The study tour John McGrath ’18 took to Cuba in the spring with his political science class —Contemporary Cuban Politics and Society — was not the initial spark for his curiosity about the relationship between economic and agrarian reforms in the island nation, but it did provide him the opportunity to formulate his Summer Scholars research topic.
“I have always been interested in the role that agriculture plays in society, especially since its importance is not highlighted in our country,” says the international relations major from South Kingstown, Rhode Island.
This summer, John is combining his curiosity about farming and his experience posing research questions while abroad to continue studying how Cuba’s post-revolution economy led to a change in the country’s agricultural practices — specifically how it fell to second place in the economy after the increase of tourism. He also hopes to discover how agriculture will change as a result of the new relationship between Cuba and the United States.
“The Cuban economy has become an especially exciting topic since the U.S. resumed diplomatic relations with its neighbor last year after having severed ties more than a half-century ago,” says John’s mentor Benjamin Liebman, Ph.D., professor of economics.
Dr. Liebman enjoys mentoring Summer Scholars as they navigate the research process and deepen their understanding of particular subjects in a way not usually possible during the school year. He says it’s also a learning experience for him, too.
“Working with Summer Scholars can be an opportunity for me to learn about topics outside of my research expertise,” says Dr. Liebman. “For example, I know a lot more about steel production in China than I do about Cuban agriculture, so I’m learning a lot from John this summer.”
Grateful for the opportunity the Summer Scholars program provides him to further explore a topic he finds intriguing, John looks forward to learning even more about Cuban reforms.
“[This research] is much more about following my interests than feeling compelled to complete assignments for a grade,” he says.
John is a recipient of the St. Andrew’s Scholarship and will focus on Middle East studies in Scotland at the University of St. Andrew’s beginning in the fall. He is a former member of the SJU Student Senate and has also been an RA.
— Liz Krotulis ’17
Office of University Communications
Summer Scholars Project Title: Examining the Relationship between Cuban Economic Reforms and Agrarian Reforms after the Cuban Revolution.
Mentor: Benjamin Liebman, Ph.D., professor of economics
High School: South Kingstown High School, South Kingstown, Rhode Island