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International Relations 404, International Policy Task Force: Rethinking U.S.-Cuban Relations

Summer 2015 in Cuba
Professor: Pamela Starr
Dates: May -June, 2015

This 4-unit course focuses on U.S.-Cuba Relations through two weeks of classroom study and two weeks of field work in Washington, DC, Miami, and Cuba.

For over 50 years the relationship between the United States and Cuba has been characterized by tension, mistrust, and often outright hostility.  Recently, the Obama Administration’s less belligerent tone regarding Cuban affairs, a softening of attitudes in the Miami Cuban community about the Castro regime, and Cuba’s limited but significant market reforms in the post-Fidel era have renewed discussion about the possibility of an opening between these two countries.

These developments raise several important policy questions:  How serious is each country about improving the bilateral relationship and what might each country do to take advantage of this “window of opportunity”?  What is driving the changes in Cuban-American attitudes and how will these play into the U.S. policy debate?  What is the likely future of economic reform in Cuba?  What might be the impact of increased remittance flows and limited market reforms on the Cuban economy and the Castro regime?  And given these developments, what additional changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba would best promote U.S. policy objectives? There is little doubt that a half century of tensions combined with domestic political realities in each country establish powerful obstacles to any rapid improvement in relations.  Yet there also seems to be a real opportunity for small confidence-building measures to have a potentially out-sized impact on U.S.-Cuba affairs. 

The challenge to the students who enroll in this course will be to develop specific policy proposals designed to advance the process of engagement, reduce cross-border mistrust, and build a foundation for revived bilateral relations.  To prepare students for this challenge, the course includes two weeks of study at USC followed by two intensive weeks of original, interview-based research in Washington, DC, Miami, and Cuba.  


Program Costs:

Tuition: $6408

Airfare: $1500-$1700 (estimated)

Note: Students should wait to purchase airline tickets until instructed to do so, as courses may be canceled due to unforeseen circumstances.

Additional expenses: $1400-$1500*

*Additional expenses include estimated costs for accommodations, meals, visas and other fees, and personal expenses (which can vary greatly from student to student).

To view the 2015 application, click here

Application Materials Due Friday, January 9, 2015

Funding is available through SURF, student undergraduate research fund.

For further information on this course, contact Dr. Pamela Starr at