Southern Safari group travels to Cuba

A Lovely Country

Once isolated from the United States by politics and ideology, Cuba is opening again.

A group of 19 Southern Safari participants spent eight days visiting the island nation during the summer. The trip was organized by the Missouri Southern Institute of International Studies.

The group landed in Havana and immediately was swept up in the beautiful colors, bright lights and island architecture of Cuba. The travelers visited a school, a senior center, a medical clinic, a farmers’ market, a community art project, an Afro-Cuban cultural center and an artist’s studio, as well as the finca (ranch) of the late Ernest Hemingway near Havana.

In addition to the capital city, participants took a group trip to the scenic rural Vinales valley west of the nation’s capital to see life in rural Cuba, where sugar cane and tobacco ripen to maturity.

Dr. David Locher, a sociology professor who served as trip director, said Cuba has undergone countless changes since his last journey there 15 years ago.

“Cubans now are allowed to earn money on their own in ways they were not several years ago,” he said. “They can run restaurants out of their homes, use their cars as taxis and sell things they make. They’re frustrated because the changes they want to see coming aren’t coming fast enough.”

Most of the restrictions have been lifted on the travel routes of foreign tourists, he said. “There is really no place you are not allowed to go. There is no one who is afraid to talk to you. Cubans are very patriotic but also very open about what they don’t like and the problems they feel need to be fixed.”

Dr. Virginia “Gingy” Laas, a retired Missouri Southern professor who made the trip, said the beauty of the island is amazing. “The countryside is beautiful. It’s a lovely, lovely country,” she said.

She said Americans may find that, despite its welcome to American tourists, the Cuban people may not want to be overrun by the vast amount of merchandise and temptations from its neighbor to the north.

“Our whole long history with Cuba is not exactly good, from the Spanish American war to today,” Laas said. “How and in what ways Cuba will change is up to the Cubans.”

Alumni Fall 2016 Study Abroad

Great Britain Semester offers timely talks, music and theater

Missouri Southern’s selection of Great Britain for the Fall 2016 themed semester was a timely one, given the ongoing controversy over the United Kingdom’s upcoming withdrawal from the European Union – commonly known as Brexit.

Dr. Nicholas Nicoletti, assistant professor of political science, gave a presentation on the U.K.’s rocky relationship with the EU on Oct. 27. Seven other MSSU faculty gave talks during the semester, on topics ranging from medieval manuscripts to Jack the Ripper. Dr. Jim Jackson, emeritus professor of biology who has visited the British Isles some 20 times, spoke on the benefits of deep tourism over broad tourism.

The Music Department chimed in with four concerts of British music, and Southern Theatre staged “Blithe Spirit,” the comic play by Noël Coward, over five nights in Bud Walton Theatre. The British Film Festival showed 11 British masterpieces, including “Sense and Sensibility,” “Billy Liar” and Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps.”

The Great Britain Semester opened with a rousing “British Invasion” concert by the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, making one of its rare appearances away from the Kauffman Center’s Helzberg Hall. It concluded with three talks by author Charles Finch, whose novel “The Last Enchantments” was read by all freshmen as part of their University Experience 100 class.

Two study abroad trips are planned to England in May 2017. Dr. Vickie Roettger and Dr. Scott Wells will lead a “Roots of Science” trip to London, Oxford and Lyme-Regis (the Jurassic Coast); Dr. Rebecca Mouser and Dr. Amy Gates will take students to London and other locations in southern England for a “Medieval Voyage, Quest, and Pilgrimage” exploration.

Korea will be the focus of the Fall 2017 themed semester.

Fall 2016 Study Abroad

Japanese Ambassador visits Missouri Southern

Kenichiró Sasae, the incumbent Japanese Ambassador to the United States, visited Missouri Southern on Oct. 13 as part of a tour of Southwest Missouri.

Ambassador Sasae – who toured the region with U.S. Congressman Billy Long – was the honored guest at a luncheon in the North End Zone Facility.

“We were delighted to welcome the ambassador to our area and to the Missouri Southern campus,” said Missouri Southern president Dr. Alan Marble. “We realize the importance of the economic, cultural, educational and strategic relationship between Japan and the United States. For us, the visit was a great honor.”

The 20 students from Japan studying at Missouri Southern were also in attendance.

Born in 1951, Sasae joined the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1974. He previously served at Japanese embassies in Washington, D.C., London, and Japan’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations and International Organizations in Geneva.

From 2005-08, he served as director-general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, where he was Japan’s representative to the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds (held between July 2005 and September 2007) of the six-party talks among South Korea, North Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

Sasae served as deputy minister for foreign affairs from 2008-10 and as vice minister for foreign affairs, the top civil service job at the Foreign Ministry, from 2010-12. He was appointed to his current position in 2012.

Fall 2016 Study Abroad