Friday, November 22, 2013

FFA Recognized at St. Thomas-St. John Agriculture and Food Fair Opening

FFA Presidents Clemon Lewis and Tressel Benjamin address the crowd.
The future of agriculture in the Virgin Islands was on stage as the presidents of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) organizations on St. Thomas addressed the crowd at the opening ceremony of the 30th Annual St. Thomas-St. John Agriculture and Food Fair on Saturday, Nov. 16. Tressel Benjamin, from of the Charlotte Amalie High School Chapter, and Clemon Lewis from Ivanna Eudora Kean High School were on hand. Lewis also had the honor of cutting the ribbon officially opening the two-day fair.

Charles Leonard encouraged fairgoers
to visit St. Thomas' various farmers' markets

Produce and livestock, and a wide variety of arts and crafts, were the focus of the 2013 St. Thomas/St. John Agriculture and Food Fair held on the grounds of UVI’s Reichhold Center for the Arts on St. Thomas. This year’s theme was "Celebrating our 30th – Investing in Nutrition and Good Health." St. Thomas farmers Cyril LaPlace and Charles Leonard were honored as the livestock and crop farmers of the year, respectively, for 2013. Leonard, one of St. Thomas' most successful farmers, also won the award last year. The winners in the fair's best tasting sweetbread contest were Senator Myron Jackson, who took first place, and Ellen Murraine who took second place.

The St. Thomas/St. John Agriculture and Food Fair is sponsored annually by the University of the Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service (CES) and the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture, with support from Fintrac.

Clemon Lewis, President of the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School FFA organization joined opening 
ceremony dignitaries to cut the ribbon opening the 2013 St. Thomas-St. John Agriculture and Food Fair.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

UVI Students Attend 2013 National Health Disparities Conference on St. Thomas

This science project poster created by UVI students, from left, Sarah Wolf, Shaniece Liverpool and Keturah Solomon, took 
third place in the student poster competition at the National Health Disparities Conference.
Some 50 UVI students participated in 2013 Disparities Conference’s Undergraduate and Graduate
Forum on Nov. 13. The student forum was sponsored by the Bennie and Martha Benjamin Foundation.
Rev. Dr. H. Beecher Hicks
UVI President Dr. David Hall
stressed the vital importance
of the task facing conference
participants during his
welcome address. 
The Rev. Dr. H. Beecher Hicks, Jr., servant pastor of the Metropolitan Baptist Church of Largo, Md., provided the keynote address at the the Seventh Annual National Conference on Health Disparities, scheduled for Nov. 13-16, at Sugar Bay Resort on St. Thomas. The University of the Virgin Islands was a major sponsor of the conference, which had the theme: “Reducing Health Disparities Through Sustaining and Strengthening Healthy Communities.” It focused on policies and programs designed to reduce the impact of health disparities, with panels addressing issues of particular importance in the Caribbean region.

Disparities Conference attendees applauding the keynote presentation.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pinkett, Website Committee Receive Presidential Appreciation Award

Left to Right: Dr. David Hall, Moneca Pinkett, Gary Metz, Patricia Towal,
Tyrone Pascal and Don Bailey
University of the Virgin Islands President Dr. David Hall presented the Presidential Achievement Award to UVI Webmaster and Website Committee Chair Moneca Pinkett and to the UVI Website Committee on Oct. 26, during a UVI Board of Trustees meeting held on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix. 

The Website Committee was honored for the redesign of the UVI website. The responsive, user friendly website was launched in August. “Through a lot of hard work by a very committed committee, and through the leadership of our Webmaster Ms. Moneca Pinkett, we were able to redesign the website in nine months and the whole process not only met a presidential goal, but was done in an outstanding way,” said Dr. Hall.

The Presidential Achievement Award is given to an individual or group whose dedication and leadership have positively impacted the University.

The Website Committee members that were present to receive the award were Public Relations Specialist Gary Metz, Interim Dean of Students on the Sheen Campus Patricia Towal, UVI student representative Tyrone Pascal and Research Specialist III Don Bailey.

Red Ribbon Week Contest Winners Announced

The University of the Virgin Islands’ Drug and Alcohol Prevention Committee on the St. Thomas Campus announced the winners of Red Ribbon Week’s Dorm Blocks and Commuters Door and Area competition and Clubs and Organizations Poster competition on Nov. 4.  Red Ribbon Week was held on Oct. 23-30. The theme was “A Healthy Me is Drug Free!”
UVI students competing in the Dorm Blocks and Commuters Door and Area competition decorated areas on campus that depicted the theme. The winners are:
·         First place - Warriors (East Male & Female)
·         Second place - Predators (South & North C, D, E)
·         Third Place - Invaders (Middle & North A & B)
Clubs and Organizations competitors created posters that best depicted the drug free theme.  The winners are:
·         First place - Rotaract of UVI
·         Second Place - Sigma Psi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
·         Third Place - ACS Chemistry

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Academic Center Brings UVI to St. John

UVI junior Zenobia Howe taking classes via teleconference from the University's St. John Academic Center

When University of the Virgin Islands junior Zenobia Howe returned to St. John and enrolled at UVI she was prepared to catch a 15 minute bus ride to Cruz Bay, take the 25 minute ferry ride to St. Thomas, and make her way from St. Thomas’ east end to the University’s St. Thomas Campus in the west.
However, Howe was pleased to discover that she did not have to. Nestled at the edge of Cruz Bay on the third floor of the Marketplace, is the UVI St. John Academic Center. This fall Howe is able to take all her classes at the center via teleconference. With four state-of-the-art interactive classrooms, computers, a lounge, study room, library, a program coordinator, librarian, and an information technology technician, Howe is able to attend classes without the commute.

On this fall day, Howe is catching up on her studies on a brightly colored sofa in the center’s lounge with her laptop propped up beside her. Although the lounge usually draws several students on a typical day, she is only sharing it with fellow student Irah Christian and UVI Academic Center Librarian Ashley Till. Howe says that the Academic Center staff is very helpful and knowledgeable. They assist with finding research materials, papers and with assignments. “It’s like a little study hall where everyone helps out everyone else,” she says. “We are all here almost every day. You get a very close knit relationship with everyone.” Howe says that she is not able to bond with her classmates after classes in the traditional sense, but does not feel left out either. She finds it easy to communicate her needs to professors via email.

Howe says that without the center she would not be able to work to support herself and attend classes full-time. “It is a pretty big deal to not have to go to St. Thomas every day,” she says. “I got to work. I have to pay rent.”

Howe is a communication major at UVI. She chose this field to raise awareness and open up minds. “I wanted to be a voice,” she says of the communications field. Instead of pursuing a career in media, she is considering becoming an entrepreneur. Currently, she is enrolled in a digital entrepreneurship class. Howe has been tasked with creating a website for an online business. “My website will be good by the end of the semester,” Howe says. “That is one of the classes I am really excited about.” She plans to create a one-stop shop for natural and holistic products and lifestyles. Howe has seen some sites that include natural products, but none have all products. “Everyone is going ecofriendly and green,” she says.
UVI Student Zenobia Howe in St. John Academic Center lounge

Recently, Howe was able to attend a 13D Entrepreneurship Lecture with featured speaker Dr. Dennis Kimbro, best-selling author on self-made millionaires. She attended via teleconference from the St. John Academic Center. Howe says she was inspired, motivated and empowered by his lecture. She plans to enter UVI’s 13D Entrepreneurship competition later this year. “Communications, I love it,” she says. “I am still going to keep up with it, but as I go forth I will use everything I learned to become an entrepreneur.”

UVI St. John Academic Center Program Coordinator Kent Wessinger has been working to ensure that operations at the center run smoothly for several years now. “It is rewarding in the fact that I am able to invest something significant into the community in which I live,” he says. “One of the main objectives is to remove a travel barrier and that is important to me. One of the things that the St. John Academic Center has been able to do is open an opportunity for students at UVI that ordinarily would not get the opportunity if this center was not here.”

Wessinger says that the technology at the Academic Center is at the highest level. “We have students from diverse backgrounds that are able to participate in our classroom experience that ordinarily would not be able to participate if the technology were not there,” he says. “A lot of single parents can’t make that commute over to the St. Thomas Campus because they have commitments to their children. So now they can participate in classes. They bring a level of maturity that was not there before.”

Wessinger says that the students in the center get personalized attention as the student body is smaller. Students receive assistance with their advisement, tutoring, and with life situations. “We see a high level of success with our students here,” says Wessinger. “Students want to be here. That level of engagement and relationship matters to the students.”

As the center’s librarian, Till provides academic support to students by teaching them how to access and navigate the library’s academic resources that are also available to students on the St. Thomas Campus and the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix. “They get their own personal librarian three days a week,” she says. Students receive tutoring, are assisted with research papers and get life skills, such as filling out resumes or writing letters for internships. Till says all librarians at UVI teach information literacy skills.
She believes the academic center is vital to the people of St. John. “It provides access for students that would not ordinarily have access,” Till says. “For a lot of students here, staying on campus is not an option.” Often students work or are non-traditional students.
Wessinger believes that the St. John Academic Center is the model for education going forward. “There are travel barriers and other barriers that exist in higher education,” he says. “If we can’t tailor education and models of education after our student body we put ourselves in a position where we isolate our students and we build walls and barriers against students that actually fortify our institutions.”

He believes UVI has implemented a model for higher education in the Caribbean. “We have the technology to make this happen throughout the Caribbean right here,” says Wessinger.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

UVI Unveils New Home for College of Science & Mathematics on St. Croix

The University of the Virgin Islands unveiled the new home of its College of Science and Mathematics on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013.

Located in the recently completed UVI Research and Technology Park building, the College’s facilities on St. Croix now feature two modern videoconference-ready classrooms, two state-of-the art laboratories, and offices for 13 faculty and staff. These are located on two levels and account for more than 8,000 square feet of floor space. Click here to read a full News Release.
The new home of UVI’s College of Science and Mathematics on St. Croix is located in the recently completed Research and Technology Park building on the Albert A. Sheen Campus.
Members of the St. Croix Student 
Government Association served as tour guides during the opening of the new home of UVI’s College of Science and Mathematics on St. Croix on Saturday, Oct. 26. Shown, from left, are Senior Senator Helena Shoy, Public Relations Officer Lennoxsea Thompson, President Kevin Dixon, Secretary Wendy Aurelien, Treasurer D’Lisa Williams, and Vice President Sheena Tonge.

A wind turbine on the grounds of UVI’s RTPark building is reflected in the striking windows of the Park’s first-floor lobby. The RT Park offices and a second-floor Conference Center are housed in this part of the building. 

One of the College's two new videoconference-ready classrooms, above, will boost the campus’ overall seating capacity, while allowing more efficient communications from St. Croix to 
UVI classrooms on St. Thomas and St. John.

SGA President Kevin Dixon 
leads a tour at UVI’s College 
of Science and Mathematics 
during its unveiling to the public 
on Oct. 26, 2013.

Friday, October 11, 2013

UVI Increases Transfer & National Exchange Students

NSE student Austin Dubbs previously attended Montana State University. He is an ecology and marine biology major.
The start of something new is always fun and exciting; and this fall semester’s orientation held the typical excitement for UVI’s new and transfer students. One of the most anticipated orientation activities on the St. Thomas campus is “Rep Your Country” – which features a mini procession of students bearing flags from the country or territory that they are from. Following the procession, a student places his or her country’s flag on the stage and all students representing that country are asked to stand. What was not typical is the large number of students who stood up to represent the United States.

Preliminary numbers reveal that the number of new transfer and National Student Exchange (NSE) students attending UVI has increased for fall 2013. The University’s new transfer students increased by 75 percent from fall 2012 to fall 2013. The number of NSE students increased by 29 percent on the St. Thomas Campus and by 57 percent on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix, during the same time period.

“I chose UVI because I wanted to experience something completely different from what I am used to,” says NSE Student Juanyta Shuler, who comes to UVI from Prairie View A&M University in Texas. “I was intrigued with the Caribbean culture, its history and its location is exotic.” She continues, “I wanted to go somewhere away from the states so that I could expand my network worldwide.”

Shuler is not alone. The number of NSE students on the St. Thomas Campus has been increasing for many years. Since the 2009-2010 academic year, the number of NSE students on the St. Thomas Campus increased by 288 percent. In the 2009-2010 academic year, there were nine NSE students attending UVI on the St. Thomas Campus. By the 2013-2014 academic year there are 35 NSE students. Since the 2011-2012 academic year, the number of students on the Sheen Campus increased by 57 percent. In the 2011-2012 academic year, there were seven NSE students attending UVI on the Sheen Campus. There are 11 NSE there this academic year.

“Everyone here has been very welcoming and jovial,” says Shuler, a social work major taking classes on the Sheen Campus. “My UVI experience has been wonderful. I've made a lot of new lifelong friends,” she says. “I love the school's academia; it is very prestigious and challenging.” As UVI Student Government Association Social and Cultural Committee chairperson Shuler has the opportunity to immerse herself in Caribbean culture. “I love the fact that UVI encourages their students to get involved around campus and to build their resumes and networking skills,” she says.

NSE Student Linda Forester has also chosen to be active in campus life while on the Sheen Campus. She serves as the SGA events coordinator, Salsa Club treasurer, and is on the Resident Hall Council. Forester comes to UVI from California State University, Bakersfield. She still remembers what UVI looked like when she arrived. “I remember pulling up to the campus and saying wow this campus is gorgeous,” says Forester. “I love the fact that the campus is very welcoming and supportive of students who want to add to campus life or start new clubs.” She also loves the majority of her professors, the culture and the great food served on campus.

UVI Interim Dean of Students and NSE Program Coordinator on the Sheen Campus Patricia Towal and St. Thomas Campus NSE Coordinator Dahlia Stridiron credit the growing popularity of the program to increased outreach. For the past two years, Towal and Stridiron have attended the National Student Exchange Placement Conference. They met with 180 NSE coordinators from universities all over the country. “We have really connected with a lot of the other coordinators,” Towal says. “They play a critical role in placing students.”

Coordinators at the conference walk away with promotional gifts and information about the unique benefits of attending UVI. “Where else are you going to get a class of 10 to 15 students taught probably by a Ph.D. instructor,” Towal says. “If you come here college ready you are going to be in freshman classes taught possible by a Ph.D. or master’s level instructor. You are going to be known and supported because we are going to get to know you personally.”

She continued, “We offer all the courses that you would normally be looking for but we are also going to give you this cultural kallaloo. You’re going to experience different languages, dialects, foods, cultural events, history and cultural atmosphere here that you’re not going to get on the mainland. Even if you’re coming from another HBCU, the Caribbean experience is very different.”

NSE Student Maddison Rokosh following a turtle.
NSE student Maddison Rokosh, a biology major, is enjoying her time on UVI’s St. Thomas Campus. Her favorite thing about attending UVI is the MacLean Marine Science Center. “I really enjoy my marine labs where I get to snorkel, scuba dive and collect data, while enjoying the warm, beautiful water. I've also really enjoyed being able to take the kayaks the MMSC has out for free and exploring neighboring bays with classmates.”

“Everything has been great,” says Rokosh. She is originally from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Rokosh came to UVI from the University of Louisville in Kentucky. “I have made many friends from NSE and from the island. I have been enjoying the beautiful water, beaches and mountains.”

NSE Student Austin Dubbs, an ecology and marine biology major, was enrolled at Montana State University before coming to the University’s St. Thomas Campus. He says he is enjoying the UVI experience. “The lifestyle is much different than what I am accustomed to back home,” says Dubbs, who is originally from Montana. “I love that I have opportunities every day to go to a wide variety of beaches on the island and am able to explore a different culture.” He adds, “What I like most about UVI is that everybody is really friendly; that it is a small campus so everybody has a chance to know a lot more people and get the chance to get close to a wide variety of people.” Dubbs plans to study reef sharks after graduation.

UVI’s NSE students come from universities all over the nation. This year’s students came from the University of Alabama-Birmingham, the University of New Mexico, the University of Kentucky, the University of Montana, the University of Alaska, and the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, among others.

“The NSE Program is a wonderful opportunity for UVI students to broaden their educational experience,” says Stridiron. “Students that participate in the program often report that this was a life changing experience. I believe that every student should participate in an exchange opportunity for at least one semester prior to graduating.”

Towal says that many of the students stay for one semester, but like it so much they opt to stay for two.

UVI’s transfer students come from all over the United States and the Caribbean. From fall 2012 to fall 2013, new transfer students on the St. Thomas Campus increased by 105 percent. On the Sheen Campus, new transfer students increased by 24 percent. UVI Director of Admissions and Recruitment Dr. Xuri Maurice Allen credits the increase in part to enhanced out-of-territory recruitment efforts in recent years. He also believes students are beginning colleges closer to home to attend local community colleges or other two year institutions.

 “A number of persons are opting to remain home to save money and then transfer to UVI,” says Dr. Allen. UVI has always had good relationships with two year institutions in the Eastern Caribbean like H. Lavity Stoutt Community College in Tortola, Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College in St. Kitts, Dominica State College and Antigua State College. There also appears to be increased interest from St. Lucia’s Sir Arthur Lewis Community College and Anguilla now has Anguilla Community College. “Our transfer numbers should continue to be robust as UVI has entered into memorandums of understanding with Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College and the Nevis Sixth Form College,” Dr. Allen adds.

UVI St. Thomas Campus Dean of Students Dr. Doris Battiste supports the NSE program and student transfers. “Anytime you have a campus where you have a large diverse population it contributes to student development,” says Dr. Battiste. “Everyone learns from each other and I think our role in Student Affairs is to enhance student learning outside of the classroom.” She continues, “I think the diversity helps students to appreciate other cultures and also help them to grow and respect the differences that exist in all of us.”

Friday, September 27, 2013

Brothers With A Cause Introduces 2013-2014 Officers on St. Thomas

UVI Special Assistant to the President Dr. Haldane Davies introduces the 2013-2014 officers for the Brothers With A Cause (BWC) student organization on UVI’s St. Thomas Campus. Shown are, from left, Alvin Nesbitt-public relations, Lorenzo Scotland-treasures, Samuel Williams-secretary, Charles Martin, Jr.-vice president, Brandon Rhymer-president, Dr. Davies and BWC Advisor Stevie Henry. 

Attorney Carl Richardson was the guest speaker at the induction ceremony for the Brothers With A Cause student organization on the St. Thomas Campus on Sept. 6. Richardson’s topic was “Striving for Success.” He shared how he used what little money he had from his father, along with faith and choosing his friends wisely to successfully complete his undergraduate work at UVI. His UVI education provided the opportunity to earn MBA and JD degrees.

The presentation followed the induction of 14 new members at the Administration and Conference Center on the St. Thomas Campus. UVI President David Hall also addressed the group, which now has 30 members. The BWC goal is to increase the recruitment, retention and graduation rates of young men in the University’s service area through strategic intervention at the K-12 and higher education levels. Male students interested in learning more about Brothers With a Cause should send email to

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

UVI Artist in Residence Dion Parson Presents Cymbal Kit to Music Department

UVI Artist in Residence Dion Parson, center, presents a cymbal kit to the University’s Music Department. Accepting the donation are Dr. Lorna Young-Wright from the Music Department and President David Hall.

UVI Artist in Residence Dion Parson presented a cymbal kit to the University’s Music Department on Thursday, Sept. 19. Parson works with UVI students and instructors in a number of areas, such as the Jazz Band, and teaches a UVI class in applied percussion. He hopes the cymbal kit will serve as a basis for building a complete, professional drum kit on which UVI students can practice and perform.

The kit is valued at approximately $1,800 and was provided to Parson for the donation by the manufacturers, Dream Cymbals and Gongs of Toronto, Canada, with whom Parson has an ongoing professional relationship. Parson said the hand-made kit, which includes a 14-inch “hi-hat,” 18-inch and 16-inch “crash” symbols and a 22-inch “ride,” is “top of the line equipment, not what you would find in a typical student set.”

Music Professor Lorna Young-Wright said receiving the cymbals was wonderful. “I am very pleased about the donation.” UVI President Dr. David Hall also thanked Parson, and said the University is delighted to have him serving as Artist in Residence. “This is just one small way that his contribution is going to enhance our program. I see this gift as a symbol of what we hope will be additional equipment for the music program.”

Bucs Cross Country Squad Sees Pre-Season Warm-up Action on Tortola

UVI Cross Country Head Coach Dale Joseph accompanied three 
members of the Bucs squad competing recently on Tortola. Shown, 
from left, are Joseph, Isaiah Horsford, John Nemith and Sergio Barbel. 
Stoutt College President Karl Dawson is shown at right. 
Three members of UVI’s cross country team traveled to Tortola, B.V.I., on Saturday, Sept. 21, to participate in a pre-LAI season warm-up event hosted by H. Lavity Stoutt Community College.

The top finisher for the Bucs in the five-kilometer race was Isaiah Horsford, who took third-place overall. UVI’s Sergio Barbel finished in 13th place, with John Nemith in 14th.

The five-kilometer race was one of several run in the overall competition, which also included events for grade and high school students. 

UVI's LAI cross country season is scheduled to begin on Oct. 10.

UVI runners start near the front of the pack in the five-kilometer race on Tortola.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Reichhold Rolls Out Red Carpet for Revived Workshop

 Reichhold Center for the Arts Youth Moviemaking Workshop Senior Technical Director Denise Humphrey (behind camera on right) supervises YMW Student Director Leah Trotman (behind camera) as they shoot a scene. 
The Reichhold Center for the Arts is the place to go for excellent shows by national and international performers. This summer it was the place to go for a show closer to home. The center hosted the red carpet premier of the “The Chase,” the newest creation of the center’s own Youth Moviemaking Workshop (YMW).

“The Chase,” is a coming-of-age short film filled with intrigue, mystery and the search for buried treasure. The film’s main character “Christopher,” played by Anthony Brown, returns to the territory to visit his grandmother for the summer and finds himself in conflict with three bullies. Christopher must choose between fulfilling the wish of the ghost of his grandfather and saving the bully that hunts him. “The Chase” stars YMW students Anthony Brown, Tevin Williams, Asmar Bailey, Vernelle Callwood, Khalil D. Williams, Juliet Greaux and Robenson Gassant.

Students enrolled in the YMW learned how to use cameras, setup lighting, work with audio, film editing, stunt motion, various genres of acting, the genres of movies, and about the film industry.  They were under the tutelage of Reichhold Center for the Arts Senior Technical Director Denise Humphrey. She has been overseeing the workshop since 2001. The YMW has not been consistently available due to funding constraints. This year, the UVI Reichhold Center YMW was made possible, due in part, to a $15,000 donation from the Brabson Library and Educational Foundation.

Director of “The Chase,” Leah Trotman, 13, was also one of the film’s co-authors.  Trotman didn’t join the workshop believing she would have been this invested in the project. Her mom signed her up for the summer, but after three weeks she was fully involved. “At first I was not too excited because I didn’t know what was going to happen in the camp,” says Trotman. “I was a little scared if I was going to like it or not, but as I ventured into the camp I started liking it. I don’t regret making the choice.” In addition to directing and writing, she helped to scout shooting locations.

The movie’s scenes were shot in various areas of St. Thomas, including the University of the Virgin Islands, the Reichhold Center, Frenchtown, the Cyril E. King Airport and Fortuna. “I feel like a movie star,” says Tevin Williams, 16, who, with his brother, Khalil Williams, 14, star in the film. Before joining the YMW, they spent a lot of time shooting skateboarding stunts and uploading them to YouTube.

To join the workshop students must complete an application form, submit a creative project – which can be short stories, drawings, or musicals – a short essay on why they wish to be in the workshop and two letters or recommendation from a counselor or a teacher. They must also interview to be a part of the workshop. “I used to do a video show on my phone and I sent that in with the application,” says Callwood.

She enjoyed her summer vacation and learned a lot in the workshop. “It’s hard at first – when you really get into it, it’s really fun,” Callwood says.

 “The class is providing them with an opportunity to hone their skills,” Humphrey says. “We try to provide them with as close to a feel for them to get to what it takes to create a film.”

Reichhold Center Director Nissa Copemann says with grant funding, the center was able to absorb much of the costs and pass the saving on to the students. “The $15,000 grant from the Brabson Foundation has allowed RCA to reduce the cost of tuition to the YMW this year and also provide scholarships,” Copemann says. “The usual fee is $750 but we reduced it to $550, which includes free lunch.”

“We did not want to see talented youth miss an opportunity to participate simply because they couldn’t afford the program fee,” Copemann says. “For summer 2013, 50 percent of YMW participants have been granted full or partial scholarships to the program. Without funding from Brabson, this might not have been possible.”

“The Brabson Foundation is a small family foundation that reflects the family’s passion for bold, innovative ideas that may have a significant and long-term impact, especially in education and the arts,” says UVI Director of Corporate, Foundation and Government Relations Richard Cleaver, who secured the donation. “In addition to its financial benefit, the grant shows the Brabson family’s faith that the Youth Moviemaking Workshop, and the Arts in Education Program generally, can change lives for the better for the young people of the Virgin Islands.”

Humphrey has taught many students who have gone onto work in the movie industry. She hopes that this year’s group is no different. YMW student Micheal Browne, 13, wants to be a comedic actor and wants to own his own movie studio. Michael Neal, 13, wants a career in the animation used to create video game cinematography and Callwood, 12, wants to either be a fashion designer or a movie producer. In her spare time, Callwood uses her dad’s iPhone to create videos.  

 “We have a few success stories,” she says. Richard Simons works at Disney and former Reichhold employee Crystals Myers worked for BET’s College Hill and VIACOM Media Networks. She is currently working in California. Richard Vialet is a cinematographer touring the world shooting movies. “The YMW not only provides students with a creative outlet but also helps them to gain and develop marketable skills that are critical to pursuing careers in digital media production,” Copemann says. “We are proud that many YMW alums have gone onto promising careers.”

Visit UVI’s YouTube Channel to see “The Chase” movie trailer or see this link: “The Chase.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Walgreens Provides $2,500 for CERC Diabetes Research

CERC Director Dr. Gloria Callwood and Research Director Dr. Noreen Michael accept a $2,500 check from Walgreens officials opening the company newest store in St. Thomas. Also on hand for presentation were, from left, UVI Director of Major Gifts Mitchell Neaves, Walgreens Corporate Operations Vice President for Walgreens Southern Operation Charles Bernard, St. Thomas store Pharmacy Manager Danielle Shook, Walgreens Puerto Rico and USVI Market Vice President Nivia Santiago, Dr. Michael, Gov. John de Jongh Jr., UVI Director of Corporate, Foundation and Government Relations Richard Cleaver, Callwood and St. Thomas Store Manager and Community Leader Justin Woods.

UVI's Caribbean Exploratory Research Center (CERC) received $2,500 to further its ongoing diabetes research efforts in the territory from Walgreens on Saturday, Sept. 13, when the company opened its first U.S. Virgin Islands store on St. Thomas.

CERC Principal Investigator and Director Dr. Gloria Callwood said the idea for supporting the organization's research stemmed from a community meeting which both she and Justin Woods, Walgreens store manager and community leader, attended at the Schneider Regional Medical Center. The session was organized by Sen. Clarence Payne, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health and Veterans affairs, and Schneider CEO Dr. Bernard Wheatley.

Dr. Callwood thanked Walgreens for being a good corporate citizen. She was especially pleased the company “recognizes the need for more research into this particular condition to be done here.” She said diabetes and its complications are “one of the leading causes of death in the territory.”

"We recognize that diabetes is a prevalent issue that affects many people in the St. Thomas community,” Walgreens Puerto Rico and USVI Market Vice President Nivia Santiago said during the opening ceremony. “So, as part of our commitment to help support the people in St. Thomas, we wanted to contribute to a local organization on the island – the Caribbean Exploratory Research Center.”

Santiago told those attending the opening that CERC sponsors research, intervention, community outreach efforts and education to address health issues such as diabetes. She said it affects the growing population of those living in the U.S. Virgin Islands who do not have access or have barriers to health care. “We are privileged to be able to support CERC,” she said.

“Our purpose is to help our customers get, stay and live well,” she said. “We are committed to developing relationships that help our neighborhoods and we believe in the importance of giving back to the community. Walgreens also donated $2,500 to the United Way.

Walgreens’ Corporate Operations Vice President for Operations Charles Bernard said the Walgreens Co. has been around for more than 100 years. “Our success stems from changing and evolving to meet needs of customers,” he said. “Today, we are pleased and thrilled to be here in St. Thomas to celebrate the opening of our very first Walgreens store in the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

“All of us at UVI are delighted any time we can work together with local corporations and businesses to improve the quality of life in the territory,” said UVI Director of Corporate, Foundation and Government Relations Richard Cleaver. “We’re a University for the Virgin Islands .”

For more information on CERC and how to support its work visit the CERC website – – or call (340) 693-1178. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

UVI Alumna & Scientist Shares Parkinson’s Research

Dr. Shana Augustin '06
University of the Virgin Islands Alumna Dr. Shana Augustin‘06, a neurophysiologist, returned to University as part of the Emerging Caribbean Scientist research seminar series. She shared the process, insights and results of the Parkinson’s disease research she is conducting at the University of Chicago. Dr. Augustin spoke on the St. Thomas Campus on Wednesday, Sept. 11, and on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix on Friday, Sept. 13, at 1:00 p.m. in EVC 716. The title of Dr. Augustin’s seminar is “Cyclic AMP and Afferent Activity Govern Bidirectional Synaptic Plasticity in Striatopallidal Neurons.”

Through her research, Dr. Augustin hopes to find stimuli that will lead to new Parkinson’s disease treatments. Dr Augustin shared details of her research methods with UVI students and faculty. She also offered graduate school advice. Dr. Augustin urged students to think of which field of science they are interested in. “There are so many different things you can do research in,” she said. “So you really have to take time and research what you are most passionate about.”

She advised students to:
  • get the Peterson’s Graduate Programs Guide
  • take advantage of research opportunities available at UVI
  • participate in travel abroad summer research programs 
  • choose a graduate school in a place they would like to live
  • Pay attention to deadlines as “Graduate Record Examinations” or the GRE are given six times a year and the results take six weeks
  • participate in post baccalaureate programs that will allow them to determine if graduate school is right for them.
Dr. Augustin cautioned students not to take graduate school lightly. “If you’re not sure about graduate school, don’t go to graduate school,” said Dr. Augustin. “It is something you have to commit to. It is something you have got to be sure about.” 

She chose UVI after graduating from the Seventh Day Adventist School on St. Croix. Dr. Augustin attended the University on St. Croix in her freshman year. She conducted research on cow coloration with UVI Professor Dr. Robert Godfrey. After transferring to St. Thomas, she conducted research with UVI Professor Dr. Richard Hall on lobster neurophysiology. While at UVI, she spent a summer conducting research at Duke University studying the neurophysiology of bird songs. She graduated from UVI in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. Dr. Augustin worked at Emory University for a year before moving onto graduate school. She graduated from the University of Chicago in 2013.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

UVI’s Successful Alumni Giving Rate Leads to National Award

UVI Director of Alumni Affairs and Annual Giving Linda Smith displays the Alumni Association of the Year Award.
Linda Smith is not easily intimidated. She would tell anyone in a heartbeat that she lives for challenges. “I am very analytical, yet strategic,” said UVI’s director of Alumni Affairs and Annual Giving, qualities to which she credits her corporate background and a quality education from her alma mater UVI.

But in June when Smith sat alone at the hotel restaurant in Jackson Mississippi, where she had gone to represent UVI at the Annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities Awards, intimidation crept in – although just for a little while. She saw as university after university rolled up to the hotel with large entourages. A fleet of three or so minivans pulled up to the hotel and out jumped a group of men from Morgan University. They were all fully branded in Morgan University’s gear.

“I was like ‘Oh! That’s Morgan!'" Smith said. Right behind them another fleet rolled up. It was from Spelman College. “I was like ‘Oh my gosh,’” Smith said. “I was sitting in the restaurant alone – just me and my one UVI alumni pin.” UVI was up for the Alumni Association of the Year award. Other nominees in that category included Spelman College, Morgan University, Tuskegee University and Winston-Salem State University. “When I saw the teams from the much larger and older schools, I never thought we would win,” Smith said. Feeling outnumbered and overpowered, Smith retreated to her room and said a prayer. After praying, a calm came over her – it was the same calm that she experienced many times before when alumni would bless the alumni donation box, in hopes of creating a miracle for what seemed an impossible goal.

By the night of the award banquet at Jackson State University, Smith was calm, collected and confident. She was joined by UVI’s Vice President for Institutional Advancement Dionne Jackson and former Alumni Trustee Marthious Clavier. UVI won the award. “It’s an honor just to see we were able to be in this category, to come up against these other schools  – and win!” Smith said. “I never thought it would get to the point where presidents from other institutions would approach me and want to have a private audience with me about what was the secret to our success,” Smith said. They were asking “how can we have our own miracle?”

“Miracle” was the term UVI President David Hall used to describe what occurred in 2012 when he issued a call to UVI alumni to raise their giving rate from 13 percent to 50 percent in honor of the institution’s 50th anniversary.

Smith vividly recalls the day Dr. Hall asked her thoughts about the challenge. Dr. Hall walked into Smith’s St. Croix office unannounced. Her initial thought was that Dr. Hall, who had switched office space with Smith a year before, wanted his office back.

“He sat down and asked how things were going,” Smith remembered of the day in November 2011. “I briefly told him how things were going,” she said. Then Dr. Hall told her that he would like her to consider a 50 percent alumni giving rate for UVI’s 50th anniversary Golden Jubilee year. Smith didn’t bat an eye when she responded to the president: “I will do my best.”

“I knew that there was no other HBCU that had achieved this number,” Smith recalled. She had just completed research on the alumni giving rates of other institutions and was told by counsel that a 50 percent alumni giving rate was “virtually impossible.” “I knew the possibility of getting it done would be difficult,” Smith divulged. But she was determined to. “I just looked at the positives.”

“I will do my best,” the promise that Smith made to the president, meant that she was up for the challenge.  “It was time for us to change our strategy,” Smith said of her first step.

In January 2012 UVI launched the “50 for 50” alumni giving campaign that challenged UVI alumni to collectively raise the alumni giving rate to 50 percent. Changing the strategy worked. Smith, who runs a small office, mobilized volunteer-driven committees and campaigns. When the fiscal year closed, in nine months UVI had raised its alumni giving rate to 42 percent. It was not the 50 percent UVI aimed for, but it was an increase of astounding 223 percent.

"This was a major challenge, and I'm delighted by the outcome,” said Attorney Sam Hall, UVI alumnus and “50 for 50” fundraising campaign chair. “My fellow UVI alumni stepped up in a big way and I am confident we will all continue giving back to the University," he said.

UVI celebrated its success and Smith was presented with Dr. Hall’s quarterly President’s Award in October 2012. “I thought that was the end of it there,” Smith said. Then in December, after a particularly challenging day, Smith was laying in her bed when an e-mail came through on her iPad. “It was an e-mail from President Hall,” she recalled. It contained an editorial titled, “The Virgin Islands Miracle” that Dr. Hall wanted her to read before it was distributed. It captured the essence of what happened over the past nine months that resulted in the 42 percent alumni giving rate. “I immediately felt recharged and reenergized,” she recalled.

“Miracles do happen,” President Hall wrote. “They happen when people are given a challenge, and when we use our creativity and people to stretch beyond the norm and create a new normal. Miracles can happen in under-resourced universities when faith overrides fear; when the challenge is more enticing than the circumstances that consume us.”

UVI’s Public Relations Office distributed the release and secured national placements in the Huffington Post College, Academic Impressions, the Business Officer Magazine, HBCU Digest, HBCU Connect and the Tom Joyner Foundation.

The “miracle” and the resulting media attention it received helped UVI to secure the win of the “Alumni Association of the Year” award. All of the nominees for Alumni Association of the Year earned media coverage for social, political and financial support for their university or experienced increased giving, alumni membership or campus support. UVI was selected the winner by a secret ballot of 13 HBCU presidents.

“UVI should regard this award as a high honor, and hopefully, as a sign that they are an example of excellence and achievement within the HBCU community,” said Jarrett Carter, Sr. the founder and executive director of the Center for HBCU Media Advocacy, which hosts the annual awards.  “What UVI has accomplished is no small feat for any college, historically black, traditionally white, or otherwise. The UVI community should be proud that the university is a global leader in alumni relations and engagement, and will soon be teaching other institutions about how to achieve the same goal,” Carter continued.

Everyone agreed that UVI alumni outdid themselves. “They stepped up and answered the call,” Jackson said. “This would not have been possible without their willingness to respond to the challenge and give back to their alma mater.”

Smith added that everyone had a role to play in UVI’s success. “This distinguished honor is the people’s award,” she said. “The whole village took part in this award.” She also credited the campaign’s success to a higher power. “A divine force played an integral part of our success,” Smith said. “That was also part of the miracle.”

Being nationally recognized has created a desire in Smith to continue to rise to the challenge. This year’s campaign is “First to 50” where UVI is challenging its alumni to become the first HBCU with a 50 percent alumni giving rate. Smith is up to the challenge. “We just never stopped. And we will never stop,” she said.

Monday, July 15, 2013

13D Winners Work to Make Their Dreams a Reality

UVI students receive $30,000 to launch shrimp farming business…
Running his own business wasn’t Duane Sydney’s first goal, but that all changed when his girlfriend of three years, Kalayar Myint, asked him to enter the 13D Student Entrepreneurship Competition. Myint has always wanted to start her own business. She came to UVI from Yangon, Myanmar where she worked with her grandfather in the family business.  “I always had a dream of having my own business because of my grandfather,” says Myint. “He is my inspiration, and he is the reason why I majored in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting at UVI.”

 The two pooled their skills and entered the competition in fall 2012-2013 along with 109 other students.  “We took both of our majors and pretty much merged them together,” says Sydney, who has an Associate of Applied Science degree in Process Technology. “She has the business and accounting aspect of everything and for me I have more of the process knowledge. We put it together and came up with the idea of shrimp farming.”

After months of hard work and multiple drafts of their business plan, they won first prize. Myint and Sydney were presented with a $30,000 check to help start DK Shrimp Farm on St. Croix. They hope to become major exporters of shrimp to the Caribbean market. Both graduated from UVI in June 2013.

The student entrepreneurship competitions are made possible by a $5 million gift to UVI from investment strategist and entrepreneur Kiril Sokoloff, the founder of 13D Research on St. Thomas. “Thanks to the generous gift from Kiril Sokoloff and 13D, the student competition is having a large impact on the territory,” says 13D Contest Coordinator Dr. Glenn Metts, associate professor of management at UVI. “It has raised the level of consciousness and conversation about entrepreneurship.”

“The 13D program is very worthwhile because it helps UVI student’s dreams come into reality,” said Myint. “More importantly my dream turned into a reality.” Sydney says that the competition changed him. “It definitely changed me for the better,” he says. “It really inspired me to pursue more business aspects.”  Instead of looking for a job, he is asking himself who he can employ. “How can I assist with the economy,” says Sydney, who often thinks of the ill effects of the closing of the HOVENSA refinery on St. Croix and how he can help. “The goal is to try to get the business as big as possible to try to get some people employed,” he says.

Currently, Sydney and Myint are applying for permits from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture and seeking permission to use land he already owns to raise the shrimp. While they already have approval to grow crops on the land, they are having a challenge getting the land rezoned for livestock. They are currently reviewing all their options.  "Like they even mentioned in the competition, the hardest part about getting a business going is to get it started,” Sydney says. “We are not going to stop until we get this thing going.”

Myint has been in touch with Dr. Metts to discuss their options. “Our support to the winners is ongoing,” says Dr. Metts.  “It doesn’t stop after the competition.” He says that all of the 13D finalists receive support well after the competition is over.  The other contest winners were Sharon Seibert, who received $20,000 for her second-place win and Macy Miles, who won third place and $10,000.  Seibert will sell her paddle and sail watersports products in the Virgin Islands and U.S. mainland. Miles will create an online shopping business designed to allow people living abroad to get products that would be unavailable to them without her website.

This year, UVI’s 13D program expanded to host a territory wide high school competition. Antilles School Freshman Jonathan Woods became the first winner. He received $1,000 to help start Rock City Hydro, a soil-less home garden company.

“One of the most inspiring things about the entrepreneurship competition is watching the participants develop throughout the competition into serious business people,” says Dr. Metts. “Many of the proposals in the early stages are kind of rough but as the competition continues their proposals improve and the competitive juices flow.”

“The final round was very tough and all the other teams had improved their business proposals a lot,” says Myint. “It was so challenging and exciting on the day of the final round.”

Dr. Metts says he is very impressed with the competitors this year. “The 2013 13D Student Entrepreneurship Competition winners are very well prepared to be successful,” he says. “I fully expect that we will have at least three business startups from the final eight teams that competed in the final round in May. As we add more entrepreneurship programs at the University this competition is only going to get better.”

UVI’s Ambassador - Miss UVI: More Than a Pretty Face

Murchtricia Charles will represent UVI at HBCU Hall of Fame competition …
Four years ago Murchtricia Charles realized that one day she would compete in the Miss UVI Ambassadorial Competition. Throughout her life Charles has been in one competition or another, from pageants to speech competitions and debates. In 2009, she witnessed her brother, Ahmad Z Fashions President Jamal Drumond, assisting Carice Glasgow prepare for the Miss UVI ambassadorial competition. Glasgow went on to win the crown in 2009.

“Since I was four, I have been doing pageants and things like that where the best dress can help you win,” says Charles, who entered the competition knowing that it was more than just another pageant.  “With Miss UVI being an ambassadorial competition, I saw the work that you have to put into it.  The work I had to put into my beauty pageants is nothing compared to what I had to put into Miss UVI.”  Charles had to thoroughly learn about UVI and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Winning Miss UVI means more to her than any other competition of its kind she says. “It is something that I really worked for,” says Charles. “I used my mind – not just my smile.”

On the night of the competition she did not know if she would win. She juggled preparing for Miss UVI with classes, research and preparing for a competitive research internship program. When she was announced the winner, all Charles could do to keep from crying was to laugh. “It was just an overwhelming experience,” Charles says. “It was truly an out-of-body experience.”

Drumond, who was also Charles’ chaperone, could not be prouder of his little sister. “I am ecstatic,” he says. “I couldn’t wish or ask for someone else to call my younger sister. She is so determined to achieve whatever she puts her mind to.” 

Drumond says he firmly believes that her personal interview, experience, talent and confidence on stage made her Miss UVI win possible.

Charles has been enjoying her role as UVI’s ambassador. She participated in the St. Thomas Carnival parade soon after winning and is currently in New Jersey enrolled in the Research in Science Engineering (RISE) Internship Program. “I love math,” says Charles, who is a junior majoring in mathematics and computational biology. “I am doing a type of research that I have never done before as well as computer science and computational chemistry,” says Charles.  “It is really broadening my horizons to what I want to do for my Ph.D.”

One of Miss UVI’s duties is to represent UVI at the HBCU Hall of Fame competition, which will be held in Atlanta on Sept. 25. She will compete against at least 35 other contestants representing HBCU’s throughout the nation. “I am looking forward to not only meeting all of the girls and meeting new people when I get there, but also having people embrace the University of the Virgin Islands and putting our name out there,” Charles says. “That’s my purpose. I am an ambassador.”

A love of education for youth is what motivates Charles. Born on St. Croix, she firmly believes that students need to be properly prepared to enter college with sufficient skills to take higher level math courses. “There are a lot of students that graduate from high school in the Virgin Islands and they don’t have the ability to solve problems that they should be able to solve when entering an institution of higher learning, which is not their fault.” She says it is necessary for us as a community to get together and prepare them to enter an institution of higher learning. She is currently a tutor in the Peer Led Team Learning program.

  After earning a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, she plans to continue her education and receive a doctorate in computational biology and molecular biophysics. “My major goal is to come back to the Virgin Islands and open a STEM preparatory school,” Charles says. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and Mathematics. She says the school will prepare students for post-secondary education.

Wellness Becoming a Priority at UVI

It’s a few minutes past 1 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon and three UVI employees are working out at the UVI Wellness Center, a ...
It’s a few minutes past 1 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon and three UVI employees are working out at the UVI Wellness Center, a fourth has just finished her workout, showered and is heading back to the office. The fact that UVI employees are now using their lunch hour to workout makes Lorenzo Donastorg overjoyed. Donastorg is the coordinator of the Wellness Center. The 6,250 square foot center on St. Thomas has an aerobics and dance studio with a sprung-wood floor, and a fitness equipment room with weight training and cardiovascular equipment. When Donastorg joined the University three years ago – getting people into the center, yet alone during their lunch hour, was a hard sell. The biggest excuse – time. “People were fixed on that,” Donastorg says. “What I tell people is that even 20 minutes is better than nothing.” That thought is catching on. Now, when Donastorg runs into employees working out on their lunch hour, he has to contain his excitement. “I don’t want my enthusiasm to scare people,” he says with a laugh, although he makes a point of greeting and encouraging all members.

Donastorg has seen membership in all categories at the Wellness Center increase, and is quick to share the success. “It’s not just me. I’m not doing this by myself,” he says. “It’s not a one-person battle. We are doing this together,” he adds, referring to UVI’s Wellness Committee. The committee was formed partly in response to the UVI Strategic Plan goal to “improve employee wellness across the University,” and partly in response to a goal of the Virgin Islands Government to improve employee health and reduce health insurance costs.

“The Virgin Islands Government (VIG) can no longer sustain health insurance (costs),” explains UVI’s Interim Human Resources Director Veda Richards. The paradigm must shift from disease management to improving wellness, Richards says. The Government Employees Service Commission (GESC) Group Health Insurance Board oversees the operation of government employees’ health and other benefit plans. The board formed a Wellness Committee to assist in changing employees thinking in regards to health management. They began with campaigns to get people to think healthier, says Richards, who is an associate member of the GESC board. According to Richards, the cost of health insurance for UVI is $4 million per year. This figure includes the employee premium cost. CIGNA, the VIG’s health insurance carrier, has committed $200,000 per year over the next five years to the VIG’s Wellness Committee’s initiatives, Richards says.

The first initiative was the “Healthy Baby, Healthy Child” campaign in 2011, that provided tips to pregnant women to increase chances of having healthy babies. The second was a Wellness Expo in 2012, where attendees were offered free biometric screenings. Richards explains that participants were encouraged to “know their numbers” – blood pressure, body mass index, waist circumference – a first step in managing health. The third initiative was the “10,000 Steps a Day” campaign in 2013, which was geared to increasing heart health.

“Studies show that if individuals take 10,000 steps per day they are more apt to having a healthy heart,” Richards says. Participants received pedometers to measure their steps and were required to log on daily to a website to record their steps. Approximately 300 UVI employees registered for the program, however; 175 employees actively participated in the eight- week program on both campuses. Richards says the results were positive.

Neville Williams, on the St. Thomas campus, tallied an amazing 1,652,577 steps! On St. Thomas the two other top steppers were Sharlene Harris with 660,360 steps and Joy Harrigan with 559,915 steps. On the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix, the top stepper was Myrtle Pemberton with 660,132. Marcia Taylor came in second with 568,095 and David Capriola came in third with 531,521. The top three steppers on each campus have received arrays of gifts, including an iPod, gym-in-a-bag, Panini grill and digital jump rope.

Donastorg piggy-backed on the “10,000 Steps a Day” campaign launching a month-long “Aerobics Challenge” two weeks after the “10,000 Steps a Day” campaign began. It involved an e-mail campaign that mass-mailed fitness facts and tips to UVI employees. Donastorg’s challenge was two-fold: to get participants to meet their goal of 10,000 steps per day and to get them into the Wellness Center. Nineteen people signed up for the challenge – some were employees, but the group also included students, alumni and senior citizens. “Everyone from the Aerobics Challenge kept asking me for a next challenge,” Donastorg says. The next challenge, this time for two months, will roll out in August, he says. Four hundred dollars in prize money – provided solely from Donastorg’s personal funds – are up for grabs.

The VIG’s Wellness Committee has upcoming campaigns in the works. A 24-hour Zumba Marathon is being planned for the summer. Other ideas for 2013 include a swim challenge, tennis carnival, diabetic challenge and body mass index (BMI) challenge. In 2014, the VIG’s Wellness Committee will focus on healthy eating. Richards says that CIGNA anticipates reduced health care costs after a five-year cycle. But Donastorg emphasizes that results to individuals come much quicker. A participant in his Aerobics Challenge lost 14 pounds in one month. Those are results you can see and feel.