Tuesday, December 16, 2014

UVI Research Students Win Big at National Conference

 UVI ABRCMS winners (From left) Shelsa Marcel, Khalin Nisbett, Ayanna Fredericks, Krystal Winter, and Serena Joseph pose in front of the UVI Library on the St. Thomas Campus. 

More than anything, Khalin Nisbett wants to use chemistry to save lives. The idea of extracting the extraordinary from ordinary items in the Caribbean excites her. Nisbett, a University of the Virgin Islands science major, spent last summer researching the anti-cancer agents that may be found in lemon grass – a species of grass commonly used in the Caribbean to make tea.

Her efforts were rewarded when she became one of five UVI research students to bring home awards this fall from the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), the largest professional conference for minority students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the United States. Nisbett, Ayanna Fredericks, Serena Joseph, Shelsa Marcel and Krystal Wynter presented posters on their research alongside 1,700 students from 700 colleges and universities all over the country. Seventeen UVI STEM students presented their research at the conference.

“This is the most wins ever for UVI,” said UVI Marine Biology Professor Dr. Teresa Turner, who accompanied the UVI contingent of students along with Dr. Aletha Baumann, a member of the psychology faculty on St. Croix.

Nisbett said her experience at the conference changed her life. “It opened another window for me,” she said. “I can now see my future a little clearer and it feels like my only restraint is myself. I felt proud of myself, and the other four females of UVI who won.”

Nisbett plans to continue her investigation into anti-cancer agents in lemon grass. “This research is important to the community and myself,” she said. “If we can find and deliver an anti-cancer agent that's already popular enough as a breakfast beverage, it means that we would have found an economic and abundant alternative to traditional treatments. That excites me.” Nisbett conducted her research with Dr. Yakini Brandy, a UVI chemistry professor on the St. Thomas Campus.

Wynter, a senior psychology major, won a best poster award in neurosciences. She used the Optogenetics Approach to conduct her research at a neuroscience lab at the University of Iowa. Wynter’s goal was to answer questions about the body that could not have been answered before the method was developed. Optogenetics uses light to control neurons, which have been genetically sensitized to light. Light-responsive proteins allow scientists to turn neurons on or off selectively with precision. Introducing these proteins into cultured cells or the brains of live animals allows investigation of the structure and function of neural networks.

“Optogenetics is fairly new,” she said. “We are now able to answer more system level questions that we were not able to before. With further research and our findings, we may be able to help people with general anxiety disorders.” Wynter did research on drug addiction, memory and learning.

When presenting at the conference her goal was to educate, so she was caught off guard when she won. “It didn't really sink in until after a while,” said Wynter. “I was really excited when I heard them say University of the Virgin Islands, but I kept thinking it was another student who presented in my discipline.” She continued, “It wasn't until I was walking back to my seat that it hit me.”

“After receiving the award, my friend Ayanna, who also won an award, was standing with her arms open,” said Wynter. “She ran all the way from the back of the room to give me a hug and told me how proud she was. I almost cried.”

“I am just happy to have represented my school well and make my family, mentor, advisors and friends proud,” she said.

Serena Joseph won best poster in the category of microbiology. Joseph, a junior biology major, presented her research on parasites in hair sheep.

Her love for animal science began at the age of seven. She found an injured stray dog and assisted the veterinarian in wrapping the animal’s broken hind leg. The family adopted the dog and nursed it back to health. From that moment, she knew that her interest was in animal science. Joseph spent last summer conducting research with Dr. Robert Godfrey, director of the UVI Agriculture Experiment Station on St. Croix.

Dr. Godfrey was pleased and surprised that Joseph won. “The surprise was not because I doubted her as a scientist or a presenter,” he said. “I was surprised that she did so well with an agricultural science project at a conference that really does not have agriculture as a significant component. She was able to explain her project to non-agricultural people, which can be difficult sometimes, but it is one of her many skills.”

Joseph has worked with Dr. Godfrey and his staff on several projects over the past few years. “She is a very fast learner whether it is in the field or the lab,” said Dr. Godfrey. “She was very astute at understanding the statistical analysis and what it meant for her data, which is very impressive.”

Ayanna Fredericks, a senior psychology major, won best poster in social and behavioral sciences. She said that winning the award was validation for all of the hard work she has been doing to earn her undergraduate degree. Fredericks worked with Dr. Kimarie Engerman, UVI associate professor of psychology and Doris Battiste, dean of students on St. Thomas, on a project analyzing alcohol and drug use among UVI students. After graduating from UVI in the spring, Fredericks plans to go onto earn a Ph.D. in psychology. “My plans ultimately are to return to the U.S. Virgin Islands to work with at-risk youth in the system,” she said. “That is actually my passion.”

“The youth need more people in their corner,” said Fredericks. “There are so many things that are pulling them in more negative directions. I want to be able to make an impact on their lives.”

Shelsa Marcel, senior computer science major, won a best poster award in the category of molecular and computational biology. Marcel used computer science and genetics to create an algorithm to discover how proteins in the body blend to DNA. During the summer, Marcel worked with a mentor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on the research. “Presenting at a national conference opened my eyes to the possibilities that there are in research,” said Marcel. While at the conference she was able to interact with many people in different fields and was able to put herself on a global scale and see how many opportunities are open to her in science in general.

Marcel plans to pursue a Ph.D. in bioinformatics, an interdisciplinary field of science that combines computer science, statistics, mathematics, and engineering to study and process biological data. She plans to become a research scientist and open her own lab.

UVI and its students have participated in the ABRCMS for the past 17 years. Each student won $250.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Golden Key Honour Society Recognizes UVI’s St. Thomas Chapter

The St. Thomas Chapter of UVI’s Golden Key International Honour Society was recognized as the organization’s Region 3 “Spark A Change” Chapter of the Month in November. The chapter was also the second place winner in the “Spark A Change” campaign among Golden Key chapters worldwide.

Among the numerous activities the chapter carried out to earn the distinction were presentations at a recent Lockhart Elementary School mentorship program for sixth grade students. Current and alumni Golden Key male members made a “Boys to Men” presentation, while current and alumni female members appeared as a “Queen’s Court,” according to Chapter President Aquila Dorsey.

Shown, from left, are Aquila Dorsey - Miss UVI Homecoming Queen 2012; Elisa Thomas - Miss UVI and Miss NBCA 2014;
Khadijah Lee - Miss St. John 2013; and Shayla Solomon - Miss Virgin Islands America 2009.
Four members who are current and former queens used their training in pageantry and professional etiquette to make a presentation on self-worth and value in life to the students. This interactive session, with some 40 girls, included hands-on activities and role playing exercises. Subtopics included: Knowing Who You Are, Making the Right Choices, Giving and Receiving Respect, and Academic Excellence.

During the male session, current and alumni members – including two professional engineers and a special appearance by professional boxer, Julius “The Chef” Jackson – shared their personal success stories with approximately 40 boys in the program. They also discussed the relevance of self-empowerment in order to overcome bullying, peer pressure and other challenges in life.  

Friday, December 5, 2014

UVICELL Honors 18 for Completing Dialysis Technician and Medical Assistant Programs

The UVICELL Center on the St. Thomas Campus recognized the achievements of 18 students who successfully completed coursework to enter or enhance their skills in the healthcare industry on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. Fourteen students graduated from the Dialysis Technician program, and four from the Clinical Medical Assistants (CMA) program. These programs were developed to address the changing trends in the healthcare industry resulting in the dislocation of allied healthcare workers.  

“As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, we have to be ready to provide continuous training so that the territory can keep abreast of those changes, meet federal requirements and provide quality healthcare,” said Ilene Garner, Director of the UVICELL Center.  “We are extremely pleased that these graduates have taken this important first step in meeting the demand for skilled healthcare workers."

Graduates of UVICELL’s 2014 fall healthcare programs on St. Thomas pose with their instructors Rhonda Jackson (far left) and Lorna Todman (far right).

Graduates of the Dialysis Program are: Frances Abraham, Cyndella Baron-Abraham, Rahkiya Benjamin, Kwameka Brown, Joanna Daniel, Joleen Hendricks, Kelvin Howard, Jehenelle Joseph, Jahvanna Richardson, Donalda Rogers, Genevieve Sobers, Krystal Spencer, Julie St. John and Carmencita Thomas. 

Graduates of the CMA program are: Paulette Collins, Joanna Daniel, Annelie Gumbs and Barbara Prescott.

Editor’s Note: Eleven students completed the CMA program on St. Croix in November. Readmore.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Reichhold Center: Legends Perform Here

From Ray Charles to Common – from Michael Bolton to the Alvin Ailey American Theater - UVI’s Reichhold Center for the Arts has hosted legendary artists and performers for over three decades. This year the center takes it over the top. Grammy Award winning singer Natalie Cole, on her second visit, delighted the Reichhold Center audience with an encore on Nov. 1, after performing for two hours straight to a packed Reichhold Center audience. This is Cole’s second performance at the center. “The intimacy that we have, especially with artists like Natalie Cole, is unique to Reichhold,” says Denise Humphrey, interim director of the University of the Virgin Islands Reichhold Center for the Arts. “You don’t experience any other artist, anywhere else, at any other venue, like you would here at the Reichhold.”

Up next on the line-up of legends is Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. Babyface is a musical maverick who has ignited the hearts of music lovers for decades. A prolific song writer, hit-maker, superstar recording artist and record label owner and producer, Babyface has won 10 Grammy Awards. He has sold more than 500 million singles and albums, and has more than 100 chart topping R and B hits. He performs at 8 p.m. on Jan. 17.

“He will have everyone moving and grooving,” says Humphrey. “His performance is definitely going to be a nice kick-off for the New Year.”

Babyface’s cool, soulful love songs include hits like, “When Can I See You Again” released in 1994, “Every Time I Close My Eyes” in 1997, “Whip Appeal” in 2001, and “For the Cool in You” in 2001.

In 1989, Babyface co-founded LaFace Records. Three of the label's early artists were, TLC, Usher, and Toni Braxton. “You can expect a plethora of music,” says Reichhold Center Marketing and Sales Manager Ian Turnbull of Babyface’s performance. “He is a music icon. There are countless records that he has either written or produced songs for that resonate with millions. He is truly a hit maker.” This year, he released a duet album with Tony Braxton titled “Love, Marriage, and Divorce.”

“The performance that he is going to bring to the stage is going to appeal to the young and the young at heart,” says Turnbull. “His musical repertoire spans the last four decades.”

Babyface is just one of the award winning artists performing at the Reichhold Center this season. Nine-time Grammy Award winning gospel artist Kirk Franklin will perform at the Reichhold Center on Feb. 7. Franklin has bridged the gap between gospel and other musical genres for more than two decades. “His show, in my opinion, is going to be the most active performance,” says Turnbull. “He puts on a high energy show.” Franklin is known for leading urban contemporary choirs such as “The Family,” “God’s Property” and “One Nation Crew.” He is also the host and executive producer of the gospel talent show “Sunday Best,” the highest-rated gospel program in Black Entertainment Television network history.

This season, the Reichhold Center has added “The Sky Lounge,” which is nestled under the shaded perch above the upper uncovered seats. The Sky Lounge has a newly designed bar and lounge seating with an intimate setting. Patrons can be served drinks and light hors d’oeuvres, while they watch the show. “You have the best spot in the house,” says Humphrey. “You have space to dance and to really enjoy the performance.” Humphrey says that this season is designed for people to come out, relax, enjoy and be entertained.

The Reichhold Center and UVI’s Virgin Islands Tourism and Hospitality Program have partnered to run the center’s concessions for regular season shows. “They have turned that whole atmosphere of our Sky Lounge into something that is very unique, that people are loving,” says Humphrey. “The students are fantastic. I love their level of service and their interactions. They are very professional and it is a testament to the quality of service that is coming out of that program.”

The Reichhold Center, a 1,196 seat amphitheater, has had a great season so far. The Center’s 36th season opened with a sold out performances from Reggae Artists Tessane Chin, winner of the hit television show “The Voice,” and Virgin Islands own Pressure Buspipe. Chin received a standing ovation and treated her fans with an encore performance.

Other shows this season include performances by:

· “Spencers: Theatre of Illusion” on March 7 and 8 – during his visit in the Virgin Islands, Spencer will also visit schools and health service centers.

· The Dzul Dance Company on March 21 – this show-stopping company fuses contemporary dance with aerial arts, contortion and acrobatics to showcase indigenous Mexican Mayan culture.

· Jeffrey Osborne and Freddie Jackson on May 23 – Osborne will perform his hits “Stay With Me Tonight,” “She’s On The Left,” “You Should Be Mine,” and more. A former lead vocalist for the band L.T.D., Osborne’s solo career has earned him a total of five gold and platinum albums. Freddie Jackson earned legions of fans with the sultry songs “You Are My Lady” and “Rock Me Tonight.”

For more information on Reichhold Center shows visit www.reichholdcenter.org or call the box office at (340) 693-1559. For advertising and sponsorship opportunities contact Ian M. Turnbull at (340) 693-1554 or via email ian.turnbull@uvi.edu. The Reichhold Center’s 2014-2015 season is sponsored by Marriott Frenchman’s Reef, International Capital & Management Company, VI Lottery, Innovative and VI Council on the Arts.

Eleven Graduates Receive Clinical Medical Assistant Certificates from CELL

2014 Graduates of UVICELL’s Clinical Medical Assistant Program.
Eleven students who graduated from the recent Clinical Medical Assistant (CMA) program offered by the UVI’s Community Engagement and Lifelong Learning (UVICELL) Center received certification during a ceremony on Nov. 19, 2014, in Frederiksted, St. Croix. The six-month CMA program is designed to prepare students to perform a wide range of clinical tasks in a healthcare setting. It was created to address high unemployment rates on St. Croix and provide much needed skills to increase chances for employment in the healthcare sector.
Graduates of the program are trained to assist with the administration of medication, prepare patients for examination and treatment, record and take vital signs, and perform routine laboratory procedures. Graduates included: Alberta Benjamin, Shemona Cascen, Shermin Charles, Ana Cruz, Jewelise Fahie, Mary Francois, Bernadette King, Brenda La-Force, Sophia Lawrence-Brown, Shanice Liburd and Brizeida Rivera. Ten of the eleven students are already nationally certified.
“Our students have worked extremely hard to achieve this milestone,” said Ilene Garner, director of the UVICELL Center. “It is also fitting that we are able to train and certify individuals in the industry, especially when our healthcare system needs an infusion of trained and talented staff to support our local healthcare facilities,” she said. 
The course, taught in a blended-learning environment, combined online learning with traditional classroom methods. Theoretical aspects of the course were taught online with the assistance of an online instructor. Regular group and clinical hands-on sessions with an in-class instructor rounded out the comprehensive course, providing a rich and unique learning experience.  

For more information on the CMA program, contact the UVICELL Center at (340) 693-1100 or visit cell.uvi.edu. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Training Sessions for Peer Educators Prepare Them for UVI, Community Outreach

From left, St. Thomas Campus Peer Educators Sean Benjamin, 
Lurenzo Scotland - a lead educator, Elvaneice Huggins and 
Kiah Muller - a lead educator, release balloons signifying the 
release of their weaknesses while focusing on their strengths 
during a training sessionClick on photos to see larger image
This year, when UVI celebrates Red Ribbon Week on St. Croix and St. Thomas, members of the University’s Peer Educators Program will play a key role in the activities. In addition to staffing pledge tables and participating in the planned marches, the Peer Educators – 16 on St. Croix and 19 on St. Thomas – will make presentations on campus and participate in outreach to the greater Virgin Islands community. (Note: Red Ribbon activities are set for both campuses from Oct. 27-30. Link to UVI Announcements)
Their goal is to share accurate information about the effects that drugs, alcohol and HIV have on their fellow students as well as other residents in the territory. Three formal training sessions held earlier this semester brought all the program’s students together to hear from experts in their respective fields, according to Program Coordinator Alyssa Ryan. The trainings, a mandatory aspect of the program, featured Dr. Peggy Glider from the University of Arizona; Vanessa Cooke, director of Bowie State University’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Prevention Center; and UVI alumna Japheth Auguste, who works as a professional counselor in Florida.

Some of the contingent of Peer Educators from the Albert A. Sheen 
Campus gather for a photo during a break from training. Shown, 
from left, are - back row - Tyquana Mewborn, Samuel Joseph, 
Akira Matthew, Briana Eleonora, Chyrise Eleonora, Shenequa 
Hector and Rokeyah Connor, and -  front row - Janalee Concepcion, 
Christopher Rosario - lead educator, Sophia Johnson, Kaila Mitchell 
and Ashley Baker.
Glider shared details of a program she runs that is designed to reduce high-risk drinking among college students and others ages 18 to 24 using campus-based media campaigns and other strategies to address misperceptions about alcohol. Cooke conducted a Certified Peer Educators Training session designed to improve listening skills, develop socially inclusive outreach efforts, and share techniques to successfully encourage individuals to take action steps for change. All Peer Educators work to achieve certification.

Auguste’s training focused on an in-depth look at the effects of alcohol and marijuana on different parts of the body, and how students can translate that information to their peers. She also discussed the possible legalization of marijuana in the Virgin Islands and how to handle situations where Peer Educators encounter students who strongly favor the legalization of medicinal and recreational marijuana.

The work of Peer Educators continues throughout the year. The program is part of UVI’s larger Substance Abuse and HIV Prevention Program, which is funded by a major grant by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration.

Peer Educators pose with presenter Dr. Peggy Glider, in red, from the University of Arizona during a training session in September.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Three St. Croix UVI Process Technology Students Receive Seven Seas Water Scholarships

Scholarship Recipients of the Seven Seas Water Scholarships are, from
left, Tyrone DeCosta, Alex G. Cintron and Kwame N. Garcia.
Three UVI Process Technology students on St. Croix have each been awarded $2,000 scholarships for the 2014-2015 academic school year from Seven Seas Water. The students are Tyrone DeCosta, Alex G. Cintron and Kwame N. Garcia. 

All three recipients are first-year students in the two-year Associate of Applied Science in Process Technology (AASPT) Degree Program which is offered on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix. This program has produced 110 graduates in the last decade. These graduates are now employed in industrial facilities locally, nationally and globally.

Seven Seas Water is based in Tampa, Fla, and operates reverse osmosis water desalination plants at the Virgin Islands Water Power Authority (VIWAPA) plant facilities on St. Thomas and St. Croix. Seven Seas Water has been partnering with and supporting the Process Technology Program by providing scholarships, internships and employment opportunities to UVI students since 2012. For more information contact Program Director Eric Douglas at (340) 690-9533 or send email to edougla@live.uvi.edu.

UVI Alumna, Professor Named ‘Future of Nursing Scholar’

Future of Nursing Scholar Desiree Bertrand attends 7th Annual UVI CERC Health Disparities Institute on St. Thomas. 
Nursing is Desiree Bertrand’s calling. The need to help someone else is what drew her to the career, but it is understanding that research can lead to solutions, that drove her to seek a doctorate degree in nursing. Bertrand’s dedication to research has not gone unnoticed. 

Bertrand, a University of the Virgin Islands alumna, has been named a Future of Nursing Scholar by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This fall, she is part of the inaugural cohort of the foundation’s Future of Nursing Scholars (FNS) Program. This program is designed to dramatically increase the number of Ph.D.-prepared nurses in the United States.

The schools that are funded by the FNS program select the students who will receive scholarships and other support. Bertrand is enrolled in the Medical University of South Carolina and attends classes on-line. She was chosen from 15 other (MUSC) Ph.D. nursing students who were expected to begin classes in 2014.

Sixteen students from universities throughout the United States will join Bertrand in the program’s inaugural cohort. “I was very honored and humbled to receive such a scholarship,” says Bertrand. The FNS program is a three year program that provides financial support, mentoring, leadership development activities, and postdoctoral research funding to build the leadership capacity of nurse educators and researchers.
UVI Adjunct Nursing Professor Desiree Bertrand 

“My initial drive to get a Ph.D. is so that I can better understand the research process,” says Bertrand, who hopes to become a well-qualified nurse researcher. “With a Ph.D., I would be able to apply for grants and do my own research projects – which is my goal.”

For her doctoral research, Bertrand will focus on intimate partner violence. Her research interests include women's health, health disparities and domestic violence. She is co-principal investigator of a research study titled, “An Integrated Risk Reduction Intervention for African Caribbean Women Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence – The Empowered Sisters Project.”

“I think the fact that I am actively doing research and the depth of research over the last five years, was a major decision factor in getting this scholarship,” says Bertrand, who has been an assistant professor at UVI since 2003 and has been a research coordinator and community education and outreach director with the UVI Caribbean Exploratory Research Center (CERC) since 2009.

“The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Future of Nursing Scholars program was designed as a multi-funder initiative that will create a diverse group of Ph.D.-prepared nurses committed to long-term leadership careers, advancing science and discovery through research, strengthening nursing education, and furthering transformational change in nursing and health care,” says Heather J. Kelley-Thompson, FNS program deputy director. Bertrand joined the inaugural cohort of scholars attending a leadership boot camp in August 2014. “This two-day immersion allowed the scholars to connect as a cohort and develop skills that will serve them well as they begin their doctoral programs,” says Kelly-Thompson.

“Ms. Bertrand has been a major contributor to key research projects in which the center is involved, participating in data collection, analysis and manuscript development and publications,” says Dr. Gloria Callwood, UVI associate professor of nursing and director of CERC. “I am certain that her extraordinary accomplishments related to her research activities at CERC influenced the decision makers at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.”

Bertrand has participated in and provided oversight of research activity on St Croix, while leading territorial community activities to inform the public on health risk reduction and leading healthier life styles, says Dr. Callwood. Under her leadership, the Community Education and Outreach Core developed a “Health Education Toolkit,” which can be accessed at http://cercuvi.com. She has also presented research outcomes at national and international conferences.

There is little health research on Virgin Islanders or research done by Virgin Islanders, explains Bertrand. “The research that I am doing now and in the future will affect people in the Virgin Islands.” Currently research done on African Americans in the mainland, are used to represent the health needs of people in the territory. She hopes she will have the opportunity to collaborate with other researches to benefit the healthcare in the territory.
Desiree Bertrand (right) speaks with CERC Community Engagement and
Outreach Coordinator Dr. Angela Ford (center ) and CERC Regional
Coordinator Dr. Janis M. Valmond at the CERC Health Disparities Institute. 

Bertrand is an adjunct nursing professor at UVI. Students participating in the FNS program are strongly encouraged to cut their workload in half. The program provides financial support that allows them to work part-time as they pursue their doctoral degrees.

Bertrand earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from UVI in 1995 and a Master of Science in Nursing Education from Midwestern State University in 2002.

The other universities participating in the FNS program include Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, Villanova University, the University of California- Davis, the University of California - San Francisco, the University of California - Los Angeles, the University of San Diego, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Rhode Islands, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, and Duke University.

Monday, October 6, 2014

New Soccer Field Ushers in New Era in UVI Athletics

The ribbon is cut at UVI's new soccer field on the Albert A. Sheen Campus. Click on photos for larger view.

When Denny Smith started kicking around soccer balls in his native Dominica, he had no idea that the sport would lead to a collegiate athletic career. Fast forward about a decade and Smith is co-captain of UVI's men's soccer team. On Oct. 4, the junior computer science major led his team to home game victory in the school's inaugural soccer match on the new league-certified field on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix. Smith scored the two goals that lead to UVI's 2-0 win over Polytecnica University of Puerto Rico. In the riveting game, Smith was assisted by co-captain Kimani George in the first goal and by Ismail S. Yusuf in the second. Goal keeper Jahidi Gussie made an impressive seven saves.

“It felt good playing in front of our home fans for once,” he said. He added that the game was tough, as both teams were playing on a regulation-sized field – which is larger than any they've ever played on. “It's the best field that I've ever played on,” Smith said.

“We should be proud of this,” said UVI's Interim Athletic Director Curtis Gilpin. “This is ours and is a first of many firsts,” he added. “I'm looking forward to all the matches – whether with the LAI or international games – because we have the only certified soccer field in the territory.” LAI - Liga Atletic Interuniversitaria – is the intercollegiate association of which UVI is a member. The soccer match also marked the first time a LAI game of any sport was played on the Sheen Campus.

The soccer field is located adjacent to the campus’ outdoor tennis and basketball courts. UVI hopes to host international teams from throughout the Caribbean and the world. 

Bucs teammates gather around Denny Smith for a selfie 
just after he scored the first goal on UVI's new, league-approved 
soccer field on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014.
The field was a long-time coming for the institution.  UVI started a LAI soccer program in 2011, led by Coach Johannes Worede. Initially scheduled to come on-line in Fall 2012, the field was delayed because heavy rains disrupted several processes. Then issues with top seeding called for hydro seeding to be redone.

Funded primarily by funds from the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009, the field was completed in 2013. However, divots and other minor issues kept the field from receiving initial certification and seeing any play. The delay meant that all UVI Men's Soccer games had to be played on the road – an additional challenge for a budding soccer team.

But on Oct. 4, the excitement was high and UVI pride was evident. About 100 people from the UVI community and the community at-large gathered on the field to witness the historic moment.

“We are here to unveil the best soccer field in the Virgin Islands,” UVI President Dr. David Hall said at the ribbon cutting ceremony that was held before the inaugural game. “Athletics on this campus is moving to another level,” he said. Dr. Hall also noted UVI's newly hired full-time Head Coach Dr. David Santesteban. “We are so glad that he's going to be guiding our young men and the athletic program on (St. Croix),” Dr. Hall said, noting a similar arrangement with the basketball program on St. Thomas. “This is a new era for us and for these young men.”

Buccaneer soccer team poses after the inaugural homegame on St. Croix.
Coach Santesteban said he couldn't ask for a better inaugural game. “We got support from everyone,” Santesteban said, noting the eager players and the administrators who worked hard to get the field LAI-certified. “What they did here is second to none,” Santesteban said. “They have raised the level.”

The 2014 Buccaneers feature a 15 man roster, with five from the St. Thomas Campus and 10 from the Sheen Campus. Team members are Jordan Atemazem, Maxwell Daniels, Garfield Ferdinand, co-captain Kimani George, Jahidi Gussie, Damien James, Gejae Jeffers, Peter Oculien, Gilbert Roberts, Christopher Rosario, co-captain Denny Smith, Caleb Tavernier, Josiah Telesford, Ismail H. Yusuf and Ismail S. Yusuf.

In their introduction on the field, each member of both teams was escorted by young players from the VI Soccer Association Youth players and the AYSO Youth players. The children received soccer balls from UVI. President Hall heralded them as the next generation of UVI soccer players, to cheers from their parents. 

Nereida Washington, director of Campus Operations on St. Croix, said the field is for all students. “It was developed with an eye toward delivering physical education classes that will help enhance the athletic opportunities for all our students,” she said. 

While the University's goal is for long-term success for the athletic and soccer programs, Smith's goals are more immediate. He plans to lead the team to more wins and into the league playoffs. And given the team’s make up, it is possible.

“This is the strongest team we've had in the past three years,” Smith said. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Miss UVI Brings Home National Crown

Miss UVI Elisa Thomas is crowned Miss National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame Queen on Sept. 27 in Atlanta.

Miss UVI Elisa Thomas made history when she won the title of Miss National Black College Alumni (NBCA) Hall of Fame – becoming the first Miss UVI to win that crown.

At the competition held from Sept. 24 to Sept. 28, in Atlanta, Elisa bested 29 other college queens from Historically Black Colleges and University’s (HBCU) around the country for the title of Miss NBCA Hall of Fame. In addition to winning the crown, she won the “Hats and Heels” segment of the competition.

The NBCA queen contestants are judged in four categories, including talent, poise, image, and personal and private interviews where the contestant has up to two minutes to introduce herself and discuss her platform. Miss UVI’s platform was domestic violence awareness. As Miss NBCA, Elisa will serve as a national representative and advocate of HBCUs, and will receive an academic scholarship and other prizes.

UVI has been represented at the Miss NBCA Hall of Fame pageant for many years and several UVI queens have placed in the top five. Elisa is the first Miss UVI to win the crown.
The NBCA competition is sponsored by the NCBA Hall of Fame organization, which is dedicated to the growth and development of HBCUs through scholarships, internships, training and technical assistance, alumni recognition, and programs to encourage humanitarian involvement.

Here’s a selection of comments from the UVI social media sites. A stunning array of photos is also available on these Facebook pages.

Miss UVI Elisa Thomas with her NCAB Crown.
Click photos for larger view.
UVI Facebook Page – http://facebook.com/UVI.edu

  • Bonita Bradley Congratulations! Your Queen is PHENOMENAL! Truly a beautiful woman! She represented your institution with Grace, Elegance, Poise, and Class!
  • Sally L. Browne – Go UVI !!!!!CONGRATULATIONS !!!!!
  • Alicia Barzey – Congrats Eliza!!!!!!_
  • Davis LaVerne – Congratulations beautiful lady! you have done us proud!

STX Student Activities Page – http://www.facebook.com/studentactivities.stx

  • Dale Morton – Congratulations Elisa and your team.
  • Andrea Wilson – Congratulations MS Elisa Thomas and the committee that accompanied her. We are very proud of you. iRep UVI
  • Kimberlee I'msolovingmerightnow Smith – Congratulations Elisa Thomas I am so proud of you.
  • Joshua Emmanuel Edwards – Congratulations Queen Elisa Thomas honor and Grace is yours. Blessings to your committee and all who supported you and encourage you to succeed.
  • J Millin Young – So happy for our Queen Elisa!
  • Beyond Elegance – Words can't explain the Joy in my Heart!!! My Gem.. Queen Elisa Thomas.. Congrats from your fellow Gems & I... We are proud of... My ppl UVI on the raise.. this is jus the beginning she made History... 1st Miss UVI to become Miss NBCA .... Andrea Wilson this year will be Epic.....
  • PerAnkh Khamniversity – Congratulations!!!! Well deserved! Reign well and enjoy the experience so that HBCUs in the USA know about the Virgin Islands. Yeh meh son!
  • Senator-Myron D. Jackson – Congratulations! Job well done!
  • Claude Steele – Congratulations. So Proud!
  • Miriam Osborne Elliott – Awesome achievement! So Very Proud of You All! Continue to Soar!

STT Student Activities Page – http://www.facebook.com/UVIStudentActivitiesSTT

  • Nolma Eddy – I predict that she will be the 1st ever to represent the Virgin Island at the Miss USA pageant and win! She is soooooo beautiful! I know Marie shining down from heaven right now!
  • Karen Gutloff – So proud of Elisa. Beautiful, talented, and Smart!
  • Beranice StunninglyNatural Wade-Westerman RN – Beautiful!!! Congratulations... 
  • Mayda Pereira – Congrats and you look beautiful! 
  • Colleen Mae Williams – Congrats Bubbles!! 
  • Florinell Joseph – Job well done Elisa, nothing but the best!. Congratulations!!! And thank you for representing the Virgin Islands so well. 
  • Denise Fahie – Yeah Bubbles!!!! 
  • Marcia Thomas – Uncle is looking down at his queen from heaven about.The skies the limit cuz Thomas family is so proud of you. 
  • Pretty Brown Eyz – Congratulations Elisa........EXCELLENT JOB!!!!!! 
  • Suzie Richardson-Bruno – She is so beautiful....congrats mama 
  • Staying-Faithful Dee – Beautiful young lady; well poised in that regal gown...CONGRATULATIONS 
  • Terry Wynn Cody – That gown is beautiful.. 
  • Monica Ryan – Gorgeous gown. 
  • Sonia Frett-Colbourne – Beautiful............... Keep it up Sweetheart. 
  • Anastasia Not'Nyce Smith – CongratsElisaThomas...job well done 
  • Rima Davis – Elisa you are simply amazing! Congrats!!! 
  • Irma A Lake – Love the dress 
  • Tessa Liburd – Congrats Elisa. 
  • Gerda Hughes de Morales – So awesome!!!! 
  • Craigitoo Rico – Wooow. Miss over-dressed!!!!! Congratulations to you!
  • Beverly Thomas-Benjamin – Congrats cuz!
  • Nika Davis – She looks gorgeous and Congrats to her 
  • Alnesah Popo-Febres Skee-wee – Congrats .. She looks stunning
  • Dee Thomas – Great job!

Thomas captured the 2014-2015 Miss UVI title at the 34th Annual Miss UVI Ambassadorial Competition on April 12, at the Reichhold Center for the Arts on St. Thomas. The twenty-year-old Thomas also took home the titles Most Intellectual Speaker, Best Performing Talent, Best Business Wear, Best Ambassadorial Presentation and Best Evening Wear during the show.

She received a full year UVI scholarship that includes tuition, room and board. The junior communication major was born on St. Thomas and attends UVI on the St. Thomas campus. She aspires to work as a news anchor, host events, and produce and host her own local television show. Miss UVI serves as a goodwill ambassador for the university, including participating in UVI's recruitment efforts, representing the University locally and abroad, and maintaining a highly visible role on UVI's campuses on St. Thomas and St. Croix.

Monday, August 18, 2014

V.I.’s Top Graduates to Attend UVI

UVI students Lizbeth Carrasquillo and Ryan Shaw will attend classes this Fall on UVI's Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix.
Central High School valedictorian Ryan Shaw and Central High School salutatorian Lizbeth Carrasquillo had both decided to pursue higher education on the United States mainland – until they visited UVI’s Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix.

Carrasquillo was always open to attending UVI, but selected a college in Florida. Then she attended “Preparing for the Next Generation of Hispanic Leaders,” a UVI – sponsored Hispanic outreach program held in June. That changed everything for Carrasquillo.

“Students were describing their experiences and I got to know people who actually enjoy their UVI experience,” Carrasquillo says. One of the student experiences that truly moved her was the story of a young man who didn’t think he was college material, until he applied to UVI. The young man enjoyed various experiences like participating in the University’s radio station, WUVI 1090 AM, and joining the UVI Bucs basketball team – realizing previously untapped potential. By the time the outreach event had ended Carrasquillo knew she was coming to UVI.

Carrasquillo will major in business. “I am excited for the new experience,” she says. She plans to take her first semester slow and focus on her studies until she can get a feel of what college life is like, then get involved in other activities at UVI in her sophomore year. After completing her degree, she plans to open her own business.

Ryan Shaw was encouraged by his neighbor to attend UVI. Still, he felt like he needed more information. “I went to Ms. Towal and I learned that UVI has more to offer than I thought,” he says. UVI Counseling Supervisor Patricia Towal told Shaw about UVI’s biology program and opportunities for research with other institutions. When Shaw left Towal’s St. Croix office, his mind was made up – he was coming to UVI.

Shaw has decided to start his freshman year on the Albert A. Sheen Campus and is looking forward to a smooth transition. Self-described as sociable and friendly, Shaw expects that his new living situation will be pleasant.

“I do enjoy a bit of research,” says Shaw, who is looking forward to taking on research projects while at the University. “I love discovering new things.” After earning his degree in biology from UVI, he plans to study medicine. He is still contemplating a field to specialize in.

Central High School Principal Janesee Sinclair supports UVI and says that the institution is comparable to any on the mainland. UVI offers a nurturing environment and puts students on the right track, she says. She added that UVI President David Hall and UVI’s faculty and staff are supportive of the students and families in the territory.

UVI provides scholarships for the valedictorians and salutatorians from Virgin Islands’ high schools.

In addition to Shaw and Carrasquillo, eleven other 2014 valedictorians and salutatorians have indicated they will enroll at UVI this fall. They are:
  • Jakobi Peets - salutatorian, All Saints Cathedral School 
  • Sherika Jacobs - salutatorian, Charlotte Amalie High School 
  • Rodney Querrad - valedictorian, Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School 
  • Carishma Marsh ­- valedictorian, St. Thomas Seventh Day Adventist 
  • Kamira Webster - salutatorian, St. Thomas Seventh Day Adventist 
  • Jean Devera - salutatorian, Good Hope/Country Day  
  • Amelle Williams - valedictorian, St. Croix Seventh Day Adventist 
  • Shaquan Lewis - salutatorian, St. Croix Seventh Day Adventist 
  • Cody Cook ­ valedictorian, A-Z Academy 
  • Ameer Donaie - valedictorian, IQRA Academy 
  • Huda Qattum - salutatorian, IQRA Academy
UVI welcomes all new and returning students for the Fall 2014 semester.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

UVI Students Present their Work at Summer Research Symposium

The University of the Virgin Islands hosted the Summer Research Symposium on Friday, Aug. 1, in the Administration and Conference Center on the St. Thomas Campus. The goal of the summer symposium is to showcase student research at UVI as well as other institutions. UVI undergraduate students Sheresia Gumbs (pink shirt), Krislen Tison and Sherika Alexis worked together to determine if frogs on St. Thomas were infected with Chytrid Fungus, which is hazardous to their health. About 17 presentations were made by undergraduate students. Some of their topics include:
Lionfish invasion
Parasite burdens of hair sheep lambs
The Extraction, Quantification and Toxicity of Citral from Lemongrass
Antioxidant Activity of Herbs and Spices
Telescopes & Limiting magnitudes
Weather patterns and Erosion in the USVI
Complexometric Titration using Platinum Sensing Electrodes
Foraging Patterns of of Elysia crispata
Intimate Partner Abuse of Women in the Virgin Islands
Conch Locomotion
The Cultivation of Thalassia testudinum and Halophila stipulacea For Conservation Motivation in Learning: Game-based vs. Traditional
University of the Virgin Islands student Yentyle Levet (right) presents her project on ‘Motivation in Digital Game-Based Learning.’ 
University of the Virgin Islands student Ruel Mitchel explains his research
on ‘Neutron Stars’ to UVI Mathematics professor Dr. Robert Stolz.

University of the Virgin Islands student Stephen Santana presented the results of his research on ‘Assessing Land Cover Change on St. Thomas.’ Santana was among many UVI researchers to discuss their work at the Summer Research Symposium in the Administration and Conference Center on the St. Thomas Campus.

University of the Virgin Islands student Eliakin del Rosario (right) presented his research on ‘Malware Signature Detection: A Comparison Between Brute Force and Boyer-Moore’ on Aug. 1 at the Summer  Research Symposium.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Education & Fun is all part of the UVI Junior University Experience

University of the Virgin Islands Junior University physical education instructor Mark Daniel conducts an exhibition game in the University's Sports and Fitness Center.

 Junior University is an intensive five-week program for boys who did not pass seventh grade but showed promise. It is a collaborative initiative of the University of the Virgin Islands and the Education Department St. Thomas-St. John School District. There are 100 enrolled in the summer 2014 edition of the program.

 Junior University students take part in basket 
ball tournament in UVI's Sports and Fitness Center. 
Junior University students work
on a math problem.

UVI Junior University students take interest in a mathematics lesson taught by Robyn Carlin, a visiting master teacher from Louisiana State University.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

UVI Workshop Provides Innovative Teaching Method to VI STEM Educators

Robyn Carlin, a master teacher from the GeauxTeach Program at Louisiana State University, teaches University of the Virgin Islands Junior University students.

This summer, some science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teachers territory-wide opted to become students. Fifty elementary, high school and college educators participated in an innovative workshop designed to entice students to learn. The UVI Teach Inquiry-Based Learning STEPs 1 and 2 for STEM Teachers Workshop was conducted for STEM teachers territory-wide with experience or interest in using inquiry-based learning in math or science.

Inquiry-based learning is an approach to teaching and learning that places questions, ideas and observations of students at the center of the learning experience. Educators play an active role throughout the process by establishing a culture where ideas are respectfully challenged, tested, redefined and viewed as improvable. This moves children from a position of wondering to a position of understanding and further questioning.

“This has been one of the better workshops that I have attended,” says Nneka Howard-Sibilly, Charlotte Amalie High School biology teacher and Science Department chair. “Walking away from it, I have a lot of tangible information that I can utilize in my classroom right away and be able to help other teachers.”

She says that this workshop has gotten her closer to her goal of having tools on how to make her classroom more inquiry-based and geared toward the Common Core Standards and the Next Generation Standards set to come on-line.

Fourth grade Lockhart Elementary School teacher Diana Tyson signed up for the workshop because she has a strong love for science and mathematics. “It has been extremely informative,” says Tyson. “I am learning a great deal about inquiry-based learning and letting the students explore and learn through their own investigations.” Tyson, who has taught for 15 years, was named Teacher of the Year in the St. Thomas-St. John District in the 2013-2014 School Year.

“It will definitely, I hope, increase and improve not only teacher effectiveness, but student achievement,” she says. “We are learning strategies that we can use to help better implement what is expected of our students from the Common Core State Standards.”

“This was a tremendous workshop,” says St. Croix Educational Complex High School mathematics teacher Dianne Theophilus. “The information that has been shared will assist me in becoming a better mathematics educator. I will also be able to use what I've learnt to assist my colleagues.”

UVI Teach is a secondary STEM teacher training program being developed at the University. It is a joint effort between the UVI College of Science and Mathematics, the School of Education and the V.I. Department of Education (VI DOE). It is adapted from the UTeach Program, a nationally recognized, innovative, and successful teacher preparation program for students majoring in science, mathematics, and computer science. The UTeach program was developed at the University of Texas, Austin, in 1997. Thirty-nine other universities around the country are now implementing the program. The UVI Teach program places emphasis on field-based, hands-on learning opportunities for future STEM teachers. “Since 2011, Provost McKayle has been leading this Noyce project to make UVI one of the pioneering HBCUs to implement a UTeach program,” said UVI Teach Program Director Dr. Celil Ekici.

Conducting the UVI STEM Teacher’s Workshop was a pivotal step towards launching the UVI Teach program. UVI and the VI DOE collaborated to bring this workshop to educators in the territory. Robyn Carlin, a master teacher from the GeauxTeach Program at Louisiana State University, taught inquiry-based teaching in mathematics, while Lynn Kirby, a master teacher from UTeach at Austin, taught science. They alternated teaching on the St. Thomas Campus and Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix, switching campuses one week into the training. UVI Associate Professor of Education Dr. Nancy Morgan helped to demonstrate the integration of various content areas, including literacy. VI DOE STEM Director Karissa Poszywak served as co-trainer to make content more relevant for STEM teachers in the territory.

“The overall goals are to help teachers experience inquiry-based learning in action and learn to apply it in their own practices as math and science teachers,” says Dr. Ekici. “They will learn to orient UVI Teach students coming to their classroom towards learning and facilitating inquiry-based lessons as future STEM teachers.”

During a workshop session in July 2014, educators were able to observe Carlin as she taught mathematics to middle school boys who were a part of UVI’s Junior University Summer Enrichment Program. Carlin used a variety of 3D foam shapes to teach students how to understand fractions and turn those fractions into mathematical word problems and equations. The students, working in four groups of four, actively participated in their own learning. While the students learned mathematics, the UVI Tech Workshop participants observed the lesson.

Dr. Ekici says the practice session was intended to allow participants to gain a deeper sense of inquiry-based STEM learning and teaching in practice. “It was intended to provide students and practitioners with a rich and genuine experience to build their own local practices for the inquiry-based STEM teaching/learning in our territorial schools,” he says.

Nneka Howard-Sibilly has asked that teachers be able to observe an inquiry-based lesson for some time. “It is one thing to say what an inquiry-based system is supposed to look like, but when you can actually see somebody stand in front of you and model it in front of live students – to be able to see the responses of students and observe the differences in questioning – I think that is what teachers need to see more of in order to better themselves,” she says.

UVI Works to Implement UVI Teach Program

The UVI Teach Program is being developed under the leadership of UVI Provost Dr. Camille McKayle, UVI Dean of the School of Education Dr. Linda Thomas and Dean of the School of Science and Mathematics Dr. Sandra Romano. Dr. Ekici is spearheading this collaborative effort. It is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and is part of the Robert Noyce Capacity Building Grant designed to develop and implement a secondary STEM teacher training program at UVI. Noyce Capacity Building Projects provide an opportunity for institutions to establish the infrastructure and partnerships for implementing a future Noyce Teacher Scholarship or NSF Teaching Fellowship. This grant had two major goals. One is to develop UVI Teach as a STEM teacher preparation program building on the basics of the UTeach model. Second, is conducting STEM education research to provide research-based and locally effective STEM education training programs. Several UVI professors are part of the UVI Teach collaborative team including, Dr. Ekici, Dr. Steven Greenstein, Dr. Nancy Morgan, Dr. Michelle Peterson, Dr. Marc Boumedine, Dr. Rita Howard, Dr. Judith Bloch and Ms. Danielle DeGain. They are under the supervision of Provost McKayle.

UVI Teach is integrating inquiry-based learning activities into UVI's developmental mathematics classes including, Mathematics 023 and 024 and introductory science courses such as Science 100, with peers, mentors, and master teachers trained to use the 5Es of inquiry based learning. The 5Es are engagement, exploration, explanation, elaboration and evaluation.

The 5 E Learning Cycle Model

  • Object, event or question used to engage students 
  • Connections facilitated between what students know and can do 
  • Objects and phenomena are explored 
  • Hands-on activities, with guidance 
  • Students explain their understanding of concepts and processes 
  • New concepts and skills are introduced as conceptual clarity and cohesion are sought 
  • Activities allow students to apply concepts in contexts, and build on or extend understanding and skill 
  • Students assess their knowledge, skills and abilities. 
  • Activities permit evaluation of student development and lesson effectiveness
UVI Teach St. Thomas Site Coordinator Dr. Marc Boumedine says that when the program is implemented, students interested in teaching STEM subjects will receive a bachelor’s degree in their field and be able to teach secondary education, once they have met the requirements of the School of Education and the Virgin Islands Board of Education. He says this program will allow UVI STEM students who wish to become educators to finish their degrees sooner.

Monday, July 14, 2014

University Bound Programs Underway on St. Thomas and St. Croix

More than 50 students from throughout the territory are living and taking courses on UVI's campuses on St. Thomas and St. Croix, as they participate in 2014 summer residential component of the University Bound college preparatory program. The programs are designed to generate the skills and motivation that lead to academic success for students in high school and beyond.

The six-week program - with 33 students on St. Thomas and 21 on St. Croix - continue through July 18. The students recently posed for class photos. Click photos to enlarge.

St. Thomas Campus - University Bound - Summer 2014

Albert A. Sheen Campus - St. Croix - University Bound - Summer 2014

Friday, June 27, 2014

VI SBDC: An Ally to Small Businesses in the Territory

Just Threads owners Cyril and Germene Thomas pose for a photo after their business was named the Small Business of the Year on St. Thomas. 
Running a small business, especially in these difficult economic times, can be trying, but with help from the Virgin Islands Small Business Development Center (VI SBDC), businesses in the territory have found an ally. In June, the VI-SBDC celebrated Small Business Week with specialized training sessions and lectures designed to foster business growth. The week culminated with award ceremonies that acknowledge small businesses in the territory that have excelled.

Jennifer Jackson and Lionel Jacobs, owners of Arawak Bay: The Inn at Salt River, LLC, were presented with the VI SBDC Small Business of the Year award on St. Croix. Cyril and Germene Thomas, owners of Just Threads, received the VI-SBDC 2014 Small Business of the Year award on St. Thomas.

“Our 2014 award winners are examples of determination and success,” said State Director of the VI SBDC Leonor Dottin. “Business ownership is about taking risks and working toward minimizing these risks as you grow your business. Our SBDC winners are examples of the success of utilizing services like the VI SBDC to further their dreams and subsequently grow their businesses.”

Arawak Bay: The Inn at Salt River, LLC

Arawak Bay opened in March 2007. Husband and wife team, Jennifer Jackson and Lionel Jacobs were both new to the hospitality business. Jackson was employed at UVI for 23 years. Before she separated from UVI in 2005, she served as the chancellor for the St. Croix Campus. Jacobs, a retired architect by trade, was previously the director of planning and construction at the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority. They opened Arawak Bay confident that their life and career experiences uniquely qualified them for the construction and management of their business.

Arawak Bay, located on the north shore of St. Croix, was designed by Jacobs. It features sprawling balconies, landscaping and colors designed to emphasize the beauty and historic culture of St. Croix. Jackson runs the inn and shares the beautiful features of St. Croix with visitors to the territory.

“We essentially tried to create a hotel with a difference,” said Jackson. “It’s just not a place where people stay while visiting the island. We try to make sure that their stay in St. Croix is enjoyable. Based on their interests we help them plan what to do while on island so that they can enjoy the best features of the Virgin Islands.” They also work with groups, mostly from various mainland universities, and plan their activities to ensure that all guests have an excellent experience.

Jackson thanks the VI SBDC for the honor of recognizing their efforts. “When you start a small business in the Virgin Islands you’re pretty much on your own,” said Jackson. But she found allies in the helpful VI SBDC’s staff and the training sessions offered at the center. The VI SBDC courses that she took with other businesses owners assisted her in remaining compliant as a limited liability company and helped her shift focus from day to day management to planning and marketing and developing strategies for success. “The SBDC courses and their other offerings can be seen as a 101 in how you run a small business,” she said. During those courses, Jackson was also able to network with other business owners and discuss challenges and business strategies.

With the hospitality business being seasonal, Jackson has used many of the techniques learned at the SBDC and continues to strategically market her business. The Arawak Inn received certificates of excellence from the popular Trip Advisor website in 2013 and 2014.

Just Threads

“It was an honor to receive the award,” said Cyril Thomas, of Just Threads. “It shows all the hard work that we have been doing for the community and ourselves has actually made a difference.”

He worked for the Footlocker Corporation for 10 years before partnering with his wife to open Just Threads in Tutu Park Mall in 2002. Cyril Thomas started his career at Footlocker as a full-time sales representative in 1992. Two years later, he was promoted to store manager of two Footlocker stores – one on St. Thomas and one on St. Croix. Later he was promoted to market leader over all stores in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Just Threads is located at the center of Tutu Park Mall and sells all kinds of clothing, including unisex designer dresses, suits and pants. Among their inventory is a variety of caps.

Thomas was pleased with the support, advice and training he received at the SBDC. “While I have years of business experience, the SBDC helped me to add to my knowledge and improve my business outlook,” he said. In the near future, he plans to continue to work with the SBDC to find out how he can promote the business as he moves to diversify his inventory to include sporting goods.

“Small business owners must prepare themselves to strive and further grow their business,” said Dottin. “Through the services offered at the VI-SBDC, they can take advantage of counseling services that are of no-charge to them in areas such as financial management, accounting, marketing, sales, strategic planning, retail, merchandising, social media and other very important areas of business.” She continued, “What is most important is that the VI-SBDC counselors work as a team and they utilize each other’s strengths to further their service potential to clients.”

Other 2014 SBDC award recipients include:

· St. Thomas Woman-Owned Business of the Year – Jill Farley, owner of Cool Signs

· St. Croix Woman-Owned Business of the Year – Yoki K. Hanley, owner of Itiba, LLC

· St. Croix Entrepreneurial Success Award – Marston Adams, owner of Kiki’s Automotive, Inc. d/b/a Kiki’s Alternators & Starters

· St. Thomas/St. Croix Small Business Advocate of the Year – The Virgin Islands Daily News

The 2014 Small Business Administration award recipients:

· SBA Entrepreneur of the Year for St. John – Curtis Penn, owner of Caribbean Seashells Vacation Villas

· SBA Entrepreneur of the Year for St. Croix – Angel Diaz, owner of the La Reine Chicken Shack

· SBA Entrepreneur of the Year for St. Thomas – Michael S. Barrows, DDS, Happy Teeth Dental Office

· SBA Bank of the Year – Banco Popular de Puerto Rico

All the activities offered during Small Business Week were made available by the support received from FirstBank VI, Virgin Islands Next Generation Network, Banco Popular, Marriott Frenchman’s Reef Resort, and the Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority. The VI-SBDC is a partnership program of UVI and the U.S. Small Business Administration.