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President Aoun visits co-op students in Cuba

Photo by Noah Friedman-Rudovsky for Northeastern University

President Aoun signed an agreement with the University of Havana—the most comprehensive academic initiative by an American institution in Cuba—last week during a visit to Cuba, where he led a delegation of Northeastern faculty and staff and members of Congress. This story is the second in a five-part series covering the visit.

Northeastern’s global leadership in experiential education reached a new milestone this semester when Caroline Bynum and Madeline Drake became the first two students in the world to do co-op in Cuba. During President Joseph E. Aoun’s trip to Cuba last week, where he signed far-reaching academic and research partnership agreements, he met with Bynum and Drake, who are thriving in their roles.

The students are working at the Fundación Antonio Núñez Jiménez, or FANJ, an environmental research non-governmental organization that primarily engages in studying the impacts of climate change on Cuba and promoting the environmental-consciousness of the Cuban people.

The foundation is named in honor of the late Cuban archaeologist and geographer, and as part of their co-ops Bynum and Drake are working on a cultural preservation project in celebration of the 30-year anniversary of Jimenez’ famous canoeing expedition through 20 Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Northeastern students Madeline Drake and Caroline Bynum, center, are working on co-op in Cuba at the Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation. Noah Friedman-Rudovsky for Northeastern University

Bynum, SSH’19, is a third-year human services major, and Drake, SSH’18, is a fourth-year international affairs major. During their meeting with the president, there was also a lighthearted moment when Aoun brought them Kit Kat candy bars, which the students said they missed from back home in the U.S.

In May 2016 Northeastern signed a memorandum of understanding with FANJ, an agreement that paved the way for Northeastern’s first two co-op students to begin this semester. The agreement also called for working together to establish joint marine science, environmental sustainability, and social science-related research projects.

During the visit Aoun and FANJ officials had substantive discussions regarding opportunities for future collaboration, including research around extreme weather, climate change, sustainability, and resilience; sustainable development in promoting tourism; and social innovation, culture, and public policy.

Northeastern students Madeline Drake smiles during the Northeastern delegation’s visit to the Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation, where she is working on co-op in Cuba. Noah Friedman-Rudovsky for Northeastern University