Monday, June 17, 2019

UVI Class of 2019 Charged To Make the World a Better Place

Class Speaker Anayah Ferris on the St. Thomas Campus

Dare to be More Than you Have Imagined… 

The University of the Virgin Islands conferred degrees to over three hundred students at the annual 2019 Commencement Ceremonies which took place on Thursday, May 16, on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix and on Friday, May 17, at the Sports and Fitness Center on St. Thomas.

Graduate on the St. Croix Campus
CNN political commentator, lawyer and former state legislator Bakari Sellers delivered the keynote address where he encouraged the graduates to acknowledge the shoulders on which they stand, noting that they are the seeds of dissent that have fallen into fertile soil

“You are living breathing examples that the age of miracles has not passed, that this is the land of opportunity even if you have to work longer and harder to find it,” Sellers said. “Remember you are the seeds of dissent fallen upon this fertile soil at this intersection of timing and training, you are the resilient, determined and phenomenal.”

In his charge to the graduates, Sellers urged the graduating Class of 2019 to be courageous, heroic, and hopeful.

“Don’t be afraid to be that ripple of change, because I’m looking for you to not just be heroes on the islands, but I’m looking for you to be heroes throughout this entire country,” Sellers said. “As you leave here today go with that knowledge and tradition that dares you to be more than you’ve ever imagined, and stand with audacious hope, stand proud and we will stand with you.”

Graduates on the St. Thomas Campus
UVI’s president Dr. David Hall told the graduates that it was up to them to use their degrees to make the world a better place.

“My charge is that you wake up the unenlightened and serve those who are alive to their calling, and make this world a better place, Dr. Hall said. “The degree you have just received is not just fancy words written on special parchment paper – it is a license, an oath for you to do something different in the world, it is a license and a mandate, to wake the dead and to serve the living.”

Christopher Michael Rosario, class speaker on the Albert A. Sheen Campus asked the graduates to celebrate their hard work and perseverance.

Class Speaker Christopher Rosario on the St. Croix Campus
“I know that the road here was not easy for many of us and that’s why we have to shout about our accomplishments here from every rooftop, from every mountain top, from every peak we eventually made. Today is our day,” Rosario said. “We may not know the story of what led us here nor do we know the story where do we go from here, what we know is through it all up until this point we have all persevered.”

Rosario challenged his peers to use their degree as a source of motivation when faced with difficult times in the future.

“We should be confident in our ability to overcome, look upon the paper we will receive today with great pride, and use it as a source of hope, whenever you reach a speedbump or pothole, that seems too daunting to go through,” Rosario said. “With our hard-work dedication and sleepless nights, even a few tears here and there we have earned this degree, our education is something that can never be taken from us let us cherish it and use it fruitfully.”

Graduates on the St. Thomas Campus

Anyah Ferris, class speaker on the St. Thomas Campus, reflected upon the strength and resilience of the graduates and the university during the past 619 days following the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Graduate on the St. Croix Campus
“We in this community has seen firsthand this process of rebuilding, 619 days ago the United States Virgin Islands was devasted by two category five hurricanes, for 619 days our communities were left shattered,” Ferris said. “I can honestly say I struggled to imagine our breakthrough, yet we are here today. The University of the Virgin Islands, stands as a beacon during this hardship, a symbol of second chances, and as a model of inevitable rise that can only be fostered through community resilience.”

UVI bestowed honorary degrees upon two prominent alumni - Cornel Williams and Dr. Simon Jones-Hendrickson. Cornel Williams received an honorary doctorate at the St. Thomas commencement ceremony and Dr. Simon Jones-Hendrickson, a former dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences received an honorary doctorate on St. Croix.

Commencement Ceremony - Albert A. Sheen Campus

Commencement Ceremony - St. Thomas Campus

Interesting graduate stories 

Samuel Liburd Jr.

Samuel Liburd Jr. An Ivy League Homegrown Success Story

As a teenager at the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School (IEKHS), Samuel always knew that his passion for science would land him a career one day in medicine. The St. Johnian scholar received the Edmund Penn Scholarship, which funded his four-year journey at UVI. Liburd attributes his academic success in science to his father, who is a Biology teacher at the IEKHS.

With graduation imminent, Liburd recalls his first interaction with UVI as a recent high school graduate and participant in the Math Behind Science Program. It was in his first year at UVI that he decided that he wanted to pursue research. Subsequently, Liburd spent his sophomore summer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Summer Research Program in computational neuroscience, an experience which birthed a dream to complete a M.D.- Ph.D. program. Torn between his love for research and his childhood dreams of becoming a medical doctor, Liburd was sure that the M.D.-Ph.D. was the perfect way for him to complete both. Liburd returned to UVI the following Fall with renewed purpose.

An enthusiastic Liburd recalls his early preparation for applying for the M.D. Ph.D.

According to Liburd, “it was a tedious process that I began in May 2018.” It was during the recovery of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 that Liburd prepared for the MCAT exams. If there was ever a moment on this journey where Liburd felt overwhelmed it was at this time where he studied without electricity and internet while taking an overload of credits and juggling classes.
Graduate on the St. Thomas Campus

After earning top MCAT scores, Liburd applied to about 20 universities, he was interviewed by eight of these schools including, the University of Maryland, Emory University, and Mayo Clinic’s M.D.-Ph.D. programs. In Fall 2019, after earning a Bachelor's of Science in Biology from UVI, Liburd will matriculate at Yale University to complete a M.D.- Ph.D. focusing on biomedical engineering, tissue engineering and regeneration for medical use, 3D tissue printing and engineering.

An overjoyed Liburd says he is happy he stuck to his goal as it is a great feeling to be accepted into the program.

“After all, I went through preparing and applying for these programs I knew that if I could survive this, I could survive my M.D.-Ph.D.,” Liburd said. “These universities are really competitive with acceptance rates below 10 percent, many students do research and publish first before applying, I didn’t have any of that but thankfully I still got in.”


Vernosha Henry, left and Natasha Henry, right

Natasha and Vernosha Henry: Sisterly Success 

Vernosha and Natasha Henry are both graduating on the Albert A. Sheen Campus with Bachelor of Science in Nursing. They are a part of the second cohort of students to do so. 

Vernosha’s journey at UVI was not like many of her peers. She did so while being a first-time single mother.

According to Vernosha, “it was difficult, I missed many of my son’s milestones,” Vernosha said. “I woke up early at mornings and hopscotched between my mother’s and siblings’ schedules, as they were the ones who looked after my son while I attended classes.”

As a means of desperation and sheer commitment, Vernosha recalls bringing her son to class with her at times when no one else could tend to him.

“My lecturers were very supportive, and most of my classmates were too,” Vernosha said. “When I did clinicals at the hospital I woke up at 4 a.m. just to ensure my son was taken care of for the day and I made it to the clinicals on time—this was perhaps one of the most challenging encounters I’ve had in my life.”

In addition to Vernosha’s challenges as a single mother and full-time student, she struggled greatly in her fourth semester where she failed a course which set her graduation back by one year. This setback was bittersweet for her as she would have to spend an additional year to earn her degree; however, it also meant that she will now be graduating with her little sister.

“At first it was really disappointing when I failed, however being in the same year as my sister was beneficial to me, she was very instrumental in improving my study habits, I believe it is more of an accomplishment to be graduating with her,” Vernosha said.

Graduate on the St. Thomas Campus
Natasha, on the other hand, began her journey at UVI on the St. Thomas Campus, but later transferred to the Albert A. Sheen Campus when the ability to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing became available on St. Croix. Returning to St. Croix also meant that she could now be a part of her nephew’s life.

Natasha too describes the nursing program as challenging; she remembers crying every time she got less than a B in her classes. As a committed student, Natasha did everything in her power to secure top grades, even if it meant giving up her social life and committing fully to her studies. These efforts certainly did not go unnoticed. Natasha copped the award for the highest GPA as a junior in 2018, then again in 2019 for the highest GPA in the graduating class, the Nursing School Dean’s award for academic excellence and professional nursing qualities, as well as the UVI Nursing faculty award for leadership.

When asked how she feels about her upcoming graduation, Natasha says she is ecstatic.

“I am the one person in my class who is getting everyone excited about graduation,” Natasha said. “I am constantly posting on my social media accounts about graduation. This journey took me five years instead of four and the best part of it is that I will be graduating with my sister. I am very happy to have my sister by my side.” 

Jessica Nagel

Jessica Nagel: A Journey without Excuses

Jessica Nagel grew up in Indiana and always wanted to become a veterinarian, a dream that later transformed into a passion for marine biology, and the successful completion of a Master of Marine and Environmental Science (MMES) from UVI.

In 2017, just after graduating from St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer Indiana with a Bachelor’s of Science in degree in Biology with a concentration in wildlife, she enrolled in the MMES program at UVI in a cohort of 12 students just two weeks before Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The aftermath of the storms meant no electricity, no labs, damaged buildings and no office to work from; however, these occurrences were not excuses for late assignments and poor performance. According to Nagel her professors worked assiduously to ensure that the high standard of the program was maintained.

For Jessica, the memorable moments of her degree did not only include her studies, she enjoyed the outreach programs she participated in and loved partaking in the community events where she interacted with the St. Thomas Community, especially the Youth Ocean Explorers Program. Jessica also worked as a teacher’s assistant where she assisted students and conducted lab experiments.

When asked how she feels about graduating Jessica said that she is dedicating the degree to her grandfather who passed away in February 2018.

“It is indeed a bittersweet moment, I am sad to leave all my friends behind, but I am so grateful for the experiences I got in the MMES program, which made me very marketable in the field,” Nagel said. “It is a fast-paced program, it was a lot of work and I am relieved it is over, I am on to the next step where I can begin putting my theory into practice.”

Jessica was determined to complete her studies and defended her thesis on April 12, 2019, where she researched: Using bioacoustics to measure the effects of hurricanes on bats in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Remarkably Jessica is the first of her cohort to defend her master’s thesis and to graduate in May 2019.

Dr. Andréa Dorsey: 

Dr. Andréa Dorsey: At the pinnacle of Virgin Islands’ Academic, Community and Spiritual Success

Dr. Andréa Dorsey is the first student to complete the University of the Virgin Islands’ Ph.D. in Creative Leadership for Innovation and Change within three consecutive years. She is also the first UVI employee to earn this new degree.

Born and raised in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Dr. Dorsey always knew that she was going to complete a terminal degree. She first earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, then her Master’s Degree in Education Counselling – both at UVI.

“My parents have supported and guided me along the way,” she says. “They instilled in me the value of education along with a strong spiritual foundation. As a result, I have embraced education not as an option, but rather a requirement for life.”

Utilizing her experiences as a community leader, volunteer, and academic advisor, Dr. Dorsey successfully navigated through her doctoral program while working full-time. “After working all day, I would typically attend three-hour class sessions, project meetings, or completing multiple individual assignments with pressing deadline dates,” she says. “I sacrificed weekends and holidays so that I could remain on course academically and professionally.”

Dr. Dorsey believes that her doctoral degree is more about creating positive change.

“The degree symbolizes a sense of empowerment and serves as a source of inspiration for others, particularly young people and women in the community and throughout the world,” she says.

Graduates on the St. Croix Campus
For Dr. Dorsey, this degree has equipped her with the tools to become a highly trained creative leader who is able to harness her greatest potential by helping others.

“I am passionate about empowering others around me to achieve their greatest potential by living on purpose through the harnessing of their skills in order to dominate in their spheres of influence,” she says. “My training through the doctoral program has prepared me to continue my life work, which is to teach others the skills that they need to build leaders, achieve higher levels of productivity and develop sustainable solutions.”

Dr. Dorsey is optimistic for the future that this doctoral degree will afford her. “One of my goals is to work to improve and enhance the educational system within the Virgin Islands,” she says. “My training, personal and professional experiences have enabled me to offer extensive knowledge and expertise to assist with improving success rates in the areas of student engagement, retention and graduation. I look forward to offering my skillsets and services to provide research-based interventions in this area to serve UVI and the Virgin Islands’ community.”

According to Dr. Dorsey, the doctoral program provides a pathway and a pipeline for developing creative leaders in order to foster a culture of innovation for the Virgin Islands’ community, wider Caribbean and beyond. She explains that, “through the use of the creative mindset, one can apply methodologies and approaches focused on stimulating creative thinking and creative problem solving in order to become intentional about change leadership.” She says this would be important when considering operational efficiencies in the areas of problem solving, decision-making processes, and patterns in communication within organizations.

According to Dr. Dorsey, UVI is more than a place of employment for her.

“The University of the Virgin Islands is a special place for me,” says Dr. Dorsey. “It is the place that I received many opportunities from as early as high school which continued into earning my bachelor’s, master’s and now my doctorate degree.” She continued, “There are several colleagues and professors who are very instrumental to my success today. I extend my appreciation to them for investing into my life.” 

Wanda Rosario

Wanda Rosario: It Is Never Too Late To Fulfill Your Dream


Wanda first enrolled at the University of the Virgin Islands in 1994 where she took skills classes up until 1995. In time she learnt that the demands of her job as a CAT Scan technologist, at the Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix, which sometimes included 12-hour days would mean that completing her degree would not be possible at that time.

In an act of pure love upon her retirement, Wanda’s son Michael registered her at UVI in 2015, bought her textbooks and told her it was time to get her degree. Wanda accepted the challenge and was very excited to become a UVI student. According to Wanda, her freshman year was difficult, but she overcame with the help of her professors.

“I wanted the full college experience as full-time student,” Rosario says. “Math was my hardest subject, I didn’t do math for 30 plus years, but thankfully I had good professors who made sure I understood the material. I was very fortunate that my professors really cared.”

For Wanda although it was her dream to earn a bachelor’s degree her ultimate goal was to help the mentally ill in the Virgin Islands.

“Being on the island and seeing how many mentally ill persons we have here, I wanted to be a part of the solution and go into the health profession,” Rosario says.

As Wanda progressed through her years at UVI she quickly overcame the challenges of being a mature student. Often Wanda became enveloped in self-doubt, she worried that her age would be a major deterrent from excelling in her degree. With the encouragement of her peers and professors, and sheer determination, Wanda was able to maintain a 3.5 GPA while completing her studies.
Graduate on the St. Croix Campus
In reflecting on the four-year journey, Wanda reminisces on her first psychology classes where she felt as though she was in a foreign country.

“It was very challenging, I almost changed my major to English,” Rosario says. “Learning theories, and about the founding fathers of Psychology was challenging; however, I stuck it out. My advisors and professors were a great source of motivation for me, by the end of my sophomore year I knew I was in the right place.”

When Wanda became settled into UVI, she spread her wings and she became an academic coach at the Center for Student Success where she helped other students and referred them to resources on campus that would improve their college experience.

With her Bachelor’s degree in hand Wanda has created a formidable plan for the future. In Fall 2019, Wanda will enroll at UVI to pursue a Masters of Arts in Psychology. Upon completion of her second degree Wanda wishes to earn a Ph.D. at the University of the Virgin Islands. Ultimately Wanda has two goals on the horizon, firstly to work in systemic change and policy making and secondly to lecture at the University of the Virgin Islands.

Despite the challenges Wanda met at UVI, she is happy she made the decision not to give up on her dream. She hopes that many persons her age would take the opportunity to enroll for classes at UVI.

“I’m always recruiting for UVI, it is never too late to go back to school and fulfill your dream,” Rosario says. “Even if you are finished with your career and think it is over it is not over, I am a prime example, it is never too late to make a change. Don’t die with all of your skills and talent. I have been encouraging persons it is doable at any age.”

Monday, April 22, 2019

Art is Life - From the Classroom to the Silver Screen

The University of the Virgin Islands Department of Communication, Art, Theatre and Music hosted of its first weekend-long Caribbean Film and Artistic Cinematic Festival this month. Theory inside the classroom blossomed onto the stage with two days of best in Caribbean film.

The cultural festival, which ran from April 6-7, featured original films by UVI students and local film enthusiasts. Caribbean artists and filmmakers from the Virgin Islands, Georgia, Texas, Colorado, Puerto Rico and Barbados screened their work and hosted presentations.

“Response to this first-time film event was extraordinary, and the film artists were eager to showcase their talents,” says Dr. Sharon Albert Honore, UVI Communication Department chair and festival coordinator. “The festival served as the primary fundraiser for our department and we are extremely grateful to the USVI community, local businesses and festival participants.”

UVI student participants and the other participants were judged separately in various categories. A panel of judges selected the following winners:

Most Creative Feature Film, “Under Her Wings,” Toni Lance, Narrator; Elizabeth Hertzfeldt-Kamprath, filmmaker. Funded by the Center for Environmental Filmmaking and The Neel Foundation.

Best Documentary Short, "Guasabara,” (subtitles) Roberto Lebron and Cristian Carretero, producers

Best Original Feature Film - "Proudly We Serve: VI Veterans of the Korean War," Joan Keenan (producer), Jean Picou (director)

Best Visual Art Film- “Three Baja’s Plastic Bottles,” Carla Bellot (animation producer, Julie McNeal (executive producer), Jehroum Wood (narrator), made possible by Waste O/* Resources Trust

Best in Show Music Video. "Lovely Wedding," Khalil James (producer)

Most Creative, Best Dramatic Short Film, "The Basis of Communication," Stephon Smith, (producer)

Community entry, (short), "Water Sustainability: HBCU Making & Innovative Showcase," sponsored by the National Science Foundation. George Ellis, producer

Best Production, Dramatic Short Film, “Yolanda,” Cristian Carretero, producer/director

Best in show, movie trailers. "Life at Traxco," "Dangers of the Tongue," "The Womanizer", & "The Rats," Raymon Richardson, producer.

“I enjoyed attending the Caribbean Film & Artistic Cinematic Festival, the films were thought-provoking and riveting,” said Robin Jones, Virgin Islands educator. “The festival provided a wide variety of filmmakers from various parts of the Caribbean along with varying perspectives," Jones added.

A group of eight graduating Communication majors were tasked with formatting and creating a film project for their senior seminar course. The final assignments were submitted for the festival competition and included:

“Nigerian Experience” by Techele Evans

“Culture of Dialect” by Nigencia James

“Journey to Moterhood” by Shereene Batiste

“Brotherhood Workshop” by Kristi Geaux

“Morning Glory” by Lanie Jno Batiste

“The Basis of Communication” by Stephon Smith

   “Standards of Beauty” by Kyla Joseph

  “UVI Recruitment by Asia Vetter

The first-place winner, Stephon Smith traveled to STX to receive his award which included a certificate, token of appreciation from Crucian Gold Jewelry and $150 cash prize.

The festival also featured interactive ‘Sip and Paint’ sessions which were conducted by visual artists Don Matthews from Atlanta and Danica David from St. Croix. “The Community’s response to the “Sip and Paint” was great,” Dr. Honore says.

“Several guests paid to come both days and practice their artistic skills. Everyone took home their own artwork and also worked together to create a mini art piece," Honore states.

She further explains, “The colorful designs form a ‘conch puzzle,’ and represent this years’ theme: ‘Sound the Conch: Liberation though Film.’” The unique artwork was painted and signed by each participant.

Another highlight of the festival were panel discussions that included media industry experts such as CBS USVI correspondent Kellie Meyer, commercial artist, Din Matthews, digital marketing executive Lawrence LeBee, editor Taylor H., educator and business owner Dr. Glennis Gaines, and film animator Carla Bellot. This group addressed a number of relevant topics including Construction and Deconstruction of Rap Music Videos; Creating an Effective Storyboard (film); Marketing Techniques, Animation and 2D motion.

The curtains were brought down with the closing credits, in the form of a Sunset Soirée, hosted in part, by the Fred Hotel in Fredricksted, which marked the official close to the festival. Amidst colourful lights, food and music, awards were presented to participants, film winners, and sponsors. Among those in attendance were Senator Positive Nelson and his wife, Kimberley, Rick Grant, special projects coordinator in the Office of the Governor, who conveyed messages of support and encouragement to the participants. Grant is a UVI Communication graduate.

Honore stated that she received help from as far away as Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Denver and gave special thanks to creative consultants, Margarita Sweet, Fraser Kershaw and Toi Matthews.

The Caribbean Film and Artistic Cinematic Festival was made possible by generous sponsors, including: U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism, Virgin Islands Council on the Arts (VICA), Crucian Gold, V.I. Lottery, Cape Air, First Bank, CBS and ABC USVI News, and Economic Development Authority (EDA), Food Town, Gaines Family Dentistry (Georgia) and VI Christian Ministry (St. Thomas).

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Special Book Donation Offers Unique View of History

Color, culture, picturesque beauty and history set the tone for the University of the Virgin Islands as the 2018-19 Holiday season saw the University receiving a special book donation, “Postales, Salvadoreañas del Ayer.”

"Postales, Salvadoreans del Ayer"

Written by Stephen Grant, “Postales, Salvadoreañas del Ayer,” Spanish for “Postcards of El Salvador 1900-1950,” is a postcard and photo book of El Salvador. While this is not the first time the University has received a book donation, this book is different because of its unique design, and what it encapsulates.

The book breathes new life into over 200 Salvadoran picture postcards of the 1900’s, adding color and illuminating commentary. The rich cultural heritage of El Salvador is unearthed as each page delves deeply into the everyday life of the city.

Grant gives readers a clearly painted insight through the display of public buildings; streets and squares in the capital; ports and markets; hotels, lakes and groups of Indians. The book also pays tribute to the men responsible for the photography, production, and distribution of postcards.

Postcard used in Postales, Salvadoreans del Ayer

 Postales, Salvadoreañas del Ayer” is the brainchild of internationally acclaimed author, Stephen Grant. Grant is a passionate deltiologist (postcard collector) who has written about old picture postcards in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. His work not only provides readers with a panoramic view of scenery, monuments and buildings, his handsome book constitutes a rare and exquisite patrimony of invaluable richness from historical, anecdotal, and cultural perspectives.

Left - Right: President Hall and book author, Stehphen Grant 

Grant is the author of several other books; one on the Folgers, a couple who followed the works of Shakespeare and established a theatre and library of Shakespeare's works in Washington, District of Columbia.

Over the Holiday break, UVI President David Hall hosted visitors, Bill and Debbie DeLone. These longtime friends and family of the UVI community, facilitated this special book donation.

Left -Right: Bill DeLone and Debbie DeLone

Accompanying the DeLones’ and the author, Stephen Grant was Henry Wheatley, a native Virgin Islander. Grant was supervised by Henry during the time he served in the Peace Corp and wanted to dedicate the book and gift to Henry’s wife, Artrelle Wheatley.

Left - Right: President Hall, Stephen Grant and Henry Wheatley

Mrs. Wheatley, at one time, worked at UVI in Access and Enrollment Services. Hence, the symbolic meaning behind Grant gifting the book to the University – an institution that holds significant value to the Wheatley’s. A special inscription in the University’s copy recognizes her.
Inscription dedicated to Artrelle Wheatley (wife of Henry Wheatley)

The book will be officially handed over to the Ralph Paiewonsky Library by President David Hall.

“I hope this book will inspire our students because of the cultural creativity they find within these pages. The culture of the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean can also be majestically and creatively captured and unveiled for future generations.”  Dr. Hall said.

President Hall upon receipt of  "Postales, Salvadoreans del Ayer"

Prior to the DeLone’s relocation from the Virgin Islands to Washington, D. C., Bill DeLone was a professor of Computer Science at UVI. He was also very instrumental in the establishment of the RT Park, where he later served as a Board member.  His wife, Debbie is a native Virgin Islander who has held positions in both the public and private sectors in the Virgin Islands.

Debbie DeLone has collected a series of postcards from the Virgin Islands and is interested in providing them to the University if there is a student or faculty member who is interested in developing a similar book project with guidance and advice from Stephen Grant. President Hall is exploring the possibility of creating such a project at UVI.

Left - Right: Dr. Marilyn Brathwaite Hall (wife of President Hall), President Hall, Stephen Grant, Debbie DeLone, Bill DeLone and Henry Wheatley

Postales, Salvadoreañas del Ayer” was conceptualized, researched, developed, designed and printed in El Salvador. The book which is written in both English and Spanish, is available for purchase on

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

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.