Thursday, May 18, 2017

UVI Entrepreneur Poised to Hit the Ground Running

Aron A. Gumbs
(Aron A. Gumbs, St. Thomas Campus; Hospitality and Tourism Management)

Aron A. Gumbs is not just about to graduate from the University of the Virgin Islands. He is about to graduate with $10,000 in start-up capital to launch King Events, the mobile event and wedding planning service that he created and subsequently developed within the 13D Entrepreneurship program and competition that started last fall. He placed third in the competition, which earned him the $10,000 that will soon be used to jump-start King Events.

Originally from Anguilla, Gumbs confessed that when he was looking at colleges, his dream location was Las Vegas. But the costs were too high so he settled for the University of the Virgin Islands, figuring that he would stay two years and then transfer. Because the Hospitality and Tourism program allowed him to follow his passion, and because a significant portion of his education unfolded through hands-on internships that allowed him to hone his skills and make great contacts at the same time, he eventually saw no reason to leave.

“It has been wonderful to learn in and out of the classroom,” said Gumbs. “Because of my summer internship experiences at Black Orchid Florist and Events and Ani Villas on Anguilla, and at International Capital Management Company (ICMC)’s concierge and property management division on St. Thomas, I got to experience what it felt like to truly be in my zone.” Gumbs continued, “I also made so many contacts through my program and these jobs that I have new clients even before King Events has officially launched.”

King Events will be a mobile business, existing without a storefront but with a large vehicle in which Gumbs will be able to transport numerous samples to event and wedding planning house calls. This will allow him to be very flexible, which is important as highly customized events are to be the cornerstone of the business. Gumbs is not yet sure whether St. Thomas or Anguilla will function as a home base for his company, but he expects to work internationally as his company grows. He feels indebted to UVI, he said, for preparing him for a bright future in which he has the luxury of earning a living by doing what he most loves.

A Graduate Who Leaves a Legacy

Alphea Browne
(Alphea Browne, St. Thomas Campus; Accounting)

Alphea Browne, an accounting major from St. Kitts, is not only about to graduate summa cum laude from UVI on the St. Thomas Campus, she is also preparing to leave a legacy. Having realized that there was a great opportunity for students involved with professional associations while at The Washington Center for Internships and Seminars last fall, she spearheaded an initiative to reactivate the National Association of Black Accounts (NABA), and the National Association of States Board of Accountancy Students Centre for Public Trust (NASBA Student CPT) at the University of the Virgin Islands.

“When students become members of professional organizations, they gain access to all sorts of information about scholarships, internships and job opportunities,” said Browne. “I feel happy and proud of the achievement. But I’d feel even happier if I was sure the organization would remain up and running after I leave.” Browne continued, “It will be a lot of responsibility for the student who steps in to fill my executive position, but it’s definitely worth it. If your college is not an active member of NABA or some other comparable organization, it puts you at a big disadvantage in terms of being nationally and internationally competitive.”

While a student, she interned at Central Union Mission in Washington D.C. and at Domino’s Pizza Inc. Corporate Headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She also served as a Thurgood Marshall College Fund Student Ambassador for 2016-2017, and as a Resident Assistant from 2015 – 2017.

Browne has several good job prospects on the horizon thanks to the excellent professional network she cultivated during her time as an undergraduate. She said she is excited to leave behind the student life as she embarks on the next phase of her journey in which she will join a community of business professionals among whom she has already established numerous connections. Browne also feels profoundly grateful to UVI not just for the fine education she received, but also for the empowerment and mentoring that have prepared her for a promising career.

“UVI has helped me to clarify exactly what I want to do,” she said. “It also helped me build a great professional network filled with connections and references through a variety of internships, revamping NABA, and launching the NASBA Student CPT on campus.” Browne continued, “I also want to credit my advisor, Dr. Dion Gows, who has become a true mentor to me. I know that our relationship will continue long after I leave this University.”

Browne will begin preparing for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensing exam shortly after graduation. She is currently in the process of deciding where she wants to live and work, but is open to a variety of national and international possibilities that include St. Thomas and her home island of St. Kitts.

First Tubist to Graduate from UVI Pursues Educational Leadership Role

Erick Willie
(Erick Willie, Albert A. Sheen Campus; Master of Arts in Educational Leadership)

Erick Willie, the first tubist to graduate from the University of the Virgin Islands with a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education, immediately put his degree to use upon graduating in 2014. He started to teach music at Arthur Richards Junior High School on St. Croix, and has been introducing youngsters to the joys of band, choral and Quellbe music for the last three and a half years.

Willie derives great satisfaction from working in the classroom, but knew that he wanted to be involved with shaping the direction of public education, particularly with regard to incorporating the arts into the core academic curriculum So he returned to UVI for a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership. He will graduate on May 11, on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix.

“The biggest challenge for me was finding a balance between being a student again, and being a teacher,” said Willie. “But the program was exceptional, and I was able to do an internship with the administrators at my school, which enabled me to see what a principal really does. Based on that experience, I definitely want to pursue educational administration and leadership. There’s such a huge need for initiatives like band that will raise school pride, and get students to feel enthusiastic about learning.”

Willie himself was first exposed to music as a junior high school student who went on to become a valued member of the band at the St. Croix Educational Complex. He started out as a trumpet player, but when the band director said that tuba players were needed, Willie volunteered. He fell in love with the instrument. He had always dreamed of becoming a teacher, and was excited to learn that UVI would allow him to merge his two passions by training to become a music teacher.

“A lot of people have asked me why I didn’t go to study in the states,” said Willie. “I reply by asking them why I would want to study in the states when I can attend a school right here in the Virgin Islands that produces the best of the best.” Willie continued, “A lot of people overlook UVI, and that is a mistake. This university has helped me to develop as a musician and as an educator. Through both programs I’ve learned so many strategies that I’ve been able to implement in the classroom. And I had a great time doing it.”
Erik Willie and Kevin Dixon

21 Year Journey From Teen Mom to College Graduate

Andrea Brathwaite
(Andrea Brathwaite, Albert A. Sheen Campus; Information Systems and Technology)

Andrea Brathwaite, a 39 year-old mother of six, started her journey toward a college degree from the University of the Virgin Islands 21 years ago, in 1996. Back then, she said, she was a teenaged mom whose parents valued education and were nevertheless prepared to pay for her education. But she wasn’t ready. Shortly after she started classes, she dropped out to raise her son.

Her first child led to a second, and a third, until eventually she was the mother of six. It wasn’t easy. In addition to the overwhelming work and expense associated with raising a large family while holding down a demanding full-time job as a para professional at Ricardo Richards Elementary School, Brathwaite faced a number of challenges that included the deaths of her father and half-sister; an accident in which she sustained numerous first and second degree burns; and a seemingly endless series of financial struggles. Throughout everything, however, she clung to her dream of one day earning a university degree.

Brathwaite returned to UVI several times over the ensuing years, but was always thwarted by a lack of time and money. Nevertheless, when she attended the graduation of a good friend and co-worker who had gone to UVI to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher, Brathwaite had an epiphany. During the ceremony, a nursing student was being honored for pushing through her studies and completing her degree even as she was being treated for cancer.

“I realized right then and there that if this woman could do it, I could too,” said Brathwaite. “I’m alive. I’m healthy. There’s no reason why I can’t do this.”

And so she did. With assistance and encouragement from a mighty support system that included her mother, sisters and significant other; her co-workers and friends; and eventually a growing network of professors and staff at UVI, she leaned into the completion of a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Systems and Technology. The journey has been a challenging one, just as Brathwaite suspected it would be, but her determination and persistence have earned her a consistent place on the Dean’s List since 2014, and very soon she will graduate on St. Croix with the Emerald Jubilee Class of 2017.

“I felt really excited today as I picked up my invitations,” said Brathwaite. “It’s been a struggle, but there have been so many professors that kept encouraging me. I was very fortunate to attend such an amazing and supportive institution.”

Class of 2017 Celebrates Commencement Amid Themes of “Rising Up”


(Left to Right: President David Hall, Keynote Speaker Iyanla Vanzant,
Honorary Degree Recipient Ruth Elma Thomas) 

The University of the Virgin Islands Class of 2017 took their first steps into the future at Commencement Ceremonies, which were held on May 11, on St. Croix, and on May 12, in the Sports and Fitness Center on the St. Thomas Campus. Themes of rising up and persevering in the face of adversity were embedded in every aspect of the event from President David Hall’s welcome, to Iyanla Vanzant’s keynote address, to Monel Marcellin’s class speaker remarks, to select interviews with students and alums. “

Keynote Speaker, Iyanla Vanzant
The thought that got me through college as a single mother on welfare with three children by three different fathers was that there is nothing to fear,” said Keynote Speaker Iyanla Vanzant, a commanding author, inspirational speaker, television personality and healer of people. “Fear comes from what you tell yourself about yourself, and whether or not you believe it. Fear can hold you back, but only if you let it.”

Vanzant, who helps people by encouraging them to engage in deliberate thinking, shared a narrative of her personal history peppered with insightful and amusing anecdotes. She then suggested to the graduates that they tackle the future by arming themselves with a kind of personal intelligence apparatus. But in the world according to Vanzant, CIA stands not for Central Intelligence Agency, but rather for Character, Integrity and Appreciation.

“Developing your unique character means making sure that what you do is in line with who you are,” she said. “Integrity is about making sure that what you think, feel, do and say are all in alignment. Do what you know is right even when nobody is looking.” Vanzant continued, “Appreciate yourself, along with those who came before you who endured horrible things so that you could be here today. Appreciate your parents. Whoever they are, they did the best they could.”

Toward the end of her masterful and inspiring address, Vanzant encouraged the class of 2017 to wake up every morning knowing that they had the opportunity to make a new choice. She urged them to “… get focused, get purposeful, claim it, and speak it as though it is.”

President David Hall
President Hall’s welcome address focused on the idea of three magical rivers flowing together in 2017 – the 100th anniversary of the Virgin Islands as a US territory; the 55th anniversary of UVI; and the four-year journey of the class of 2017 – all contributing to a fertile landscape in which these graduates, like the University itself, will continue to rise up despite challenges and disappointments; hardships and losses. So it was with fitting continuity that shortly after being introduced by Dr. Hall, Monel Marcellin, the class speaker on the St. Thomas Campus, shared the stories of several classmates who’d managed to earn degrees despite unplanned pregnancies, abject poverty, family separations and other privations.

Marcellin, who was accepted by six law schools, invoked the famous Mother Teresa quote to support her pride and ongoing faith in her classmates, and in herself: “To those who have done so much with so little for so long, you are now qualified to do anything with nothing.”

St. Thomas Class Speaker Monel Marcellin
Marcellin went on to thank the UVI faculty and staff, along with family members and friends of the graduates, for “believing in us when we could not believe in ourselves.” She expressed gratitude about having been invited to “step outside her comfort zone” so that she and her classmates could “celebrate being alive and present.”

In closing, Marcellin suggested to her classmates that they use their cell phone cameras to focus on what is important; capture the moment; and develop the things that you wish to carry into the next phase of your journey. She then said to the class of 2017: “We have brains in our heads and feet in our shoes. After today, we can go anywhere we want.”

The UVI Class of 2017 are all extraordinary products of a unique journey. Select the following links to read a few inspiring stories that offer some insight into the character of that cohort, and into the great diversity and resilience of the student body at large.

21 Year Journey From Teen Mom to College Graduate

First Tubist to Graduate from UVI Pursues Educational Leadership Role

A Graduate Who Leaves a Legacy

UVI Entrepreneur Poised to Hit the Ground Running

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

UVI and the VI Sea Turtle Project Document Their 100th Turtle

Sometimes a number is just a number and sometimes, just sometimes, a number is a milestone. On April 19, 2017 the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) Center for Marine and Environmental Science and the VI Sea Turtle Project (VISTP) documented their 100th sea turtle hitting a major milestone. 

Members of UVI Marine Science and the VI Sea Turtle Projet celebrate the 100th documented turtle.
 All work is conducted pursuant to a NMFS permit
"When we started tagging and documenting sea turtles in the fall of 2014, Dr. Paul Jobsis and I estimated the number of turtles using Brewer's Bay and Hawksbill Cove to be around 40-50 turtles, at most," Scott Eanes said. "The estimation was based off of previous research by Dr. Jobsis and Kemit Amon Lewis, but almost three years later, we were really wrong, and we couldn't be happier." 
Eanes, founder of VI Sea Turtle Project, is best known for naming the bay south of the runway, Hawksbill Cove. He and Dr. Jobsis started tagging turtles in 2014 as part of Scott's master of arts thesis and they haven't looked back. 
Scott and Kate Eanes from the VI Sea Turtle Project
with the first turtle documented back in September
2014. All work is conducted pursuant to a NMFS
permit.
"Every turtle we documented is measured , weighed,  receives a series of identification tags and a small genetic sample is taken," Dr. Jobsis said. "This allows us to know how fast our turtles are growing, how many we have, how they are using the bays, and possibly, where our turtles are from in the Caribbean." Jobsis continued, " It also means that when these turtles reach adulthood and leave the USVI they have a greater chance of being identified, wherever they go next."

The US Virgin Islands has two year-round resident sea turtles species that use the numerous bays and inlets: one is the threatened Green Sea turtle and the other is the critically endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle. St. Croix has the bulk of nesting activity with St. Thomas and St. John recording very few nesting female turtles. This means the juvenile turtles most frequently seen by tourist, snorkelers and divers around St. Thomas and St. John more than likely originate from other Caribbean islands, Central America, Florida and possibly Brazil. One of the joint research project goals is to discover the origin of the turtles using Brewer's Bay and Hawksbill Cove.
"This has been a long difficult road only accomplished through a lot of hard work and teamwork. Scott's passion and commitment to understanding and protecting sea turtles has been crucial to our success."
- Dr. Paul Jobsis, UVI Center for Marine and Environmental Science

"We need to find out where our turtles are coming from because each week we are out there we see untagged turtles, and it would be great to know where our turtles come from so we can make sure they get a home to nest, ensuring the next generation of turtles in the USV," Eanes said. "And as we see more turtles we still haven't documented, it makes you wonder just how many turtles call these two bays home. If you love sea turtles this is really an exciting location to study."
The research team from UVI and the VI Sea Turtle Project would also like to remind the general public that this research is permitted through the National Marine Fisheries Services and it is against the law to harass, touch, or retain sea turtles without the required permits. UVI and the VISTP plan to continue their research through 2019.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Caribbean Writer Remembers Derek Walcott

“The Caribbean Writer (TCW) mourns the passing of its esteemed founding editorial board member, Nobel Prize Winner, Playwright, Poet and Artist, Derek Walcott, who passed away earlier this morning," said, Alscess Lewis-Brown, editor of The Caribbean Writer, a refereed, international  journal published by the University of the Virgin Islands annually.  She added that “,Walcott’s meticulously woven metaphorical poems and plays captured the essence and spirit of Caribbean expressivity across a spectrum of Caribbean political and social consciousness. His support and insight helped to shape and guide “The Caribbean Writer’s” path over the pass thirty years.  For this, we are grateful. We will miss his abiding frank and witty manner.”

“He was a great advocate for the Caribbean,” said Lewis-Brown. She added that in an interview with Walcott in 2014, from his home in St. Lucia, in response to her question about “his thoughts on what might be considered idealism in the notion of pulling the fragments of the Caribbean together,” 

Walcott had this to say:

“Everywhere has division in all countries. I don’t know what the division comes from, but of course there is a difference in things: difference in pronunciation, accent, and stuff like that. Even in little St. Croix there is a division between Christiansted and Frederiksted. Each island has different qualities assigned to it by other islands. However, I think that regionally we are coming together through the products of our creative imagination. The Caribbean Writer is a good example of that effort. So, no. I don’t think we are being idealistic when we talk about pulling the fragments of the Caribbean together. Poets are doing it”.

UVI Professor and The Caribbean Writer Editorial Board Member Dr. Vincent Cooper, fondly recalls that during the 1970s Derek Walcott either directed or provided advice on the staging of several of his plays in the Virgin Islands. Between 1973 and 1978, he directed scenes from “Dream on Monkey Mountain”, “The Charlatan”, and “Franklyn”, on St. Croix, and later that year on St. Thomas. In 1974, he directed Ti Jean and his Brothers on St. Croix, as well as on St. Thomas, as well as on Tortola. In April 1977, he directed Remembrance on both islands. During the Fall of 1978, he directed Pantomime on both islands. Throughout the Fall of 1979, Walcott taught a seminar on Tirso de Molina’s The Trickster of Seville (El Burlador de Sevilla) and Walcott’s adaptation of Molina’s play, “The Joker of Seville”. Walcott also spent part of the summer of 1979 revising his new play, “Marie Laveau”, while residing at the University of the Virgin Islands ( then known as  CVI) campus.  Tirso de Molina’s The Trickster of Seville and Derek Walcott’s adaptation, “The Joker of Seville”, as well as Walcott’s musical, “Marie Laveau” were first produced at the University of the Virgin Islands in St. Thomas, in November 1979.

Author and Poet Edgar Lake another TCW editorial board member recalls his presence at a Walcott poetry reading in New York Public Library in a poem entitled, “Walcott Reads to Brodsky’s God Mother” published in Calabash, a journal of Caribbean arts and letters in  2007.   The following is an excerpt from Lake’s poem:

“ …He reaches for his poems, curled in a coat-pocket – and begins to read, the lady shifts her weight, and clamps her feet about her bags, Walcott caught his breath and leapfrogs to another page. He’s accustomed to this silence, pigeons caught in eaves some simile, once winged, and now fretting for the rhyme Walcott, litany-voiced, free-verses about sea-grapes…”


“Walcott has had a long history with the University of the Virgin Islands and The Caribbean Writer,” said Emily A. Williams, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.  “Our writers and scholars have been enriched by their drinks at his intellectual and artistic font. May the spirit of his creative genius continue to inspire us all.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Researchers Poised to Uncover Secrets of the Universe

UVI Astronomers Gain Access to Gemini Telescopes in Chile and Hawaii

The Gemini Telescope (Photo Credit: gemini.edu)

Astronomers at the University of the Virgin Islands received an early Christmas present in 2016: acceptance of their proposal to the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) granting access to two of the world’s largest telescopes in Chile and Hawaii. UVI scientists, collaborators and students will now be better able to study gamma-ray bursts (GRB), explosive phenomena generated by exploding stars 30 to 100 times larger than our sun. These may be the first generation of stars ever to have formed in the universe, which makes their analysis critical to our deepening understanding of the formation of the universe.

Alexander Fortenberry, Physics Student, working
at the Etelman Observatory
“We are entering a great era in the history of UVI astronomy,” said Dr. Antonino Cucchiara, assistant professor of Physics in the College of Science and Mathematics. “Because our students will be able to participate in cutting-edge research that is a top priority of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the University of the Virgin Islands will take on a significant role within the worldwide spectrum of top astronomy research institutions.”

The Gemini Observatory consists of two 8 meter telescopes that collectively provide access to the entire sky from strategic mountaintop locations, and are capable of providing nuanced information about astronomical events that is not visible through smaller telescopes. The UVI team was granted four hours of use on the southern Chilean telescope, and ranked in the top quartile for the Northern telescope in Hawaii. Meanwhile, a smaller but faster robotic telescope is coming online at the Etelman Observatory (the Virgin Islands Robotic Telescope, VIRT), which will be able to identify gamma-ray bursts (GRB’s) a few minutes after they have been discovered by satellites. With access to both technologies in different parts of the world, UVI researchers will be among the first to obtain and analyze GRB data as it becomes available.

Virgin Islands Robotic Telescope (VIRT)
GRB’s are usually identified by a rapid “flash” of very energetic gamma rays that only lasts a few seconds. NASA’s Swift satellite, launched in 2004 to study these phenomena, detects 100 GRB’s a year. Once the gamma-ray emission is detected, the satellite communicates the coordinates of the GRB explosions to scientists and computers around the world via email and text messages. Within a few minutes after the explosion, the UVI team is able to point the VIRT and other facilities at its disposal, such as the Gemini telescope, to collect data immediately. To rapidly receive these data from distant facilities, astronomers like Dr. Cucchiara and the Etelman Observatory staff can communicate with the astronomers in Chile to obtain critical data in real time. This data is analyzed at UVI and the results are shared with the astronomical community via the GRB Circular Network, which is a specialized mailing-listed based at NASA, within a few hours after the GRB explosion

According to Dr. Cucchiara, who spearheaded the initiative, one factor that contributed to the proposal’s success was the physical location of the Etelman Observatory. Because UVI has the easternmost astronomical observatory in the United States, VIRT will be the first in line after Europe to pick up satellite detections of gamma-ray explosions. From these images, Cucchiara and his team will be able to determine whether or not an explosion is worth a more detailed look. If it is, UVI researchers are now authorized to tell Gemini South technicians in Chile to drop whatever it is they are doing and point at the explosion. They can also tell the technicians how to point, in an effort to collect maximum useable data from the massive telescope about the distance and chemical composition of the bursts.

“We are essentially filling a gap between observatories in Europe and Arizona,” said Cucchiara. “By adjusting the strategy for exploration of the bursts based on what we see, we will be able to share resources with a worldwide network of astronomers. Analyzing these astronomical events will help to explain how the universe evolved. It will also function as part of a knowledge base for a wide variety of climate change studies involving water, wind speed and weather analysis in general.

Dr. David Morris
Dr. Cucchiara and his colleague, Dr. David Morris – assistant professor of Physics and director of the Etelman Observatory – are excited about the incredible opportunities that are opening up to do top level science at UVI through remote access to sophisticated technology at other facilities and institutions. But they are also eager to raise awareness about local astronomy developments with an eye toward fortifying their own facility. According to Dr. Cucchiara, UVI’s astronomy program and observatory are strong, but additional support is still needed for supplemental equipment, a past-due overhaul of the observatory’s computer system, and more volunteers.

“We will certainly be applying for grants,” said Dr. Cucchiara. “And we’re hopeful about that because our goal is to become more of a resource for scientists from all over the world.” Cucchiara continued, “The more we can engage with the worldwide network of astronomers, the more able we will become to give our students incredible opportunities to continue their education in astronomy and physics. The experience they gain at UVI will also catapult them to the forefront of research experiences at other institutions such as NASA, the Space Telescope Science Institute or Harvard.”

To learn more about supporting the Etelman Observatory as a donor, partner or volunteer, visit http://observatory.uvi.edu/ or contact antonino.cucchiara@uvi.edu.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Golden Key Honor Society Wins ‘SPARK a Change’ Award


St. Croix Chapter Impacts UVI & VI...

The St. Croix Chapter of the University of the Virgin Islands’ Golden Key International Honor Society received the 2016 “Spark a Change” award. From month-long initiatives to campaigns with a specific purpose, Golden Key members have been committed to making a difference. Last fall the group volunteered at UVI’s Open House, Red Ribbon Week at Ricardo Richards Elementary School, and hosted the Virgin Islands Senatorial Forum held at the University. The award is for the Golden Key International Honor Society’s service project “Spark a Change for Children.” The St. Croix Chapter won third place in 2016 and was awarded second place in 2015 at the international competition.

“This is quite an accomplishment for our small island university chapter, but very indicative of the dedication of our members and officers to service,” says Patricia Towal, Golden Key chapter advisor. “Golden Key rests on three pillars: Service, Academics, and Leadership. This chapter embodies all of the Golden Key Pillars.”

“I believe the Golden Key impact is being felt beyond UVI's Campus, from our ‘Back to School Supply Drive,’ to our ‘Nurturing Young Minds to Become Golden Students Mentoring Initiatives,’ and our Virgin Islands Senatorial Forum,” says St. Croix Chapter president, Kevin Dixon. “I see Golden Key as an organization that can serve as a change agent, thus, with a focus on our service pillar, we plan to continue to fill voids in our community.” Dixon, a UVI alumnus, is currently earning his master’s in business administration and is working towards careers in higher education and public policy. 

In fall 2016, Golden Key hosted the Career Pathway and Graduate School Panel, where honorary Golden Key members presented to the Virgin Islands Department of Labor Investing for Tomorrow (LIFT) Program interns and UVI students. Panelists included former Commissioner and Entrepreneur Albert Bryan Jr., Cardiologist Dr. Dante P Galiber, UVI Professor Dr. Barbara Flemming and Attorney Genevieve Whitaker. The panel discussed their own career pathways and the importance of graduate school.

With the restoration of classes for the 2016-2017 school year, Golden Key held a back-to-school drive, which enabled the organization to donate more than $1,000 worth of school supplies to the Queen Louise Home for the Children. The chapter received generous donations from UVI’s Research and Technology Park, Optimal Printing, Plaza Extra East, Cost-U-Less, Honorary Member Michelle Albany and University Bound.

“After helping the community, it makes me feel really good about myself, knowing that I am involved in making someone feel special and giving them hope," says Lennoxea Thompson, UVI graduate student and the organization’s webmaster. Thompson is currently pursuing her masters of business administration degree. She aspires to open a small management firm in hopes of aiding those who would like to start their own small business.

As part of the “SPARK a Change,” initiative, which lasted for the whole month of October, the organization launched “Nurturing Young Minds to Become Golden Students” at the Alexander Henderson Elementary School. Golden Key members worked alongside, Anhya Lord-Jerris, UVI St. Croix Career Services coordinator and Golden Key member, to deliver presentations on careers, the importance of working hard in school and the importance of volunteering in their community. UVI’s Roots Poetry, a new organization dedicated to making positive changes in the community through creative writing and performance arts, discussed creative writing and provided the students the opportunity to express themselves through words. 

“Knowing that I am trying to help someone who is less fortunate than I am gives me the drive to be active with Golden Key,” adds Lennoxea, who also loves providing awareness of the organization. People may know of the Golden Key, but they don’t know exactly what we do, she says.

“I like being a part of an organization when the main purpose is to give back to the community," says Rosan Walters – Mulley, the chapter’s public relations officer. “Being a part of Golden Key gives me the opportunity to offer individuals a sense of hope, and a reminder that there is still good people around. I get a sense of purpose, and become happy to see the appreciation in the eyes of those whom we were able to assist.”

Rosan is currently obtaining her master’s in business administration. Ultimately, she aspires to be an entrepreneur and financial consultant, with a possibility of working in the retail industry.

Earlier in the semester, the chapter was recognized for maintaining the Gold Standard. A gold level standing usually means that a chapter has achieved the highest possible reporting standard in the organization through active implementation and participation in events, service projects and more.

The St. Croix Chapter has also attained their third “Key Chapter” award, which carries a monetary prize and is the top award given to only a select group of chapters which go beyond the Gold Standard.

Planning for spring 2017 began in the fall. “One major initiative we will be focusing on during the spring semester, is to host a scholarship gala in order to raise funds for scholarships for the betterment of Golden Key members,” Dixon says. “We believe it’s important for our students to not only get to college, but through college, thus we want to provide resources to our members to ensure college completion.”

Golden Key accepts members who maintain a 3.33 grade point average, or higher, and have earned at least 60 credits. The organization is currently accepting new member applications for the Spring 2017 semester. For more information see this link: Golden Key International Honour Society



Thursday, December 8, 2016

UVI Accounting Students Take Lead to Create New Career Opportunities

The Executive Board.  From left to right: 
Jessica Taylor, Brencia Skeete, Shanisa Emanuel, Rohsaan Francis, Rae-Dawn Richardson, and Alphea Browne
Nascent National Accounting Association Reestablished at UVI ...

Alphea Browne, currently a senior accounting major at the University of the Virgin Islands, realized that there was a great opportunity for students involved with professional associations while she was at The Washington Center for Internships and Seminars last fall.  Surrounded by the bustle of professional networking, she remembered that just before she left St. Kitts for UVI, the president of UVI’s St. Kitts Alumni Association suggested that she join the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA).  She tried, but found the organization to be inactive.  So she reached out to one of her professors, Dr. Dion Gouws, who encouraged her to revamp NABA at UVI.
“When students become members of professional organizations, they gain access to all sorts of information about scholarships, internships and job opportunities,” said Browne.  “But you can’t join unless your college or university is an active member, and that puts you at a big disadvantage in terms of being nationally and internationally competitive.”
Browne reached out to people at NABA who explained that UVI would have to regain its title.  Determined, she recruited fellow accounting students Hakim Potter, Candice Samuel, Joya Gustine and Damien James to form the UVI Accounting and Business Professionals Association, which would complete the leg work.  It was a long and sometimes tedious process, but Browne and her team persisted and now the National Association of Black Accountants is an active organization at UVI once again.
The 2016-2017 NABA student leaders are President Jessica Taylor, Vice President Brencia Skeete, Treasurer Rae-dawn Richardson, Secretary Rohsaan Francis, and Public Relations Officer Shanisa Emanuel.
Back row, left to right: Dr. Dion Gouws, Medina Simon, K’Shana Bapttiste, Alphea Browne, Rae-Dawn Richardson, Le-Anne Angol
From Row, left to right: Brencia Skeete, Felicea Fontenelle, Rohsaan Francia, Shanisa Emanuel, Jessica Taylor, Hakim Potter
“I feel happy and proud of the achievement,” said Browne.  “But I’d feel even happier if I was sure that the organization will remain up and running after I leave.  I’m working with a freshman now in the hope that she will pick up an executive position.”  Browne continued, “It’s a lot of responsibility, you have to submit a report every six months, but it’s definitely worth it.”
NABA, which invites accounting students to be involved with the professional community, to create a group of their own and to build leadership skills, is not the only accounting organization on campus that offers development and networking opportunities.  The recently established National Association of States Board of Accountancy (NASBA) Student Center for the Public Trust (CPT) provides an interactive environment where ethical business behaviors and ideas can flourish. In order to maintain membership, student CPT members must accept responsibility for improving their community by completing one community service project every year.
The expansion of UVI’s accounting program this year includes a new Bachelor of Business in Accounting degree and a Master of Accounting degree.  Although both programs are offered through the School of Business, they focus primarily on accounting and prepare students to sit for certifications such as the Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and others. 
With the growth of the accounting department has come not only a proliferation of professional associations, but also scholarships. The Virgin Islands Society of Certified public Accounts (VISCPA) recently presented two minority accounting scholarships from the American Institute of Certified Public Accounts (AICPA) for $3,000 each. 
Left to Right: Dr. Sakthiharan Mahenthiran, Rob Upson, Dr. Dion Gouws, Hakim Potter, Dr. Stephen Reames,and Sharon Levin
“We have so many dedicated and hard-working students in our new accounting programs,” said Dr. Dion Gouws, associate professor of accounting.  “UVI is certainly producing top notch graduates in accounting, and we look forward to more of our students receiving AICPA scholarships and other such achievement scholarships. We are all very proud of them.”
According to Dr. Gouws, the awards recognize hard work, which is an essential part of preparing for career readiness as accounting students learn mostly by doing.  “These scholarships are a great way to motivate competition and diligence,” said Dr. Gouws.  “The recipients earned their scholarships through many hours of dedication.”
Hakim Potter, this year’s recipient of the AICPA minority scholarship on St. Thomas, said that to him the scholarship felt like a great opportunity for change.  “Where I come from is not where I’m going to be,” said Potter.  “The scholarship is confirmation that change is possible.  Any accounting major should definitely apply for the AICPA scholarship.”
Dr. Sherri Levin, CPA and vice president of VISCPA on St. Thomas, is an educator committed to increasing diversity in the accounting industry.  “In addition to rewarding the students for their hard work and achievement, the scholarships are a great way to bring attention to the accounting major, and to encourage other UVI students to enter the field,” Dr. Levin said.
  Accounting degree programs are on the rise nationally, but large numbers of baby boomer CPAs are retiring, thus intensifying demand for accounting professionals, she said. “As older CPAs retire or leave the territory, it is important to have a younger generation of trained and certified professionals to fill the void,” said Levin.  “Our hope is that the scholarship recipients and other UVI accounting graduates decide to work in the Virgin Islands to serve the public need for professional accountants in the territory.”