August 10, 2012 | 11:35 a.m.
Rasmussen (middle) discusses the Cuban revolution with a professor from the University of Havana (left) and a student (right).
Professor of Education Jay Rasmussen, along with six colleagues from schools in the Council of Christian Colleges & Universities, delved into the cultures of Costa Rica and Cuba as they daily interacted with economic, political, and social leaders during the summer Latin American Studies Program Faculty Study Tour. Designed for experiential learning, the program included home stays, conference sessions, field trips, and presentations in several cities and villages. “This type of trip, experiential in nature, was transformative in my life,” Rasmussen says. “I encountered some powerful teachings about liberation theology that have shaped my own personal theology. Additionally, it was helpful to step away from the U.S. and consider how many Latin Americans view our historical engagement with Central America and South America.”
The highlight of the trip was his stay in Cuba. “Visiting Cuba, a lifelong dream of mine, was the absolute highlight,” Rasmussen says. “Perceptions about extreme political repression and people living in fear are simply not true now. Cubans are very open to discussing political and historical events, and I found myself very welcome and safe in this country.” He was also impressed by the educational and health care systems and the literacy rate of approximately 97%.
The tour prompted both personal and professional growth. “As professors, we teach from a basis of who we are as persons,” says Rasmussen. “I desire to see teacher education candidates develop intercultural effectiveness and cultural competency. In order for this to occur, I contend that the educational process actually begins with professors building the same competencies.”