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Eckerd College to send 80 students to Cuba this month

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Eckerd College is sending 375 students to study abroad this semester. Of those, 80 will head to Cuba in the coming days to study subjects such as economics, the environment and photography.

The combined study abroad trips make up Eckerd’s largest class of travelers ever. The 80 students traveling to Cuba this month include a group of marine science and biology students led by professor William A. Szelistowski. The group will continue research on coral reefs, lionfish, and manatees begun at the Isle of Youth last year. The group will partner with students and faculty from the University of Havana.

A photography class will travel to Havana this week for two weeks under the tutelage of Visual Arts professor Kirk Ke Wang. Another marine science class led by professor Gregg Brooks also leaves Tuesday to study the natural sciences and culture in Cuba.

Peter Hammerschmidt, an economics professor who traveled with students to Cuba last year, will lead another group of students on the island nation for two weeks beginning Saturday to study Cuba’s economy.

Another group of students from the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Eckerd will travel to Cuba later this month to study art, history and the island’s landscape. That group will also meet with representatives from Cuba’s government.

“These are exciting times in Cuba, and Eckerd is proud to offer our students opportunities to learn more about the country in ways they could never get in the classroom,” Dean of Faculty Suzan Harrison said. “We look forward to many years of collaborative study and research there.”

The latest round of students traveling to Cuba builds on a group of 18 who visited the island this past year at one of the most historic times in the nation’s recent history. Eighteen Eckerd students visited Guantánamo Bay on the same day the U.S. held its first talks with Cuban leaders about normalizing relations between the two countries.

As relations continue to normalize it’s expected Cuba may undergo a rapid shift in appearance. With access to U.S. exports, the nostalgic look of 1950s era cars on the island could quickly change, among other improvements to infrastructure and buildings.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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