A group of would-be lawyers from the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University are going where no American law students have gone before, at least in any official capacity: Cuba.
Thirty Hofstra students made the trek Saturday from New York to Havana, where they will spend their spring break studying U.S. export laws and controls. Hofstra is the first law school to apply for accreditation from the American Bar Association for a study abroad program in Cuba.
The trip is made possible by the U.S. government's decision to lift its ban on educational travel to Cuba. (Tourists are still prohibited from traveling there from the United States.)
"Hofstra Law is excited to be one of the first law schools to take advantage of the government's endorsement of educational exchange with Cuba, and we hope that our program will provide students with an academically and culturally enriching experience," said Dean Nora Demleitner. "This expansion of our study-abroad offerings also responds to the complexities of the legal field, which increasingly demands future lawyers to be prepared for an ever-more interconnected world."
The program is the result of a 2011 trip to Cuba that Demleitner took with assistant professor Juli Campagna and Jeffrey Dodge, assistant dean for global initiatives and multicultural affairs. That foray was intended to spur educational exchange programs. Campagna, who is leading the field study, said it's an opportunity for students to gain practical legal knowledge and to experience a very different culture.
"Most of our students have never seen a communist country before, and the cultural differences between the U.S. and Cuba certainly will add another dimension to their learning experience," Campagna said.
The students will learn about a variety of export laws and regulations. The students will take field trips and hear from guest lecturers while attending classes in the National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana -- a building that formerly housed Cuba's Supreme Court of Justice.
An inspector from the ABA will accompany the group to ensure that the program fulfills the requirements for study-abroad accreditation.
Meanwhile, Hofstra is launching a spring break study-abroad program in Ecuador. That program will focus on international environmental law.