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.”