Wednesday, September 18, 2019

YOE Alumni Dives into National Opportunities

It is often said that, “the sky is the limit” but for Youth Ocean Explorer (YOE) students, the ocean is limitless as they continue to be successful even beyond the shores of the Virgin Islands. Maura Richardson is one such student whose demonstrated passion for marine science saw her completing a two-week training with the Diving With a Purpose (DWP) program in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Richardson at DWP 

Richardson’s active and outstanding participation in YOE in 2017 and 2018 elevated her to being the qualified, to meet the eligibility requirements of the DWP. She is the first student from St. Thomas to participate in this program. However, Howard Forbes Jr., YOE director said that this year simply marks the beginning of their participation in this annual program.

“This is a tremendous achievement for Maura as she is only 15-years-old,” Forbes said. “She has more scuba diving accolades than I have and that is incredible,” he stated. “ It is my goal to provide opportunities like these to young, aspiring marine biologists so that by the time they decide to enroll at college, they have all the necessary experience to be one step ahead of the game.”

“This year was my first time taking part in this program and it was extravagant,” Richardson said. “Taking part in this program allowed me, a little island girl, to meet new people from different parts of the world and gain new knowledge every day. “DWP is an amazing program,” Maura emphatically stated. “It is no summer camp or like any summer program, this program is a world-wide experience exposing all young minds to different cultures and religions.”

Reflecting on the sessions she participated in, Richardson said that Coral Restoration week and Archeology week both offered new information that she is now able to share with people in the Virgin Islands. “In the first week, I participated in the Coral Restoration program and many people would think that someone from an island would know all the information there is to know about corals but I actually learned a lot of new things about the same types of coral living around my island,” Richardson said. “I learned better ways to identify coral, how to clean and plant coral. Coral is needed they are more than just pretty objects, they are living organisms,” she added.

Richardson recording coral health metrics

Richardson cleaning staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis)

The second week of the program was geared toward archeology, which Richardson said revealed her liking for history. “This last week was a test on our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) skills,” she said. “We put art into history and we took history from the ocean floor.”
“This program was more than just work and studies, it was also about connecting,” Richardson said, speaking of the networking opportunities the program provided. “All of our mentors and instructors gave up their time to help us, the youth, to gain more and new knowledge for free and I appreciated that,” she said. 

Richardson interacting at DWP

“I hope that next year will be an amazing year that will bring new fresh young minds with new and valuable information and knowledge,” she said speaking of the 2020 DWP.

Richardson is an aspiring Marine Biologist. To date, she is scuba certified and has at minimum, 20 dive experiences. She is also open water and advanced open water scuba certified.

Through the kind sponsorship of Tropical Shipping and Lana Vento, she was provided scuba diving equipment to include a Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) and a dive computer.

Richardson using a data sheet

DWP is a leading international organization that provides education and training programs, mission leadership, and project support services for submerged heritage preservation and conservation projects worldwide with a focus on the African Diaspora.

Friday, August 23, 2019

UVI NSE Student Receives Community Engagement Award at ASU

University of the Virgin Islands Student Selena Cuffy has been selected by the National Student Exchange (NSE) program for a Community Engagement Award for her academic accomplishments, social welfare service, contribution to the campus community, and creative use of time while on exchange. Cuffy’s award is one of the three awards under the NSE’s Student Achievement Awards. 

The award which is officially titled Dr. Richard R. Bond Community Engagement Award, like the other NSE awards, is named after former NSE consortium leader. As part of this award, Cuffy is awarded a $500 stipend.  

“Since I have been in this position, this is the first UVI student that I know of that received this award,” said Dahlia Stridiron-Felix, NSE coordinator at University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas Campus. “Ms. Cuffy is well deserving of this award because she has embraced and taken advantage of the opportunities available through the NSE Program. She went on exchange with clear goals and I feel she has accomplished them.” 

The now rising senior psychology major who left the University of the Virgin Islands for Alabama State University for the Spring 2019 semester is lauded by the NSE program coordinators for her exemplary performance.  

“Cuffy’s strong work ethic, positive attitude, team player mentality, and proven leadership abilities make her a worthy recipient of this award,” said Dr. Linwood Whitten, NSE coordinator at Alabama State University stated in an official announcement. 

“This award is very meaningful to me because it means that others were able to see and understand how impactful the exchange was on my life,” Cuffy said. “I am grateful for it but also grateful for everyone at Alabama State University and the University of the Virgin Islands who went above and beyond to accommodate me and make the semester so wonderful. This award represents their hard work.” 
Cuffy demonstrated this worthiness by maintaining a GPA above 3.5, participating in campus life activities, attending the #MeToo HBCU Tour, attending the Miss Tuskegee Pageant, and joining the Psychology Club. 

My NSE experience was an extraordinary way to expand my horizons while earning the credits I need to keep my expected graduation date,” Cuffy said. Recounting her memorable experience, Cuffy said, “I have never been to the south before and so NSE provided the opportunity to get that southern hospitality while at an HBCU.” “The marching band, dancers and Greek life really amazed me and made me excited to be a part of such rich culture. Being on my own, I learned more about myself and gained life-long friends. I was also able to learn concepts from a different perspective as classes were taught by teachers from different backgrounds and ethnicities.” 

Among other things, Cuffy conducted case studies on Antisocial Personality Disorder and delivered a presentation to fellow students about the culture and history of the Caribbean Islands, specifically the Commonwealth of Dominica. 

As a student I have become more confident in my work and feel comfortable expressing my ideas and thoughts. I have also gained insight into various concepts from new perspectives and have even gotten experience in new testing conditions,” she stated. “As a scholar I have grown from change and I am therefore less anxious to face assignments and therefore present my best at all times. 
“Throughout her time at Alabama State University, it became evident that Cuffy is a positive, intrinsically motivated servant leader with amazing potential, Dr. Whitten observed. 

I would encourage hesitant students to take advantage of the opportunity to study elsewhere. There is no risk of not obtaining your credits if one is concerned about delaying their educational plan,” Cuffy affirmed. Furthermore, being in a different educational setting tests your strengths and weaknesses as a student and can really help one to be a successful student. It is also important to take chances in life to grow as an individual, and what better way than to study abroad for a semester or year. 

The NSE is a study away program that complements university initiatives for globalization, diversity and engagement. The organization provides study away opportunities to students enrolled at its 160 member colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Established in 1968, and celebrating its 51st anniversary year, the NSE has provided exchange opportunities to more than 118,000 students.  

Thursday, June 27, 2019

UVI Announces Winners of Research Day 2019

The University of the Virgin Islands announces the student and faculty winners of the 8th annual UVI Research Day. The Office of Research and Public Service and the Eastern Caribbean Center hosted the event in April on the St. Thomas Campus and Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix. Research is on display at the event which features an open forum for students, faculty, and staff to discuss a myriad of topics that affect the community. 

Of the 44 undergraduate student entries on the St. Thomas Campus, Torhera Durand from the College of Science and Mathematics emerged as the winner on the St. Thomas Campus. 
Durand’s poster was titled “Characterization of Metastatic Progression.” During breast cancer metastasis, cancer cells break off from the primary tumor and invade other tissues and organs throughout the body. In her abstract, Durand mentioned that the goal of the project is to devise therapeutic strategies capable of preventing disease progression. UVI Professor, Dr. Yakini Brandy advised Durand during her research. 

On the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix, there were 21 entries, Manal Asad from the School of Nursing emerged as this year’s undergraduate student winner. 
Asads research poster entitled “Umbilical Cord Care Treatment in Newborns” compares the use of alcohol or antiseptics versus dry cord care to determine which treatment is best in reduction of adverse events, and time to umbilical cord separation. Asad’s study concluded that dry umbilical cord care for newborns is an easy, safe and straightforward method of handling the umbilical cord care in healthy newborns. Dr. Desiree Bertrand, UVI faculty, advised Asad during her research. 

This year’s event saw 83 faculty entrants between both campuses. Stuart Weiss, UVI professor, from the Agriculture and Experiment Station and UVI professor, Tyler B. Smith, from the Center for Marine and Environmental Studies of the Albert A. Sheen and St. Thomas Campus respectively are the faculty winners. 

Each undergraduate contestant was judged on 12 items, and faculty were assessed on 14 items, including the quality of the poster figures and graphs, hypothesis, statement of purpose, knowledge of the research subject, and evidence in support of the conclusions. 

Weiss presented on the “Evaluating alternative mulching methods with conservation tillage for weed-suppression in tropical organic watermelon cropping systems.

Smith presented on “Hurricane generated wave thresholds for damage to coral reefs in the US Virgin Islands.

Undergraduate student winners will be awarded a cash prize of $500 faculty winners will be awarded a cash prize of $1000. 

“Over the years, we have seen an increased level of participation at Research Day,” said Dr. Frank Mills, chair of the UVI Research Day committee. “The competition for the prizes for best research posters served to enhance the quality of the event.” 

UVI’s Research Day featured posters and presentations from students and faculty. The round-table and poster presentation format allow the general public to have one-on-one interactions with researchers. 

“We are especially delighted with the participation from the high school students who were not only exposed to the variety of research topics that our students and faculty presented, but particularly with their exposure to creative and innovative exercises,” Dr. Mills said. 

Seventy-five high school students from around St. Thomas participated in the first annual “Innovation Experience” during UVI’s Research Day. The “Innovation Experience” introduced high school students to the principles of UVI’s famous Hackathon through a Hands-on Creative Problem-Solving experiment.  

The students who captured first-place were Se-An Rawlings, Angelica Sterling, and Wilah Marie Baptiste – representatives of the Seventh Day Adventist High School. 

The members of the second-place team were also representatives of the Seventh Day Adventist High School. 

UVI Research Day 2019 witnessed another unique addition - virtual reality technology that allowed participants to observe underwater habitats such as corals and mangroves.  
A publication featuring the abstracts and authors of 2019 UVI research is available. It can also be accessed by clicking this link: 2019 Research Day Abstract Booklet

Since 2012, the University’s annual Research Day has been providing the general Virgin Islands community the opportunity to learn of the various areas of studies in which students are undertaking research. 

For more information about Research Day, contact the Public Relations Office at (340) 693-1056 or