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Webster University celebrates 100 years of education in St. Louis, opens opportunities in Cuba

Beth Stroble
Alex Heuer

In September 2014, Webster University began celebrating its centennial year of providing higher education in the St. Louis region and across the world.

Beth Stroble, president of Webster University, said the institution is continuing to expand its reach. In January 2016, classes will begin at the Arcade Building in downtown St. Louis as part of the Gateway Campus. Currently, the downtown campus accommodates 500 students, with 500 more expected to enroll by next year.

“Every major urban or metropolitan region has major anchor institutions downtown,” Stroble said. “Webster’s proud to be part of that.”

Beyond its local reach, Webster has also extended to other parts of the world. In 1919, the university welcomed its first international students, Stroble said. Since then, the school has expanded in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa. In 2014, university officials announced a new college in Ghana to assist in the country’s increasing demand for higher education. During that time, the university also created a partnership in Greece.

Recently, Webster collaborated with the University of Havana in Cuba as relations between the two countries improve. On Monday, officials raised the Cuban flag over Havana’s embassy in Washington for the first time in 54 years.

“We had  had a long-standing relationship [in Havana],” Stroble said. “But clearly, the changing diplomatic landscape made it possible for us to sign a memorandum of understanding with the University of Havana, and we actually have M.A. and international relations students studying there right now.”

Although this is the first summer Webster students have studied in Cuba, Stroble said the university has hosted faculty and experts from Cuba for a number of years.

“My experience tells me that these partnerships always start with one-to-one relationships,” Stroble said. “Webster’s philosophy over the decades has been solid. We don’t see ourselves to use negative characterizations about international work as imperialists who are trying to shape the rest of the world to an American worldview. It’s wonderful now that our students can have that Cuban perspective and contribute to a worldview that makes the world a better place.”

Webster’s centennial celebration will continue thru November.

Among other topics, Stroble discussed attempts by adjunct professors to unionize and Webster’s goal of keeping college affordable.

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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