Thursday, August 16, 2012

UVI Students Off to an 'Awesome' Start

A student leader prepares to take new UVI students on a tour of the St. Thomas campus.
Miriam Osborne-Elliott summed up the Opening Ceremony of Orientation Week on UVI’s Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix in one word: awesome. Osborne-Elliott, the dean of students on St. Croix, said the event saw over 200 parents and students in the campus’ Great Hall. “The students are excited. They are energized. They are ready to start classes,” Osborne-Elliott said. 

UVI Fall Semester classes begin on Monday, Aug. 20, but each year Orientation Week activities are held prior to the start of classes to enhance students' academic and social adjustment to college life, acquaint students to UVI’s rules and regulations, allow students to explore the campuses, and help students to network among themselves. Students also meet faculty advisors to develop their class schedules and register for classes.

In a parade of countries, UVI
students placed their country’s 
flag for display on the stage.
The St. Thomas campus is now home to students from around the world, including India, Pakistan, Thailand and the U.S. mainland. There are also students from the northern part of the Caribbean – Jamaica, to the most southern part of the Caribbean – Trinidad and Tobago, and all the islands in between – the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Martin. As anticipated, students from the territory make up most of the new student population. 

“We hope that your stay here is inspiring, enlightening and even life changing,” UVI President Dr. David Hall said at the Opening Ceremony at the Sports and Fitness Center on the St. Thomas campus. Today represents a new beginning in your life and in UVI, he said. 

Dr. Hall referenced a performance goal from UVI’s recently approved strategic plan throughout his remarks: “UVI will produce graduates who are academically excellent, globally sensitive, entrepreneurially focused, emotionally and spiritually balanced, and committed to serving the world.” He outlined what students must do in order to meet that goal. “If together we can achieve this goal, then we will not only transform the Virgin Islands, we will transform the world,” Dr. Hall told the new students. 

St. Thomas campus Student Government Association (SGA) President Leslyn Tonge congratulated students on “the beginning of the best four years of your life.” Tonge shared her experience of starting college three years ago, after a 14-year hiatus from the classroom. She told students that she was shy and hesitant to be active on campus. But UVI, she said, offered an opportunity for her to grow, mature and find her dreams.
“I am the example of the change UVI can make in your life it you allow it to,” Tonge said, urging students to get involved in SGA and some of the more than 30 clubs and organizations on campus. 

Rick Grant, the keynote speaker on St. Thomas, recounted his reasons for attending a college in Florida before reluctantly deciding to return to the territory to attend UVI. Within weeks of becoming a UVI student, Grant said he realized that UVI was “saturated with possibilities” and offered “unwavering support” from faculty and staff. Grant, a former SGA president, said at UVI he embraced every opportunity.

“I am grateful for my time at this University,” Grant said. “I proudly say that the University of the Virgin Islands gave me a second chance at being first.” 

Kishma N. Allen, author of the recently published book “It’s Your Vision, Can YOU Make it Happen?,” was the keynote speaker on St. Croix. Allen told the students that they can achieve anything. She encouraged students to follow their passions and to never let anyone kill their dreams. 

St. Thomas campus Dean of Students Dr. Doris Battiste compared getting a college education with competing in the Olympics, noting that both require hard work, commitment and focus. While not everyone will get “gold,” all must finish the race – which is to earn a degree, Dr. Battiste said. “The journey begins today,” she said. “We will be here to cheer as you cross the finish line.”