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Agreement with University of Puerto Rico
offers greater opportunities for exchange
March 30, 1998

A wide-ranging partnership has been forged between UConn and the University of Puerto Rico that could ultimately touch almost every school and college at the two institutions.

The agreement, which will broaden a relationship the schools have had in law, health and social work for much of the 1990s, will give faculty from UPR, the largest Hispanic institution in the United States, a base from which they can conduct a range of research projects important to their constituents in Connecticut and the northeastern United States.

It also allows UPR to upgrade and expand its programming on the mainland, an important move as UPR prepares for the possibility of statehood, says Scott Cook, interim director of the Institute for Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at UConn.

The agreement will give UConn faculty an opportunity to work with some of UPR's about 5,000 faculty, many of whom have specialties that overlap work being done here. It also will pave the way for rich cultural exchanges between the two universities, and forge a linkage that will strengthen grant-writing efforts for both schools.

"The University of Puerto Rico is at an historic turning point. The thrust of the statehood movement reaches in here, too, so UPR wants to upgrade and expand its programming with the United States," Cook says. Researchers at UPR, he says, also are anxious to establish a base at UConn where they can conduct research that will help the growing Latino populations in the Northeast, as they struggle to find answers to problems related to health, education, and welfare.

UPR faculty and students have had relationships with the UConn Health Center, the School of Social Work and the School of Law for about six years, Cook says, adding that development of the new linkage will probably begin in those areas. Beyond that, however, the possibilities are virtually boundless, Cook says.

Other schools that have already exchanged faculty and students with UPR include the Schools of Pharmacy and Education, the Department of History - which has hired a specialist in Puerto Rican social history, Blanca Silvestrini, an instrumental figure in opening the dialogue between the two schools, who recently completed a five-year term as vice president for academic affairs at UPR - and several other departments, Cook says.

Waiting to join in as soon as possible are the Schools of Fine Arts, Engineering, and Family Studies - which is in the process of hiring a Latino family specialist, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and a number of departments within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Cook says.

The University of Puerto Rico has an enrollment of more than 72,000 students, and employs about 5,000 faculty. It has 11 campuses and six regional colleges, as well as internationally recognized schools of law, engineering, medicine, architecture, agriculture, education, social sciences and humanities.

UPR President Norman Maldonado and Chancellor Mark Emmert will make remarks regarding the new agreement on April 2 at 4 p.m., as a preliminary to a symposium on Puerto Rico's self-determination.

The issue of self-determination will be aired, beginning that same day, in the U.S. Senate, where a bill has been proposed that would give Puerto Ricans the opportunity to vote on their political status in an island-wide plebiscite. The bill, similar to one that passed the House of Representatives by a single vote earlier this month, promises to be contentious. Several Republican senators, including Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, are hoping to delay debate on the bill until next year.

Symposium guests will be welcomed by Jose Gaztambide, associate director of the Institute for Puerto Rican and Latino Studies. A panel discussion, featuring José Trías Monge, one of the architects of the 1950s movement to give Puerto Rico Commonwealth status; Jeffrey Farrow, President Clinton's chief policy maker and advisor regarding Puerto Rican issues; and Kenneth D. McClintock, chair of the Committee on Governmental and Federal Affairs, one of the two most powerful committees in the Puerto Rican Senate. The panel begins at 4:30 p.m. The program will be held in the Konover Auditorium at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

Richard Veilleux