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.