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: 
VI-EPSCoR Coral Reef Research Scientist Appointed to National Academic Science Committee

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:
Seventeen Earn Masters of Marine and Environmental Studies Degrees at UVI

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: 
First Ever Large Scale Mangrove Cleanup in the Territory Nets Thousands of Pounds of Debris

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

Monday, June 4, 2018

Jeanette Ferdinand: A Lesson in Balance and Student Leadership

Jeanette Ferdinand
     Jeanette Ferdinand, a 2012 graduate of the St. Croix Educational Complex High, began her undergraduate studies at UVI, where she first pursued an Associate’s degree in Nursing. On May 18 2018, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

     Ferdinand stated that the Nursing program has an added level of pressure as students have to earn a score of 75 or above on each course. In the even that a student earns a score lower than 75 they would have to repeat the course. Unfortunately, this was the case for Ferdinand as her graduation was set back by one year as she retook a course.

2018 Graduates
     She continued on to stated that UVI was more of a journey than a challenge as she always managed to balance her extracurricular activities with her academic pursuits. She became heavily involved on campus after she first worked with the Dean of Students on the St. Croix campus in 2012.

She assisted in the execution of the three previous Miss UVI Ambassadorial competitions - with the last two held on St. Croix.
     Ferdinand retired a life of just attending classes and picked up an extensive extra-curricular résumé at UVI along the way, which includes: the Student Government Association, Sisters with Purpose, Student Nurses Association, and the Student Government Association Queen’s Committee.

     She credits much of her success to Hedda Finch-Simpson, whom she describes as family. “Ms. Finch would encourage and push me to become involved on campus,” she said . “She was firstly my immediate supervisor but now she’s become more like family than a boss to me.”

     Immediately after graduation, Jeanette plans to travel to New Jersey where she will take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX RN) exam for entry level nurses before returning to St. Croix where she will begin her nursing career at the Juan F. Luis hospital - hopefully in the emergency room.

     Jeanette will be sharing her special day with her older brother Garfield Ferdinand who will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics.

     While at UVI Ferdinand earned many scholarships including, Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) scholarships from Costco, Wells Fargo, as well as Walmart Mentorship training.
Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) Pinning Ceremony

Kriston and Ourieka Petty: From Newlyweds to Newly Grads

Kriston and Ourieka Petty
Kriston and Ourieka Petty
     Married couple Kriston and Ourieka Petty are defying the odds that wedding at a young age sets one back from achieving one’s dreams. The couple who began their studies in August 2015 will both walk in this year’s commencement ceremony.

2018 Graduates
     The Petty's recall naysayers telling them they were ‘throwing away their lives.’  Among the slew of negative comments were accusations that they’d be too distracted by each other to focus on their studies and that they’d be not be ready to handle that kind of responsibility.

     According to the Petty’s, both 23, they were happy that they stuck to their dreams and remained committed to completing their undergraduate studies.

     “We managed to prove that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible” said Petty. “Whether, married or not, one just needs the right kind of motivation in order to shine as bright as the sun.”

     When asked about plans for the future the couple assured that this isn’t the end for them, they are committed to continued success. "We do not plan to end the journey here either,” said Petty. "Our plan is to go to graduate school together in order to continue elevating ourselves.”

A Happy Graduate
     Kriston and Ourieka, both originally from St. Kitts-Nevis, are happy they chose UVI to complete their Bachelor degrees. They believe that their accomplishment is testimony that at UVI any individual from different walks of life regardless of their circumstance or situation can and will succeed.

     “Whether one is single, married, old, young, rich or poor, UVI is the place for them,” said Petty.

Kriston and Oureika will both graduate summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences with a minor in Environmental Science respectively. Summa Cum Laude is the highest honor added to a degree or a diploma for work that is considered to be the highest quality.

Jaecena Howell: From Graduation to Amazon

     Jaecena Howell could not have asked for a better gift to celebrate her 17th birthday in 2014 when she first began UVI as an early admission student and scholarship recipient. Howell got accepted to UVI at the age of 16 and extrapolated what she now describes as the best four years of her life.

     Howell defined her first encounters with UVI as challenging considering she was so young and many professors already knew who she was as she had just attended a summer semester in China where she learnt mandarin and Chinese history and culture.

     For Howell, she had to live up to the stigma of her early success especially when professors referred to her as a genius.
Danny Glover Giving A Speech

     According to her, UVI was no walk in the park for her, she recalls having to re-do an accounting class after she got a C-.

     Howell will be graduating magna cum laude on the Sheen Campus with a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and an Associate’s degree in Business Management, she will also be this year’s class speaker at St. Croix’s Commencement Ceremony.

     She is definitely no stranger to business and accounting, she was one of the winners in this year’s annual 13D entrepreneurship competition. Howell’s app-development business, Style-Up, is a phone application for hair stylists and their customers to better manage appointments.

     Howell also completed a 10-week internship with in summer 2017, in Lakeland, Fla. landing her a full-time position as an area manager in Braselton, Ga. beginning in May 2018.
She accredits her success to UVI’s endless opportunities for its students. She believes that attending an HBCU (Historically Black College and University) gives you more opportunities than most other universities.

2018 Graduates
     Howell took advantage of every opportunity available to her. “UVI gave me job exposure, through the help of Ms. Lord I was able to complete three internships and subsequently land a position at Amazon,” she said.

     Howell hopes that her success story will inspire UVI students to accomplish great things and to be proud of the school they attend.

     “This accomplishment positively impacts UVI because… people will know which university I attended and would be driven to find other students at my university who possess the same qualities,” said Howell. “It will also help potential students consider UVI because they will realize that their opportunities are not limited.”

Jose Perez: From the Military to Restaurant Management to a BSN

Jose Perez

     At 51-years-old Jose Perez will be one of the first generic students graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix during this year’s commencement ceremony.

Governor Mapp addressed graduates on St. Croix. 
      Perez, whose journey began in the military, later entered the food service industry where he succeeded in management for many years. Originally from Connecticut, Perez decided to move to St. Croix and became enthralled with the island and found himself unexpectedly with a fina...l career in nursing. Perez said he always thought about nursing but didn’t pursue this goal until he moved to St. Croix four years ago and enrolled at UVI.

      According to Jose, when he first moved to St. Croix he had a few options in mind about how he would occupy his time.

      “I moved to St Croix for personal reasons, when I first came here I had a plan a, b and c,” said Perez. “I looked into a frozen yogurt business, when I saw how much it would entail financially I decided it was too risky. With UVI being right down the street and newly offering BSNs it was an added bonus—I decided to make it my choice.”

      In 2015, Sen. Kurt Vialet sponsored a bill that provided the resources necessary to establish BNS on the Sheen Campus. Previously students were only able to earn an Associate’s Degree in nursing and would have had to travel to St. Thomas achieve a BSN. Perez is excited to be one of the first students graduating from St. Croix with a BSN on May 18. According to Perez, he is looking forward to making a change in the life of his patients. He will graduate magna cum laude, an honor added to a degree or a diploma for work considered to be of much higher quality than average.

Graduates process into the commencement ceremony.
      “While in the military I learned a lot about responsibility, and strength of character,” said Perez. “Nursing allows me to be of service on a higher level and gives me the opportunity to make a difference in people’s life.”

      He describes his experience at UVI as fulfilling, he said the time was well spent and help was never too far away.

“UVI is amazing, whenever I needed help it was always immediately available,” Perez said.

Che-Raina Warner:  Crowns, Titles, Microphones and the Podium

UVI Saint Thomas Class Speaker Che Raina Warner
Che-Raina Warner Speaking

     Che-Raina Warner, the undefeated pageant queen, is this year’s class speaker on the St Thomas Campus. Also known for her work as a tutor in the Center for Student Success, Warner is excited to deliver this year’s commencement address to the graduating class of 2018.

     Though mostly known for her success in pageantry, Warner is a scholar student who received the Chairperson’s award for excellence in Communication and earned a position on the dean’s list every semester since her enrollment at UVI.

Graduates Celebrating
     Warner, originally from St. Kitts-Nevis, will graduate summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication with honors. She attributes her success at UVI to the overwhelming support and encouragement she received from her friends and family in St. Kitts. According to Warner she had no choice but to excel and place her country above self.

     “Hailing from the Federation of St. Kitts-Nevis, I was motivated simply by the mere idea that our twin island federation has great expectations for its people to dominate wherever we go and that has propelled me to do nothing short of making my country proud,” said Warner.

     She was crowned Miss UVI in 2016 and went onto win the Miss UVI Ambassadorial Title and the National Black College Alumni (NBCA) Hall of Fame Title also in 2016. Warner is only the second student to win the national crown in UVI’s history. She said winning these titles meant juggling assignments, classes and ambassadorial duties in which she had to gain a certain mental balance.

     “While I cannot say that I have absolutely mastered the art of balance, I was often times comforted by the words of my classmates who were amazed at how I managed to stay focused,” Warner said. “Although it was a very challenging period for me, I take pride in having been a motivation to some student who felt that his plate was too full and he couldn't manage.”

2018 Graduates
     She also became involved on her campus beyond pageantry by working in the university’s Public Relations Office as well as a radio host at WUVI – the school’s student ran radio station.

     “I’ve never known myself in all my schooling years to merely go to school,” said Warner. “School for me meant being immersed in a host of extra-curricula activities.”

Thursday, May 31, 2018

UVI Class of 2018: Defying & Overcoming the Winds of the Storms

Class Speaker Jaecena Howell for UVI's Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix

Graduates Resilient After Storms of Life…

The University of the Virgin Islands celebrated many firsts in this year’s commencement ceremonies held on the St. Thomas Campus and the Albert A Sheen Campus on May 17, and May 18, respectively.

For the first time in UVI’s history there were graduates from UVI’s extension campus on St. Maarten, five students graduated with Masters of Arts in Education degrees, two students graduated with doctoral degrees and 17 students graduated with Masters of Marine and Environmental Studies Degrees.(See Link here) Likewise, 36 students graduated with Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degrees, 12 of which graduated on the Albert A Sheen Campus as the first cohort of nurses to do so in the university’s history.

UVI’s president Dr. David Hall described this year’s commencement ceremonies as ‘sacred moments.’ Citing the challenges faced by the University—especially the students of the graduating class of 2018—after the passage of two category five hurricanes, Hall reminded the graduates that the metaphorical winds from the storm reflected their lives.

“We may not know all the hurdles you confronted and overcame but use the winds as a metaphor for your life,” Dr Hall said. “You will be resilient after they pass.”

Board Chairman Henry Smock, Keynote Speaker
Danny Glover & President David Hall

Acclaimed film actor, director, producer, activist and humanitarian, Danny Glover delivered the keynote address at both ceremonies. Glover, who was later awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, told the Class of 2018 that they have all been a source of inspiration to him.

“No adversity can break you, no storm can wash you away, the work you do in the world should always elevate our species,” Glover said. “Never forget the courage and fortitude it took for you to succeed.”

Che-Raina Warner, class speaker on the St Thomas Campus in her speech beckoned the graduating class to follow their dreams.

Che-Raina Warner - St. Thomas Class Speaker

“Today’s graduation is all the proof you need that if you apply yourself, and you strive bravely towards your aspirations, you can achieve it,” said Warner. “So, I say let the strength of your desire give force and momentum to your every step.”

Warner reminded that graduates that their resilience is what brought them through their final year.

“We matched the gale force winds of Irma and Maria with our own relentless forces of resilience. Class of 2018, we are the real survivors,” said Warner. “We were not [going to] give up, we worked harder because we had to make it.”

The theme of resilience continued on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix, where class speaker Jaecena Howell, thanked UVI for preparing the class to weather the storms of their lives.

“We are stronger than we think, the hurricanes did not deter us from achieving our goals,” Howell said. “All those nights of doing homework in the dark with flashlights and candles, with no internet at home, no water, no electricity to iron our clothes, all of our hard work paid off.”

Howell ended her address with a presentation of a check from the graduating class of 2018 to be given to a first-generation student at the University of the Virgin Islands. The cheque for $1,774.94 was presented to Dr. Hall and Dr. Henry Smock chairman of the UVI Board of Trustees, by Howell and Dwane Hendrickson, senior class president.

More graduate success stories

Ashley Goodwin: A Celebration of Firsts

Dr. Ashley Goodwin always wanted to pursue her doctorate and recalls her parents referring to her as Dr. Goodwin after she completed her associates degree. According to Goodwin, this planted a seed in her to further her education.

Ashley Goodwin

She was met by a professor at a creativity conference who encouraged her to keep applying to programs that she was passionate about and unleashed her creativity. He told her about the UVI doctorate program and the rest is history!

“It was one best decisions I ever made in my life,” Ashley said. “I am so happy I didn’t get into the program I first applied to. I used the disappointment to fuel me to go forward. I met people from all over the world. I would have never even thought to visit the VI had it not been for the University.”

Goodwin’s dissertation, entitled: “Exploring cognitive styles to examine explicit perceptions and implicit theories within teams”, describes the way in which we recognize uniqueness, and help teams to work better.

Post-graduation, Goodwin intends to publish based on her dissertation. She is already sifting through tons of opportunities including consulting for organizations and groups.

Goodwin completed the three-year program in two years and now is planning for life after her doctoral studies.

“I’m looking for another challenge to conquer to do more and accomplish” said Ashely. “I am so grateful to be a part of something bigger than myself.”

Ashley Goodwin is a first-generation college graduate, the first African-American female, and first person in her community to earn a Doctorate of this field as it is the first of its kind and the first PhD program at UVI.

“I’m still in awe that I have seen this accomplishment all the way through,” said Goodwin. “I’m a woman who sought out to achieve the impossible, and come out a champion, that just goes to show that we are all unstoppable if we just believe!”

Goodwin grew up and spent most of her life in Lackawanna, New York where she now works as the Chief Diversity and Innovation Specialist at the Maverick Agency which specializes in innovation and creativity in organizations, diversity training and team building.

Goodwin, a Western New Yorker, has always been committed to success, she earned her Associates degree in media communications, then later a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Communications and a Master’s Degree in Creative Studies.

Husband, Wife & Son Earn Degrees in UVI Class of 2018

Carlos Jr., Gabriel, and Irene Ramos are among the university’s historic firsts celebrated in the 2018 commencement exercises which took place on May 18.

Carlos Jr., Gabriel, and Irene Ramos

The mother, husband and son trio crossed the stage at the Albert A Sheen Campus where Carlos Jr. and Irene received a Master of Arts in Education with a concentration in educational technology while Gabriel Ramos earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.

“... [My husband and I] planned to do it together,” Irene said. “We presented our pieces at the same time. We should have graduated in fall 2017, however as my work at the registrar’s office became more hectic, we delayed our graduation and planned to graduate in Spring 2018 with our son.”

Their son, Gabriel, first enrolled in the university’s three-two engineering program, but soon shifted his focus after he completed his first physics course. Gabriel now has an extensive knowledge of programing, software, java, and servers. While at UVI, he participated in the Emerging Caribbean Scientists program in Norfolk Virginia in June 2015.

For Irene, who works in the Registrar’s office on St. Croix at UVI, and her husband Carols Jr., who works at Limetree Bay Terminals on St. Croix, it was especially challenging to complete the degrees considering their work schedules.

“Because we worked it was hectic, we spent many nights up doing research, writing our thesis, managing our work schedules, and our home,” Ramos said. “My husband’s time was limited because of his job, our professors worked with his schedule and helped him to ensure he completed his degree.”

The success story for the Ramos family does not end here. The couple are planning to continue their education even further while Gabriel, who graduated cum laude, is currently preparing for job interviews.

“We are happy it is over, my husband and I are thinking of doing our PhDs in a technology related field, but because of our schedules we are looking into online programs,” said Irene.

Three members of a family graduating at the same time is a historical first for the University.

Dwane Addison Hendrickson: A Lesson in Determination

Dwane began UVI in Fall 2015. When he first moved from Nevis he was a commuter student and anxious to begin his journey at UVI having been the first in his family to attend a university.

He first began working as an assistant to the student government association president, and later became a member of many clubs and organizations on campus including the St. Kitts Nevis Association as well as the Golden Key Honor Society.

Dwane became very active on campus as a Thurgood Marshall College Fund student ambassador, hosting different events and working with the residence life office where he later became a resident assistant.

Dwane Addison Hendrickson

In Summer 2016, Hendrickson completed an internship through The Washington Center Internship and Educational Seminar program where he interned with Citigroup Inc. as an associate in the International Governance Affairs department.

Fall 2017 began what Dwane now describes as a tumultuous period in his academic and personal journey.

“During the hurricane period it was my first semester being a resident assistant and I had to educate international students about hurricanes and ensure they were safe while worrying about my grandmother, school, and other responsibilities—it was one of the worst semesters for me emotionally,” said Hendrickson.

Dwane left St. Croix and returned to Nevis to be by his grandmother’s side as her condition worsened.

“I immediately left school to be by her side and take care of her full-time 24 hours,” Hendrickson said. “I neglected school work for an entire semester as her passing was too difficult for me. Upon my return in January, I had to push myself to ensure that I completed all of the courses in one week.”

According to Dwane his final semester was no walk in the park for him. However, he was able to persevere through his personal mantra EDGE which states that one must be enthusiastic and determined about what one wants to achieve in life, show gratitude and engage in entertainment—have fun, share in laughter and love.

Post-graduation, Dwane plans to obtain his accreditation as a chartered accountant and later attend Queen Mary University of London to pursue graduate studies in accountancy, management and international relations.

Dwane graduated on the Albert A Sheen Campus with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting, Cum Laude.

Rae-Dawn Richardson: This Mommy Graduated Summa Cum Laude

Rae-Dawn Richardson, originally from St. Kitts began UVI in 2015. Like any other first timer at college, Richardson was edgy about her new journey at UVI. For her, it was the first time she had to move away from her home and travel alone.

Rae-Dawn Richardson

“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Richardson. “I did not have much forehand knowledge of UVI.”

For the most part while at UVI everything went well, Rae-Dawn had adjusted into college well and earned A’s in almost all of her classes. She became involved on campus and was a member of the executive board for the UVI Business 360 umbrella for National Association of Black Accountants and National Association State Board of Accountancy. She was also the treasurer for the Alpha Mu Gamma Foreign Language Honor Society and assistant treasurer for the Psychology Student Association.

However, her seemingly smooth transition into UVI soon became a period of discomfort and uneasiness when she became pregnant.

Richardson began to worry about where she would live on St Thomas during her pregnancy and how she would support a new-born baby while still a college student. She was very worried about her financial state.

Her worries soon diminished as she was allowed to stay on campus up until the birth of her child in April 2017.

Richardson praised her amazing support system for the help provided during her pregnancy. “My best friend, friends, family, roommates and my boyfriend were really there for me,” said Richardson. “My best friend would wake me every morning so I wouldn’t be late for class, my family would bring me meals every few days and everyone would call and check up quite often. I had awesome friends who ensured that I was always up-to-date with all assignments and class information the few times I could not make it to class. I could tell they were really concerned about me. All of my friends carried an extra snack or food with them when I was around and pushed me to succeed no matter what. I really had nothing to worry about.”

During her pregnancy, Richardson said she learned how to manage her time.

“I had to ensure that I was well-rested, ate well and still maintain the responsibilities of being a student,” said Richardson. “I had to adjust my mindset and remind myself that it will only be for a time.”

One week after giving birth to her baby, Richardson attended the academic awards ceremony where she received an award as the best female of the year in the school of business, accounting faculty award and recognition by the Who’s Who Among American Colleges and Universities.

Richardson graduated on the St Thomas Campus with a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Accounting with a 3.96 GPA. She intends to return to St Kitts to seek employment.

“I am not encouraging students to get pregnant, but sometimes in life you will have ups and down and obstacles, but your support system will play a huge and supportive role,” Richardson said. “Always try your best to turn a bad situation or destruction into something positive and one way or the other you will get through.”

UVI Family Supports Dream of Graduate—Thank You UVI 

Shamara Garnett became a teenage mother at the age of 18 while she was still at the Charlotte Amalie High School on St Thomas; though challenging, she was determined to continue to further her education. Garnett enrolled at UVI several years ago as a part-time student while working for the Water and Power Authority (WAPA) during the day.

As a part-time student, she took semesters off from time to time. Garnett, who studied hospitality management, would often use her lunch hour to attend panel discussions organized by her program. According to Garnett, as a part-time student it was often very difficult to participate in many of the events at UVI. Eventually she decided to leave her job at WAPA in 2015, after attending a panel discussion with the Wyndham Resorts where she was hired on the spot as an administrator coordinator II at Margaritaville on St. Thomas.

After the hurricanes in 2017, through Garnett’s job with Wyndham Resorts she and her son, K’Vonte Kishawn Dowe, relocated to Orlando Florida where she worked at Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort. She wanted her brother to mentor her son, who she later enrolled at Lake Nona High School.

While in the throws of adjusting to her new life in Florida for her and her son, Garnett was concerned about how she would be able to complete her degree at UVI. Garnett made a pact with her son that they will both graduate in the Class of 2018.

Reluctantly, Garnett left her son Dowe behind in Florida with her brother and returned to St. Thomas in January to complete her remaining courses enabling her to honor the pact she made with her son to graduate in 2018. Her bother told her to ‘suck it up’ and go and follow her dreams.

Garnett returned to St. Thomas on January 31, 2018 and began registering for classes. On February 3, 2018, Garnett later learned that her 18-year-old son, Dowe, was murdered. The news devastated her and left her in shock up until today.

“Everything went crumbling down,” said Garnett. “I had to leave the island the following Monday and return to Florida to get his body. I had to deal with detectives and funeral homes. I even saw when my son’s body arrived in St. Thomas. I watched from the lawn at UVI as the American Airlines flight landed at the airport. If people only knew what I was going through they would be in awe.”

Though devastated about losing her only son, Garnett still pursued her degree. It often meant belting out tears in classes, or during tutoring sessions. Garnett spent her mornings and breaks between classes at the cemetery visiting her slain son's grave.

“Everything I did was for my son. I got him at 18, he died at 18 and we were supposed to graduate in 2018 together,” said Garnett. “I pushed myself through UVI to reach the finish line I wanted to show my son that education is the key. I was showing him that this is the way. For my last semester I took six classes. I wanted us to celebrate together.”

She graduated on the St. Thomas Campus with a Bachelors of Art in Hospitality and Tourism Management and later collected her son’s diploma at the graduation at Lake Nona High School in Florida.

“Through it all the staff at UVI assisted me, they were very compassionate,” Garnett said. “They came to my son’s funeral and represented. UVI’s staff is phenomenal, they go above and beyond to help students.”

Garnett is looking to further her education in Virgin Islands Culture and Caribbean history. Shamara wants other teenage mothers to know that becoming pregnant at an early age does not deter you from achieving your goals.