Friday, April 10, 2015

RTPark – New Director, New Vision

Robotics, underwater fiber optics, and wind turbines are a technological puzzle to many people. That may not be the case for long in the Virgin Islands.

Dr. Gillian Marcelle, the newly appointed director of the University of the Virgin Islands Research and Technology Park (RTPark), says one of her main priorities is to demystify technology and get the community more involved in the activities at the RTPark.

“We want to answer the questions ‘What does it all mean?’, ‘How does it involve me as an individual?’” says Dr. Marcelle. “Technology is typically set aside and some people find it scary. It is an important role for us to be an agent of change in that regard.”

Dr. Marcelle took the helm of the RTPark in January 2015, after more than 20 years of global experience in technology and innovation. She was head of the Centre for Science Technology and Innovation Indicators in South Africa, where she lived for 16 years. She also held an appointment as a research scholar at the Tata Centre for Technology and Design at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This is coupled with years of experience working with the United Nations and World Bank.

In her short tenure at the RTPark, Dr. Marcelle is filled with ideas and energy on how to make the park more accessible to Virgin Islands residents.

“We are going to start something I call ‘Tech Fridays,’ where the public is invited to the park to see and hear firsthand the activities of the park’s businesses,” Dr. Marcelle says. “Any citizen of the Virgin Islands should feel that the activities of the RT Park touches his or her life,” Marcelle says. “We are modeling ourselves after many different parts of UVI where community engagement is taken seriously.”

Another key item on her agenda is increasing the number of businesses in the park.

“In 2012 there were probably 18 active clients. Now we are at 27. By the end of this calendar year, we expect to be close to 35 active clients,” she says.

Use of the term “clients,” as opposed to “tenants” is just one small change Marcelle has already brought to the job.

“I think the relationship between a tenant and a landlord is different than the relationship between partners. We want to see our clients as partners sharing knowledge and expertise,” she says.

In mid-March, Dr. Marcelle hosted a stakeholder reception on St. Thomas for government officials, UVI administration members and clients of the RTPark. There, she outlined her vision for the future of the park. The event gave RTPark clients a rare opportunity to meet each other and exchange ideas.

Other changes in store for the RT Park include becoming a resource for political leaders in the territory. “We want to be a go-to, trusted place where if you’re in the political decision-making capacity you can secure an independent view on technology trends and technological developments,” Dr. Marcelle says.

Additionally, Dr. Marcelle plans to build on the RTPark’s achievement in energy conservation. In August 2014, Building 64 West Center, located on the Albert A. Sheen Campus, was awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)® Silver Certification under the leadership of former park Director David Zumwalt.

Zumwalt said at that time, “The 64 West Center project has fostered collaboration and visionary leadership from the moment design got underway in 2006. It changes the way buildings will be built in the USVI, and is a landmark for St. Croix and for the future growth of the RTPark.”

Dr. Marcelle agrees. “LEED certification signals we have environmental concerns in everything we do. Many of our clients work in businesses related to energy. The certification gives assurances about our ability to undertake energy standards.”

Not only is Dr. Marcelle, adjusting to her new offices at 64 West, she is settling into the St. Croix community. As a native of Trinidad she finds the transition a smooth one.

“I’m familiar with the topography and the island lifestyle,” she says. “I love living in the Western end of St. Croix, you can go 10 minutes without seeing another car! It’s lovely.”

As for her tenure at UVI so far, Dr. Marcelle says, “ I’m pleased and delighted that the welcome has been tremendous. It feels gratifying and encouraging.”