study at selected US universities. Since the program began in 1978, 4,000 men and women have been honored as Humphrey Fellows and 18 major American universities have hosted Humphrey Fellows.

The program aims to foster a mutual exchange of knowledge and understanding about issues of common concern in the US and the home countries of the Fellows. There are opportunities for leadership development and professional engagement with Americans and their counterparts from many nations. The universities in the US that host Humphrey fellows are chosen for their excellence in the program’s designated fields of studies and the resources that they can offer to Fellows. The areas of study are listed below.

Program Fields

  • Agricultural and Rural Development
  • Economic Development
  • Finance and Banking
  • Natural Resources, Environmental Policy, and Climate Change
  • Urban and Regional Planning
  • Communications/Journalism
  • Law and Human Rights
  • Public Policy Analysis and Public Administration
  • Trafficking in Persons
  • Policy and Prevention
  • Technology Policy and Management
  • Human Resource Management
  • Educational Administration, Planning and Policy
  • Higher Education Administration
  • Teaching English as a Foreign Language
  • Public Health Policy and Management
  • HIV/AIDS Policy and Prevention
  • Substance Abuse Education, Treatment and Prevention

To apply, candidates must contact the US embassy or Fulbright Commission in their home country to complete the application. The Embassies and Fulbright Commissions conduct an initial review process in order to nominate candidates that will be considered by the Washington, D.C. selection panels. The J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board approves the final selections and the awards are announced at the beginning of the fall.

Eligibility to Apply:

  • An undergraduate (Bachelor’s degree)
  • Limited or no prior experience in the US
  • Minimum of five years of full-time, professional experience
  • Demonstrated leadership qualities
  • A record of public service in the community
  • English language ability

The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is available for US citizen undergraduate students of limited financial means to pursue academic studies or career-oriented internships abroad. The International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000 established this program.

Congressman Benjamin A Gilman said, “Study abroad is a special experience for every student who participates. Living and learning in a vastly different environment of another nation not only exposes our students to alternate views, but also adds an enriching social and cultural experience. It also provides our students with the opportunity to return home with a deeper understanding of their place in the world, encouraging them to be a contributor, rather than a spectator in the international community.”

The scholarship aims to encourage students to study abroad in non-traditional settings outside the US. Undergraduates who might not otherwise study abroad due to financial constraints are given the opportunity to go abroad with the scholarship.

More than 2,700 scholarships up to $5,000 are awarded to study or intern abroad. Applicants who are studying critical languages are considered for a $3,000 extra scholarship. Critical languages include Chinese, Bahasa Indonesia, Japanese, Turkic, Persian, Indic, Korean, Russian, and Swahili.

To be eligible, applicants must be studying/interning in programs that are a minimum of four weeks in one country and can be as long as one academic year. Also, applicants must be receiving a Federal Pell Grant or provide proof that he/she will be receiving a Pell Grant at the time of application or during the term of the study abroad program or internship.
The application process includes the online application, which includes uploading official transcripts and online certifications from the applicant’s study abroad and financial aid advisor. The two components must be completed by the deadlines in order for the application to be accepted. Late applications will not be considered and extensions cannot be granted.

President Obama’s Plans for Educational Exchange with Cuba was last modified: April 27th, 2016 by Cuba Journal

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