by Sarah Block, Library Communications
University of Miami faculty and students and Cuban studies scholars gathered at UM Libraries’ Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC) in April for the third annual Undergraduate Scholars Symposium, a roundtable of topics on Cuba and its diaspora. Front and center were thirteen participants in the Undergraduate Scholars Program presenting their research papers, many of the works having already turned heads earlier that month. The Symposium was presented by CHC and the Center for Latin American Studies with support from The Goizueta Foundation.
Rahid Chadid, a junior at UM studying anthropology, presented a paper that received high honors earlier in April at the 2014 Undergraduate Research, Creativity, and Innovation Forum (RCIF) hosted by UM’s College of Arts and Sciences.
Chadid explained at the Symposium that his work on the writings of renowned anthropologist Lydia Cabrera is the culmination of three years’ research at CHC. As a freshman, he was hired as a student assistant to help digitally scan thousands of photographs, letters, and original manuscripts from The Lydia Cabrera Papers. “I read them twice that year,” he explained.
Chadid’s paper contends that Cabrera, best known for her breakthrough anthropological research, is not just an anthropologist, but also an author “with real style.” His work, titled “Lydia Cabrera and Religious Magical Realism,” took first place in the Humanities category at RCIF.
Symposium panel discussants Dr. Devyn S. Benson of Louisiana State University and Dr. Jose Quiroga of Emory University, who conducted workshops with the panelists prior to the event, critiqued each presentation drawing from their own studies of Cuban history, culture, and literature. Benson described Cabrera as a “woman of the world” who in all of her complexities “demonstrated how important Cuba was on a global scale.”
Political science student Giuneur Mosi, who placed second in the Humanities category at RCIF, spoke about his research of the island’s cultural influences from the African Yorùbá religion. Mosi, who is of Yorùbán ancestry, donned a traditional long white robe and wooden beaded necklace for his presentation. He explained that the religion’s manifestation in Cuba as a result of transatlantic slavery seeped into the entire fabric of society. “It became a ‘Cuban way’ that then made its way back to Africa, Colombia, and has a presence right here in South Florida,” Mosi said.
CHC Librarian Meiyolet Méndez, the Program’s coordinator, has for the past three years assisted student participants with their research, which ranges from topics in literature to the hard sciences. “The students’ commitment to research makes what we do important,” she said.
Participants’ research projects are often initiated in classes in the College of Arts and Sciences developed with the Program’s faculty grants. Students begin using CHC resources to fulfill class assignments, and later continue to develop their research in the Program, under the mentorship of their professors.
Four of the Program’s participants from the College of Engineering, known as “The Water Boys,” won the statewide 2014 Cuba Infrastructure Challenge in February, for their study of Cuba’s Almendares River. Miguel Amezcua, Eric Antmann, Leonard Barerra, and Sergio Claure used Geographic Information System tools to collect ground elevation data from NASA satellites, resulting in a plan for a water remediation system. Their project bested that of five teams from the University of Florida in the Challenge sponsored by the Association of Cuban Engineers and the Cuban-American Association for Civil Engineers.
“The Program allows undergraduate students to engage in independent research,” said CHC Chair Maria R. Estorino Dooling, who helped develop the Program in 2010. “They can access primary resource materials, work one-on-one with a faculty mentor, and carry out original research. Such opportunities are unique for undergraduate students, and we are thrilled to be able to provide them.”
The CHC-CLAS Undergraduate Scholars program has been made possible by a grant from The Goizueta Foundation. For information about the Undergraduate Scholars Program, visit library.miami.edu/chc/scholars.