"I would highly recommend Dr. Scarpaci’s services in preparing for travel to Cuba.... In May 2017, I served as the program director for Virginia Commonwealth University’s inaugural study abroad program in Havana, Cuba. The one-week design thinking course was an interdisciplinary course between the School of the Arts and School of Engineering at VCU. Having performed dissertation research on Cuban design, I knew of Dr. Scarpaci’s extensive academic publishing and enlisted his counsel for our project. It became immediately clear that Dr. Scarpaci’s scholarly expertise coupled with his experience as a program director for study abroad trips and private groups over the last twenty-five years would make him invaluable to establishing VCU’s program in Cuba. He assisted in establishing a budget that would include reliable, safe and affordable housing for our students and faculty, cultural excursions that ranged from museum visits to Cuban dance and music classes, and reservations for group meals. In addition to logistical support, Dr. Scarpaci’s academic contacts allowed us to invite scholars to serve as guest critics for student projects, opening the door for conversation about further collaboration. In the week prior to travel, Dr. Scarpaci joined us in Richmond for two days of lectures about Cuban culture, the economy and political history with the United States. This was essential in providing a solid introductory foundation for our students. Because Dr. Scarpaci has been traveling and performing field work in Cuba for the last twenty-five years, he has witnessed various policy shifts and transitions. This is especially helpful as we navigate a new U.S. administration and potential policy shift. Finally, Dr. Scarpaci’s boundless energy and passion for Cuban culture make him a beloved guide. He never tired of answering questions from our students and translating with our Cuban counterparts." Dr. Sara D. Reed, Virginia Commonwealth University, June 14 2017.
"I just wanted to write you and thank you for everything you did for the Cuba trip. It was honestly the most enjoyable trip I think I've ever been on and I think that was largely because of your involvement and passion for it. The trip wouldn't have been the same without you and I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated all your help and information. It was incredibly informative and really an eye-opening trip." Connor Quatannens , Richmond, VA, June 2017
I wanted to thank you for taking the time out to give us the detailed tours and information you shared with us about Cuba! I really appreciate all of the planning and tours you took us on. It really helped me to understand how the average Cuban is really living in Havana and helped me to develop an authentic view of the REAL Cuba and not just the one we see on travel brochures. " Rachel J. Virginia Commonwealth University, June 2017.
"I wanted to thank you for being such an excellent guide on our trip to Cuba. It was easily one of the best and most invigorating experiences of my life, and I learned so much more than I ever originally expected to. I am very eager for the next opportunity I may have to visit and learn more about this incredible country."
Meg Thorton, Virginia Commonwealth University, June 2017
"Thank you so much for making our time in Cuba so wonderful. Wouldn't have been nearly as insightful had you not been there. Thanks also for playing the role of translator at times. You're a beast is what I'm trying to say." Peter Manville, Virginia Commonwealth University, June 2017.
"Studying abroad in Cuba was easily the best decision of my life... I'm already looking for a reason to return back to Havana! Thank [the Center for the Study of Cuban Culture + Economy] so much for being so amazing during this trip, I'll never forget it!", Eva Apgar, VCU, June 2017.
"I cannot say enough wonderful things about [Dr. Scarpaci and the Center]. I taught for over 40 years at elite and highly private selective schools...and I know gifted teaching. He is a warm, thoughtful, well-informed and balanced communicator. He handled the 'difficult students' with tact and firmness."
- Carol F., January 2013.
"Heartfelt thanks to you for making the trip a wonderful experience. We appreciate how much you shared of your knowledge of Cuban culture and people. We learned so much!"
- Bev and Frank C., Cambridge, MA March 2013.
"Beyond Cuba, generally, [Dr. Scarpaci] was quite simply the highlight of the trip! Well informed; balanced; enthusiastic; intrepid; and much more. It's hard to imagine a trip of this type without him."
- David F., Boston. January 2013.
"It was an incredible learning experience!"
- Sylvia L., Chicago, January 2013.
Outstanding! So knowledgeable of Cuba and Cuban culture. Inspiring! Gave us great insight into the history and the future of the Cuban culture and economy.
- Joe and Mary T., Richmond, VA January 2013.
Outstanding. Just great. Informative, dedicated, energetic, and enthusiastic!
- Richard and Sheila H., Los Angeles, January 2013.
"Thank you for everything you did to make Cuba such an unforgettable trip! It was such an amazing experience, and now I am super interested in the Cuban-American relations and how I can get involved.." Cat Buffington, Virginia Commonwealth University, June 2017
"This is Garon Morgan. I wanted to email you to thank you for everything you did for us while on the trip. Without you, we would have been lost. " Virginia Commonwealth University, June 2017.
"Thank you, so much for your leadership, advice and guidance over these past couple of weeks. It has truly been an amazing experience."
Quinton Mason, Virginia Commonwealth University, June 2017.
"Our man" in Havana, Trinidad, Cienfuegos and Viñales, knew exactly what was outside the window of the tour bus and behind the many facades in Old Havana. His wealth of knowledge added an intellectual richness to our faculty/staff trip that no other U.S. academic or Cuban tour guide could.
Joe has a knack for finding varied voices from within the country — dancers & filmmakers, entrepreneurs & state shopkeepers. He encourages them to clearly offer their personal views of a lovely land, its life and its politics, and he reflects from his own perspective as a highly experienced and educated outsider as well. It would be silly to hope that Joe or that any personal guide could deliver ‘the real Cuba’, for the place is complex, contested and rapidly changing. In place of that false hope, Joe finds voices (and some amazing restaurants, too) that he knits together into a unique and evolving experience of a changing Cuba."
-Allegheny College Mellon Internationalization Grant Faculty/Staff Tour, Jan 3-13, 2016.
"The portions of the trip in which you were in attendance were the most informative parts of the trip. Your love for what you do showed in all the discussions you led, including the video you produced of the Cuban women's musical group. Your interest in, and your love of the Cuban people and their culture is so evident. You had great anecdotes to share in so many situations. I am sure you will have taken a few stories from the trip of April 2-9, 2016.
All our best to you. Thanks for a great trip. "
-Bob Dickson and Terry McCarthy, Los Angeles.
I'm certain that our school trip to Cuba would have been significantly less successful without Professor Scarpaci as our scholar. He was extremely organized and knowledgeable, and he had everything running like clockwork. His congenial competence put everyone at ease instantly and allowed us to get the most out of our time in Cuba. He quickly became like a friend and colleague to the faculty, and with the students, he struck the right tone and interacted with them like their fun Uncle Joe, who's always up for a laugh while commanding their respect and attention. If I am ever part of another trip to Cuba, either professionally or personally, Joe is the first person I will call.
- Jim Miller, Philadelphia, March 2016.
Thank you so much for your enthusiastic and informative input during our tour in Cuba. I so enjoyed your information as well as your engaging personality.
- Leonora Horwin, Los Angeles, May 2016.
We wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed traveling to Cuba with you recently. It was such an incredible trip. The experience we had would not have been available to us without your prior established relationship and insight...and your understanding of the culture and people...The trip was one of our most enlightened and rewarding ones.
- Pat and Rod T., Pittsburgh, Jan. 2014.
We had the pleasure of having Dr. Scarpaci speak to us our first evening. He is very dynamic speaker and has as marvelous insight into Cuba, its people, its economy, and its culture. On our walking tour of Havana, he explained the facades of the many buildings and told of some of the joint ventures of the foreign investors and Cuba. We learned of the demise of the sugar cane farming and the cigar manufacturing as well as so much more. We felt we were very fortunate to have Dr. Scarpaci for the morning.
- Pat P. Houston, TX, November 2012.
I picked this trip not knowing who [Dr. Scarpaci] was and it was a stroke of luck to get his trip. He is nice to all, very bright, fun, full of energy and enthusiasm and his people-to-people skills made the trip not just good, but outstanding. The people connections are what will stay with me. He is not just a leader but a scholar. Absolutely made the trip great.
- Mary H., New York.
My visit to Cuba was a treasured and unexpected chance to get to know a country full of beauty, history and contradictions. I can't imagine a better group leader than Professor Joe Scarpaci, who has such perspective and deep roots there that we met people and experienced the culture in a way open to very few Americans.
- Judi Feniger, Cleveland, Ohio.
The memories are very vivid because Dr. Scarpaci knows the country as well as the citizens there. He speaks their language so well and blends in with the culture and the people, so visitors traveling with him likewise get immersed.
-Lynn Davis, Virginia Tech
My trip to Cuba in 2002 was greatly enhanced by having Joe Scarpaci as a guide. His breadth and depth of knowledge about Cuba's history, culture and language, and his collegiality served to make my trip a valuable experience.
- Kay F. Edge, Associate Professor of Architecture, Virginia Tech
We had the pleasure of touring Cuba with Professor Scarpaci who had planned a thoughtfully informative itinerary. He is an excellent lecturer who knows the island and its people well. ...“Joe” was always accessible for questions or comments.
- Arleen Glickbarg, California