Friday, October 26, 2018

UVI Voices of Inspiration Presents “A Musical Journey Through Time”


The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) Voices of Inspiration is preparing to return to the stage in “A musical Journey Through Time” mega concert to be held on Saturday, November 3, 2018 at 7 p.m. at Island Center for the Performing Arts on St. Croix.

Voices of Inspiration "A Musical Journey Through Time" Event Flyer


The compelling production, billed as a joyful musical concert will feature performances of soulful vocals, melodious sound and infectious energy.

The concert is free; however, donations are accepted. The Voices of Inspiration promises to give an unforgettable performance that is consistent with its track record. The concert will also feature special guest artistes, to include Gabrielle Denae, Oneyke, Tracee, Stanley and Ten Sleepless Knights, and Ay Ay Cultural Dancers.

Voices of Inspiration performing at Reichold Center for the Performing Arts in 2013


This non-denominational choir sings a variety of music genres such as jazz, blues, negro spirituals, contemporary gospel, classical and Caribbean music, including reggae and calypso. Known as one of the Virgin Islands premier choirs, Voices of Inspiration is also known for its unique productions. Always bringing an added flare, the University’s choir is known for its performances that are enhanced with creative animation, visual graphics and dance.

Voices of Inspiration performing in St. Croix

The renowned choir comprises students, alumni and staff of the University of the Virgin Islands.
Voices of Inspiration began in 1999 when a group of resident assistants and residential students sought an outlet to express their musical talents. They came together to sing and fellowship. They were the first Residence Hall Choir. This expression of students’ talents, skills, and desires would later be called the Voices of Inspiration.

As the founding students graduated, the choir became dormant. However, with “Inspiration,” the group resurfaced to provide comfort and cause to a group of students who responded to the tragedy which occurred in Haiti in 2010.

Since its revival, the group has been wowing crowds in the Virgin Islands and abroad.

Audience applauding the Voices of Inspiration


“What I experienced at the Spring concert was something that was just breathtaking,” Dr. Hall said. “It was one of the most fantastic performances not only I’ve seen here, but at any university that I have attended,” he said, speaking of the 2012 Spring concert.

Voices of Inspiration performing at the Spring 2012 concert

“It was a combination of drama, music, digital performances and the Great Hall was transformed into a big theatre and I was just really blown away.”

Under the tutelage of Josephine Thomas-Lewis, who has directed the choir since August 2012, the choir’s performances have been exceeding expectations.

“I am totally pleased with the reception that the choir, affectionately called VOI has received over the past six years,” said choir director, Josephine Thomas-Lewis.

“This combined group of students, alumni, and community members have touched and impacted the lives of many within the Caribbean and some parts of the mainland.”

In 2013, the choir has performed at the Reichhold Center for the Arts in St. Thomas.

Voices of Inspiration performing at Reichold Center for the Performing Arts in 2013

 In 2016, the choir traveled to St. Kitts and performed at both the Calvary Baptist Tabernacle Church and the St. Kitts Marriott Resort. 

Voices of Inspiration performing at the Marriott Resort in St. Kitts


Also, as recent as March 2018, the choir hosted a concert in Miami, Florida.

Voices of Inspiration in Miami

In 2017, challenges incurred by Hurricanes Irma and Maria derailed the groups plans to travel to London. The choir was expected to travel from November 9 – 19, where they would have participated in the 2017 Festival of Choirs Competition and other musical performances. While there, they would have hosted two concerts, perform at local churches and other venues, and conduct workshops. The choir has rescheduled the London trip to summer of 2019.

The UVI Voices of Inspiration suggests that you stay tuned for more stellar productions in the near future.

“In Lieu of our annual Christmas Production, we are planning a Gala which is slated for December 3, 2018, in the Great Hall on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix,” said Thomas-Lewis.

“Our fundraising goal for this Gala is $50,000. This will allow us to produce a CD, to fund our service and annual empowerment initiatives, and support our travel to London in summer 2019.”

For more information about UVI Voices of Inspiration, contact Josephine Thomas-Lewis, Voices of Inspiration director at (340) 690-5269 or email voistx@myuvi.net.

Friday, October 12, 2018

VIMAS Introduces Advanced Aquatic Training to VI Youth

Dive Instructor, Kristen Ewen (far right) and students

The Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service (VIMAS) newly introduced Scuba Diving Program began on September 22 with seven participants who obtained their open water scuba certification.

The training program is an extension of the annual 4-week marine science-based summer program, the Youth Ocean Explorers Summer Program held this past August.

Student snorkeling at Coki Point Beach


 “We are adamant about finding ways to continue education for the YOE students post program. One such way is to engage students through scuba classes,” said YOE Project Director, Howard Forbes Jr.

Youth Ocean Explorers (YOE) Project Director, Howard Forbes Jr.


A second set of five students are expected to complete their open water certification by the end of October, 2018 bringing the total to 12 Virgin Islands students who will have received their certifications through the YOE Summer Program.

The scuba diving program which enables student to dive up to 60 feet is facilitated by the Coki Dive Shop.

Dive Instructor, Kristin Ewen providing theoretical instruction to students


As many of these students are interested in some aspect of marine science, the organizers of the Youth of Ocean Explorers (YOE) program have since been involving the students in various activities that have enabled them to continue to use their new skills.

“I personally believe that this opportunity will help to give them an advantage especially when trying to apply for internships and colleges in their related fields,” Forbes said.

Students have since been involved with the Coki Point cleanup which consisted of both a land and underwater based clean-up. Students attended the clean-up and assisted with the removal of underwater debris such as lawn chairs.

Student removing debris from the ocean at Coki Point Beach


Through a collaborative effort with the V.I. Reef Response program, students will be diving to Flat Cay and assisting with the general maintenance of the coral nursery there.

The V.I. Reef Response program is an initiative of the Virgin Islands Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (VI-EPSCOR). Through this program a partnership has been established with local dive shops to recruit divers (both local and visiting) to assist with the maintenance of the coral nurseries.

“This is an amazing opportunity for the students as it is something that many Virgin Islanders don’t get an opportunity to do, said YOE Program Coordinator, Javon Stout.

Youth Ocean Explorers (YOE) Program Coordinator, Javon Stout


 “This would provide youths of the Virgin Islands with opportunities to be considered for certain jobs such as underwater construction and marine operations that typically, due to their inability to swim or scuba they would otherwise not be considered for.”

The VIMAS coordinated program aims to remove the stigma and fear associated with the ocean by getting the youth acquainted with the ocean at an earlier age and thereby exposing them to the endless amount of opportunities that are available in the marine industry.

Scuba diving students in training at Coki Point Beach

The Program is of no charge to participants. However, interested students must be medically cleared for diving and will be required to complete a swimming test prior to their enrollment.

 The program is sponsored in part by Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI) and Saltchuk, parent company of Tropical Shipping.

For more information about the Scuba Diving Program, contact Howard Forbes Jr. at  340-693-1672 or email howard.forbes@live.uvi.edu.

UVI Passport to the World Visits South Africa


A group of students, staff, alumni and friends embarked on an exciting travel-learning tour of South Africa on May 25 to June 8, as part of UVI’s Passport to the World Travel-Learning Program.

The twenty-four-member contingent spent the first week in Johannesburg and the second week in Cape Town. In both cities, participants gained an in-depth understanding of South Africa's history, pre and post the Apartheid regime.

To do so, they need to step out of their comfort zones and see the world.

"At UVI, we want our students, faculty, and staff to be well-rounded, to be global citizens,” said Camille McKayle, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. “UVI Passport to the World Travel-Learning Program to South Africa provided an opportunity for participants to make those connections between our culture and that of South Africa in many ways"

In Johannesburg, the group visited the Apartheid Museum, the home of Nelson Mandela in the South Western Township (SOWETO) as well as the Hector Peterson museum.



The attendees partook in a cultural immersion experience which included visits to the Lesedi Cultural Village on the outskirts of Johannesburg where they learned about the different tribal cultures that contribute to South Africa being known as the "Rainbow Nation".

UVI’s visiting contingent also had the opportunity to visit non-governmental agencies such as the Johannesburg Development Agency; local business ECONET, a telecommunications and technology company; and institutions of higher learning within the Johannesburg area.



The second week of the program was spent in Cape Town where participants were able to enjoy and experience Table Mountain—one of the 7-wonders of nature. A steep cable ride up the mountain revealed picturesque views of the city of Cape Town.


While in Cape Town, the group continued its exploration of South Africa's unique history by visiting Robben Island, the island which housed the prison of its name in which Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment. 



The group had the chance to speak with one of the former prisoners who served with Nelson Mandela—Sparks, who related his experience and that of the over 500 prisoners who endured hard labor on the island. 




A tour of the inside of the prison allowed participants to visit the actual prison cell in which Mandela spent his time. 





They also visited the District 6 Museum where they interacted with a colored man who was forcefully removed from the area by the South African Apartheid government in the 1960's.

For UVI Alumnus and doctoral student, Rick Grant the trip to South Africa wasn’t only about learning about the country’s rich history and past., Rick is most proud to have shared his recently published children’s book, "When I Grow Up" to a group of children in Cape Town.



“As a mentor, author and educator, my interest was being able to give back to
a local group of children,” said Rick. “Being provided the opportunity to engage and encourage children, read my own book and leave copies with the native South African children of the Happy Feet after school program was the most impactful takeaway for me.”

Akeem McKintosh, UVI alumnus and staff member describes the trip as an awesome opportunity and a great experience that deepened his love and understanding for African history and culture.

“I enjoyed visiting the various museums and Robben Island, getting a detailed lesson in South African History,” McKintosh said.  “Gaining a deeper understanding of the Apartheid system and the struggles of South Africans added much more context to the music of Lucky Dube. It was easily one of the most memorable days of the trip, I enjoyed getting up- close and personal, having heart to heart conversations with many local South Africans.”

Lorna Freeman, UVI staff member lauded the UVI Passport to the World Program as eye opening, humbling and impactful experience that allows the UVI community to explore different cultures.


“This is a really great program that the University has embarked upon in order to
open the eyes of its students, faculty, staff and alumni so that they may be able to
experience other cultures outside of our immediate Caribbean area,” said Freeman. “It is really great for people who would normally not have the opportunity to travel to those areas on their own, to do so in a group setting.”

The UVI Passport to the World Travel-Learning program is housed in the Office of the Provost and was created in 2015 with a goal to bring UVI to the world. This experiential learning opportunity fuses education, culture, and recreation to create a culturally immersive experience for participants. In the past, the program has included travel to China and India.

UVI's Passport to the World Educational Travel Program partnered with World Strides, with it’s over 50 years of experience in organizing travel-learning experiences, to provide this capstone program. 

The program is opened to UVI students, staff, faculty, and alumni and takes place annually. The program for 2019 is currently being developed.

Monday, July 23, 2018

UVI Announces Employee of the Year 2018 Winners











Monifa Potter and Debbie Joseph are the employee of the year 2018 winners on the St Thomas Campus and Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix respectively. Potter and Joseph received their awards alongside 80 other UVI employees, 28 on the Albert A. Sheen Campus and 52 on the St. Thomas Campus, who were recognized for their years of service to the university at the 44th Annual Service Awards.

The event took place on the Albert A. Sheen Campus, April 17 and on St. Thomas Campus on April 19. Employees who worked for five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, or 35 years as well as those who are retired were also honored at the event.
This year’s events were held under the theme: “We’ve Risen and We’re Gaining Steam — Service Awards 2018.”

“I am not doing this for the recognition, but from my heart,” said Potter, winner of this year’s award and Registrar at the university.



“I have worked hard for the University for over 10 years and I took on an enormous position at the University a few years ago,” she said.  “The leadership and dedication of the staff exemplifies great teamwork and provides a sense of accomplishment at the end of the year to see students graduate with the degree they have worked hard to earn.”
Joseph, winner of this year’s award on the Albert A. Sheen Campus has only been with the university for almost three years. When asked how she felt about receiving the award, Joseph responded by saying she was very surprised.
“That was the last thing I expected, it really caught me off guard,” she said.
Joseph prides herself for the work that she does and believes that the key to customer service is that the customer should always leave feeling better than when they first came to you.



“I try to put my best foot forward at all times. I always try to help as best as possible,” Joseph said. “I believe a little goes a long way, if I see something that needs to be done I don’t wait to be asked I take initiative and get it done.”
Joseph advises all employees at UVI to always put customer service at the forefront.
“We are here to serve people, we are here to help, we should always try to provide a listening ear to our customers,” Joseph said.

Debbie Joseph works as an administrative assistant to the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences on the Albert A. Sheen Campus.
Dr. David Hall, president of the university said that this year’s program is of great significance because of what each recipient and employee endured during the academic year 2017-2018.


“I continue to be impressed with the enthusiasm and service with which I see so many of our employees provide to the university through the work that they do and the extent to which they so often go above and beyond the scope of the job responsibilities,” Dr. Hall said.

The employee of the year program and annual service awards is organized by the university’s Human Resources Department and aims to recognize employees who have demonstrated and contributed to the improvement of the quality and performance of the University of the Virgin Islands.

There were a total of six employee of the year nominations for the 2018 award, four on the St Thomas Campus and two on the Albert A. Sheen Campus.
Employee of the year winners receive a $200 check, an engraved plaque, bouquet of flowers and a basket of fruits.

To be eligible for the award the recipient must be a full-time employee and have at least one year of continuous employment with the university. Employees are selected based on three of the criteria areas including professionalism, customer focus, quality, teamwork, and innovation.



Tuesday, June 12, 2018

CMES Receives President's Appreciation Award

CMES staff receiving President's Award from Dr. Hall

The University of the Virgin Islands Center for Marine and Environmental Studies (CMES) was awarded the President's Appreciation Award on Saturday, June 2, at a UVI Board of Trustees meeting.
 University President David Hall, who bestows this honor quarterly at Board of Trustees meetings, highlights the excellence and commitment of those UVI employees or units that have performed exceptionally with this award.
“It is a reality that Center for Marine and Environmental Studies (CMES) is the anchor for our research transformation and research excellence at the University,” said President Hall.
The president noted that key to awarding CMES was the appointment of Dr. Tyler Smith to one of the National Academies of Science Committees.

Dr. Tyler Smith

“This is a prestigious appointment because it relates to the national importance of marine science research, and for one of our faculty members to be solicited by the highest and most prestigious organization is something significant and worthy of recognition,” said President Hall. See link for more information: 

MacLean CMES post-hurricanes Irma and Maria






 “Despite not having a building, the largest graduating class in the history of CMES of 17 students recently earned their master’s degree in marine and environmental science,” President Hall added. See link for more informaton:



The President further praised CMES for “taking the lead in the clean-up of St. Thomas’ East-End Reserve (STEER), which was a large scale mangrove community clean-up which brought together numerous volunteers to remove debris that negatively affect the environment.”


Volunteer removing debris from mangrove

STEER is a marine protected area on the east end of St. ThomasThe mangrove clean-up event on April 21, saw over 100 volunteers engaging in the removal of 3,000 pounds of debris. Most of the debris found were plastic products; this included over 4,000 plastic beverage bottles, bags, cups, and containers combined. See link to UVI New Release for more information: 

Debris Accumulated from the mangrove clean-up
 He also highlighted CMES’ key involvement in the hosting of the annual Reef Fest event held on April 14. 

Attendees of  Reef Fest 

The theme for this year's event was "Marine Ecosystem Health" which encompassed topics such as sustainable seafooding, marine debris, coral bleaching, and mangrove protection.


Elementary school students showcasing outfits designed with plastic

Present to receive this quarter’s award were:
o Dr. Paul Jobsis, acting director of the Center for Marine and Environmental Studies
o Dr. Sandra Romano, dean of College of Science and Mathematics
o Dr. Marilyn Brandt, director of masters in marine and environmental sciences program
o Dr. Sennai Habtes, research assistant professor
o Stephen Prosterman, diving and marine field officer
o Howard Forbes Jr., director of the VI Marine and Advisory Service on St. Thomas

Friday, June 8, 2018

Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities Hailed a Success by President Hall

"Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities" Premiered at UVI
As the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) was already in the mode of Black History Month celebration, the Pre-Screening of Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities hosted on both campuses on Monday, Feb. 19, was well received.

            The 90-minute film drew large audiences including students, faculty and staff of the University, as well as members of the general public to both the Administration and Conference Center (ACC) Building on the St. Thomas Campus and in the Great Hall on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix. Many of whom were eager to view the film before it aired nationally on the acclaimed PBS series, Independent Lens later the evening at 8:30 p.m.
The pre-screening event was a part of a tour organized by HBCU Rising, the year-long multi-platform engagement project designed to drive dialogue sparked by the film among a variety of audiences. The film examines the impact HBCUs have had on American history, culture and national identity for more than 150 years.

            The event was hailed as one of the best events the University has hosted to date by President David Hall. “This is something that speaks to what we are going through right now. Our theme coming out of the hurricanes has been “UVI RISE,” and this film is about how HBCU’s rise above all the negative forces that get in the way,” Hall said. “This is really a nice marriage between our reality and the HBCU journey.”

The President said that he was particularly pleased with comments made by the students after the film. “It was clear that it spoke to them in the way that I had envisioned, which is that it would inspire them to work harder and appreciate that they are a part of something even greater than what they might imagine,” he said.



Directed by award-winning documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson, Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities was praised by members of the audience for revealing for the first time the complex history of how HBCUs, havens for Black intellectuals, artists and trailblazers, offered a path of promise toward the American dream, educated the architects of freedom movements throughout the decades and cultivated leaders in every field.



The pre-screening event was a collaborative effort of UVI and WTJX.


Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities is the second in a three-part series called America Revisited that includes The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, which broke Nielsen ratings and social media engagement records for Independent Lens, and the forthcoming, The Slave Trade: Creating A New World.

Independent Lens is an Emmy Award-winning weekly series airing on PBS Monday nights at 10:00pm. The acclaimed series, with Lois Vossen as executive producer, features documentaries united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement, and unflinching visions of independent filmmakers.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Jeanette Ferdinand: A Lesson in Balance and Student Leadership


Jeanette Ferdinand
     Jeanette Ferdinand, a 2012 graduate of the St. Croix Educational Complex High, began her undergraduate studies at UVI, where she first pursued an Associate’s degree in Nursing. On May 18 2018, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

     Ferdinand stated that the Nursing program has an added level of pressure as students have to earn a score of 75 or above on each course. In the even that a student earns a score lower than 75 they would have to repeat the course. Unfortunately, this was the case for Ferdinand as her graduation was set back by one year as she retook a course.

2018 Graduates
     She continued on to stated that UVI was more of a journey than a challenge as she always managed to balance her extracurricular activities with her academic pursuits. She became heavily involved on campus after she first worked with the Dean of Students on the St. Croix campus in 2012.

She assisted in the execution of the three previous Miss UVI Ambassadorial competitions - with the last two held on St. Croix.
     Ferdinand retired a life of just attending classes and picked up an extensive extra-curricular résumé at UVI along the way, which includes: the Student Government Association, Sisters with Purpose, Student Nurses Association, and the Student Government Association Queen’s Committee.


     She credits much of her success to Hedda Finch-Simpson, whom she describes as family. “Ms. Finch would encourage and push me to become involved on campus,” she said . “She was firstly my immediate supervisor but now she’s become more like family than a boss to me.”

     Immediately after graduation, Jeanette plans to travel to New Jersey where she will take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX RN) exam for entry level nurses before returning to St. Croix where she will begin her nursing career at the Juan F. Luis hospital - hopefully in the emergency room.

     Jeanette will be sharing her special day with her older brother Garfield Ferdinand who will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics.

     While at UVI Ferdinand earned many scholarships including, Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) scholarships from Costco, Wells Fargo, as well as Walmart Mentorship training.
Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) Pinning Ceremony