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.

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