Visit From Mr. Leonel Fernandez, Former President of the Dominican Republic

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On August 15, former president of the Dominican Republic Leonel Fernandez met with faculty, students and staff at New York University’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Along with Francis Lorenzo, the present Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, he discussed the work of his foundation, Fundacion Global Democracia y Desarrollo (FUNGLODE).

President Fernandez served as president of the Dominican Republic from 1996 to 2000 and again from 2004 to 2012. He is often credited with restoring confidence in the economy after a banking crisis. Under his administration, inflation decreased from 50% to 8%. Growing up in the Bronx, Fernandez has strong ties to New York City. He often made campaign stops in Manhattan to court the eligible Dominican voters living abroad.  Since leaving office, he has focused on education and political reform through his foundation.

During his NYU visit, faculty members from around the university outlined their research and teaching interests amidst a lively discussion with President Fernandez and Ambassador Lorenzo. The former President presented the goals and new efforts of FUNGLODE (http://www.funglode.org/), to see how NYU and NYU CLACS might cooperate and engage in strategic and academic partnerships. The initiatives included a Digital  Encyclopedia of the Caribbean, produced in collaboration with diverse universities of the region, software development in Spanish for the 800,000 Spanish-speaking users in cyberspace, scholarship programs for Dominican youth, the renovation of the country’s National Archives, a media database of Dominican Bibliographies of Communication and the creation of the Dominican Political Observatory and the Dominican Council of International Relations, to gather specialists, leaders and scholars of the region into dialogue around regional integration.

President Fernandez expressed a particular interest in supporting Film studies for Dominican students, and supports the Dominican Republic’s major international film festival, the Global Dominican Film Festival. Attending staff and faculty offered suggestions for these programs, taking particular interest in the Digital Encyclopedia as a valuable resource for students and researchers at NYU. Teacher training exchanges were also a strong point of joint interest. Dr. Nero presented on her experience traveling with NYU students in a Spanish language immersion program in the Dominican Republic. CLACS MA student Kailie Middleton and NACLA intern Rafael Espaillat also attended and shared their experience at NYU.

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