Thursday, December 8, 2016

UVI Accounting Students Take Lead to Create New Career Opportunities

The Executive Board.  From left to right: 
Jessica Taylor, Brencia Skeete, Shanisa Emanuel, Rohsaan Francis, Rae-Dawn Richardson, and Alphea Browne
Nascent National Accounting Association Reestablished at UVI ...

Alphea Browne, currently a senior accounting major at the University of the Virgin Islands, realized that there was a great opportunity for students involved with professional associations while she was at The Washington Center for Internships and Seminars last fall.  Surrounded by the bustle of professional networking, she remembered that just before she left St. Kitts for UVI, the president of UVI’s St. Kitts Alumni Association suggested that she join the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA).  She tried, but found the organization to be inactive.  So she reached out to one of her professors, Dr. Dion Gouws, who encouraged her to revamp NABA at UVI.
“When students become members of professional organizations, they gain access to all sorts of information about scholarships, internships and job opportunities,” said Browne.  “But you can’t join unless your college or university is an active member, and that puts you at a big disadvantage in terms of being nationally and internationally competitive.”
Browne reached out to people at NABA who explained that UVI would have to regain its title.  Determined, she recruited fellow accounting students Hakim Potter, Candice Samuel, Joya Gustine and Damien James to form the UVI Accounting and Business Professionals Association, which would complete the leg work.  It was a long and sometimes tedious process, but Browne and her team persisted and now the National Association of Black Accountants is an active organization at UVI once again.
The 2016-2017 NABA student leaders are President Jessica Taylor, Vice President Brencia Skeete, Treasurer Rae-dawn Richardson, Secretary Rohsaan Francis, and Public Relations Officer Shanisa Emanuel.
Back row, left to right: Dr. Dion Gouws, Medina Simon, K’Shana Bapttiste, Alphea Browne, Rae-Dawn Richardson, Le-Anne Angol
From Row, left to right: Brencia Skeete, Felicea Fontenelle, Rohsaan Francia, Shanisa Emanuel, Jessica Taylor, Hakim Potter
“I feel happy and proud of the achievement,” said Browne.  “But I’d feel even happier if I was sure that the organization will remain up and running after I leave.  I’m working with a freshman now in the hope that she will pick up an executive position.”  Browne continued, “It’s a lot of responsibility, you have to submit a report every six months, but it’s definitely worth it.”
NABA, which invites accounting students to be involved with the professional community, to create a group of their own and to build leadership skills, is not the only accounting organization on campus that offers development and networking opportunities.  The recently established National Association of States Board of Accountancy (NASBA) Student Center for the Public Trust (CPT) provides an interactive environment where ethical business behaviors and ideas can flourish. In order to maintain membership, student CPT members must accept responsibility for improving their community by completing one community service project every year.
The expansion of UVI’s accounting program this year includes a new Bachelor of Business in Accounting degree and a Master of Accounting degree.  Although both programs are offered through the School of Business, they focus primarily on accounting and prepare students to sit for certifications such as the Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and others. 
With the growth of the accounting department has come not only a proliferation of professional associations, but also scholarships. The Virgin Islands Society of Certified public Accounts (VISCPA) recently presented two minority accounting scholarships from the American Institute of Certified Public Accounts (AICPA) for $3,000 each. 
Left to Right: Dr. Sakthiharan Mahenthiran, Rob Upson, Dr. Dion Gouws, Hakim Potter, Dr. Stephen Reames,and Sharon Levin
“We have so many dedicated and hard-working students in our new accounting programs,” said Dr. Dion Gouws, associate professor of accounting.  “UVI is certainly producing top notch graduates in accounting, and we look forward to more of our students receiving AICPA scholarships and other such achievement scholarships. We are all very proud of them.”
According to Dr. Gouws, the awards recognize hard work, which is an essential part of preparing for career readiness as accounting students learn mostly by doing.  “These scholarships are a great way to motivate competition and diligence,” said Dr. Gouws.  “The recipients earned their scholarships through many hours of dedication.”
Hakim Potter, this year’s recipient of the AICPA minority scholarship on St. Thomas, said that to him the scholarship felt like a great opportunity for change.  “Where I come from is not where I’m going to be,” said Potter.  “The scholarship is confirmation that change is possible.  Any accounting major should definitely apply for the AICPA scholarship.”
Dr. Sherri Levin, CPA and vice president of VISCPA on St. Thomas, is an educator committed to increasing diversity in the accounting industry.  “In addition to rewarding the students for their hard work and achievement, the scholarships are a great way to bring attention to the accounting major, and to encourage other UVI students to enter the field,” Dr. Levin said.
  Accounting degree programs are on the rise nationally, but large numbers of baby boomer CPAs are retiring, thus intensifying demand for accounting professionals, she said. “As older CPAs retire or leave the territory, it is important to have a younger generation of trained and certified professionals to fill the void,” said Levin.  “Our hope is that the scholarship recipients and other UVI accounting graduates decide to work in the Virgin Islands to serve the public need for professional accountants in the territory.”

Friday, September 30, 2016

UVI Announces 2016 HackFest Winners

Fifteen student teams create prototype phone apps in 24-hour problem solving sessions.

Fifteen teams and over 40 University of the Virgin Islands students participated in HackFest 2016.  Participants generated prototype phone apps in 24-hour marathon problem-solving sessions on Sept. 9 and 10, on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix, and on Sept. 16 and 17, on the St. Thomas Campus.
Student teams, supported by other UVI students, faculty and NEARiX Corporation staff members, generated creative apps related to this year’s theme, “Health and Wellness.”  HackFest team prizes were $500 cash for Best Hack, $100 cash for Most Innovative Hack and $100 cash for Most Impactful Hack.
Participants in St. Croix Hackfest

Now in its third year, HackFest would not be possible without the support of NEARiX, a St. Croix software development firm founded by Leon Hughes, CEO.  HackFest participants are “all winners” said Hughes. UVI President David Hall was on hand to personally congratulate all of the 2016 HackFest teams.
“I am so proud of what our students accomplish in 24 hours,” said Dr. Timothy Faley, UVI’s Sokoloff Professor of Entrepreneurship. “But to me this is not about the product they produce; it’s about their own personal development. I see their confidence and leadership skills grow exponentially over the 24-hours of HackFest – that’s a fantastic thing to watch happen before your eyes.”

St. Croix Winners
St. Croix Hackers Brainstorming
This year’s “Best Hack” on St. Croix was awarded to the team comprised of computer science major Amali Krigger and business major Mackenzie Gross for their phone app “WhatUEatin?” The concept phone app allows you to upload your recipes and any chronic health issues you may have. The app offers suggestions for healthy substitutes for ingredients in your recipes. The social component of the app lets you connect with others and share recipes and healthy eating advice.
In a surprise announcement, Hughes awarded Krigger and Gross a gift certificate each good for 40 hours of free consulting with top developers of his firm. These certificates, which have a total value of over $5,000, will provide the resources necessary for this team to further develop their concept app. “Participating in the HackFest was a life-changing and learning experience,” said Krigger. “It gave me a chance to imagine an idea and bring it to life. It has given me hope, resources and new ideas about my entrepreneurial and career goals.”
The “Most Impactful Hack” on St. Croix was awarded to the concept phone app “Mom.” This app was created by the team of Kalunda Cuffy, Tijani Shabazz, Alicia Taylor and Kaheem Thomas. “Mom” acts as a life coach for college students. Like your real Mom, the app gathers information from you on your NASA – Nutrition, Activity, Sleep, and Academics. Based on this input, the app responds with concern and behavior modification suggestions.

Hackfest Participants on the Albert A. Sheen Campus

 The “Most Innovative Hack” on St. Croix went to the team of Terrance Emmanuel, Leanne Morancie, and Geron Richards – the first English major to participate in UVI’s hackathons. This team created the “Holistic Practitioner Healers” app that assists in helping you to maintain your health by alerting you when your emotions are out of balance. The concept app interprets an IR scan of your body, available by using UVI’s 3D imaging cameras, to determine the state of your chakra centers. The app then makes personalized recommendations based on its analysis.
“I did not plan to participate in this event,” said Geron Richards.  “I attended the first day and became quite interested in the different analytical concepts that the students were brainstorming upon.  The name ‘Hackfest’ gave many students the idea that this event might be confined solely to computer science majors.”  Richards continued, “But it was a well-organized event that I think more students from different majors should consider participating in next year.”
The concept phone app “Mood Makers” earned a UVI Bookstore gift certificate courtesy of VI EPSCoR.  “Mood Makers” was developed by Yolanda Felix-Medina and Khadijah O’Neill, the first all-female team to participate in UVI hackathons. “Mood Maker” addresses the challenges college students face regarding their lack of physical activity, imbalance of social and productive life, time-management, depression and stress. The app functions as a portal offering suggested links to information on specific topics of students’ concerns.
Female hackers participating in the St. Croix event

“I entered the Hackathon to help my friend Khadijah O’Neill who desperately needed a partner,” said Yolanda Felix-Medina. “I met great people whose ideas blew my mind.  Khadijah participated in the hackathon last year and found it sad that only one girl had participated in the event.
This year O’Neill decided to partner with another woman.  The experience with a guy in the group would have been different, but we really wanted to be the first all-female team and it worked out great,” she said.  “I definitely plan to participate in next year’s Hackathon.”

St. Thomas Winners:
The “Best Hack” on St. Thomas was awarded to the team of Eliakin del Rosario and Jodie Dasent for their concept phone app “GourNet,” which will help you eat a more balanced diet by providing nutritional information about the food you are consuming. By either taking a photo of the food you are about to consume or verbally describing it, the app will search databases and return the meal’s nutritional information.
Gouret team accepting $500 Best Hack Prize

“I will continue, alongside my partner, to develop our app,” said del Rosario, who will pursue a career in software development. “I believe we can really make a change by informing the world about the nutritional values in the meals they consume throughout their day.  A healthy diet can truly extend our lives.”   
“Participating in the HackFest is always a fun experience,” said del Rosario, who has participated in all three Hackathons with Dasent. “I enjoy exploring new ideas and sharing with others the perks of technological advancements.”
 The most “Innovative Hack” on St. Thomas, which awards creativity, was presented to two UVI freshmen and first-time hackers for their phone app “Binaural Healing Waves.” The user of this concept app would self-diagnose their feeling… anxious, sad, stressed, etc. The app would then determine which of the five essential binaural waves might be responsible for the user’s negative symptoms. The app puts these waves back in balance by delivering the out-of-balance waves to the user as they watch a video or listen to music.
Binaural Waves Team on St. Thomas

“Our experience in the Hackathon was very inspirational,” said Hariol Brenton, who teamed up with fellow freshman and first-time hacker, Chris Murphy. “We were able to explore deeply in our minds to find an idea that would naturally, without any negative side effects, benefit humanity in less than 24 hours.”
“They say you never know what you are capable of until you try, and we were flabbergasted by how much we were able to accomplish in such a short time.  Just amazing,” Murphy said.
 The most “Impactful Hack” on St. Thomas, which awards utility and impact, was awarded to the three-person team of Jesus Arista, Samuel Jones, and ShaneĆ© Richards for their concept app” NutriSmart.”  This app delivers a recommended, user-specific diet plan based on the user-supplied food preferences, and their medical and physical conditions. 
Hackfest 2016 T-Shirt

 VI EPSCoR provided a UVI bookstore gift certificate to “$martFit,” which was developed by Michael Garcia, Natisha Hodge, and Tommy Wise. The app is a gamification of exercise app that motivates people to exercise by providing financial rewards. Sponsoring companies that also advertise on the app will provide gift certificates for achieving specific levels of exercise-related points.

The remaining seven concept apps and development teams were:
·         “Balance;” developed by Sean Benjamin and Jonathan Woods
·         “Diagnizer;” developed by Jason Baron and Riviere King
·         “Hive;” developed by DeWein Pelle and Elangeni Yabba
·         “L.G.M.;” Developed by Nakeshma Cassel, Lorne  Joseph, Morvel Fahie, and Davindra Ramsundar Jr.
·         “My Aid;” developed by Lawrence White and Kiarra Vanterpool
·         “NetMed;” developed by Zandria Acosta; Jahnelle Rivera, and Alayna Belshe
·         “UnderTake;” developed by Asel Mustafa, Fatimah Hussein, and Haya Mustafa
Hackfest Participants on St. Thomas
The hackathons will be followed this year by a new software development competition called “Design Slam.”  That program will kick off on both UVI campuses on Friday Oct. 14. During this months-long Design-Slam competition, the student teams will develop detailed click-able prototype apps or websites. Cash prizes and a trip to the national competition await the winners of this new competition, which is sponsored by the firm Social Wellth.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Miss UVI Brings Home National HBCU Crown

Miss UVI, Che-Raina Warner, secures Miss NBCA Hall of Fame Title...
Miss UVI / Miss NBCA Hall of Fame Che- Raina Warner addresses a UVI delegation at the airport.

Che-Raina Warner’s grace, poise and talent with the spoken word propelled her to victory when she competed against 27 other college queens from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) around the United States. The competition for the coveted title of Miss National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame was held from Sept. 21 to Sept. 25, in Atlanta, Ga. at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. In addition to winning the crown, Che-Raina won the “Hats and Heels” segment of the competition.

Miss NBCA Hall of Fame Che-Raina Warner

“Once again, UVI has demonstrated that it is not just producing academically capable students,” Warner said. “We are well-rounded individuals as well.” The competition in Atlanta was a great experience and a wild success, she said, but it was not all smooth sailing. “When we arrived, we discovered some challenges that we felt were impossible to overcome,” she said. “But as the UVI Buc champions that we are, we overcame those challenges, and the competition as well.”

The NBCA queen contestants are judged in four categories: 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, “The Beauty Myth,” has the acronym, D.R.E.A.M.S. (Developing a Realm of Educated Ambitious Motivated Sisters) which she plans to promote vigorously. As Miss NBCA Hall of Fame, Warner will serve as a national representative and advocate of HBCU’s. She will receive a $5,000 academic scholarship along with other prizes.

Warner is greeted by UVI supporters at the airport.

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 Thomas was the first Miss UVI to win the crown in 2014. 

The NBCA competition is sponsored by the NBCA 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 is a selection of comments from the UVI social media sites. A selection of photos is also available on Facebook.


Darlene Hill: Awesome! Congratulations!

Carmelo Rivera: As a graduate of CVI/UVI and a former faculty member, it gives me great pleasure to hear this sweet news! Little unknown UVI has lots of talent to offer the world and is a giant in many ways! Congrats, Che-Raina.

Sheryl J. Matthias: Congrats to miss uvi from an alumna.

Dorn Wheatley Walker: Wow! My alma mater! Congrats to Miss UVI.

Student Activities STX Page:

Claude Steele: Congratulations Miss UVI!!


Olivere Wade: Congratulations

Mae Louise Williams: Congratulations

Jeanette Ferdinand: Yasssss!!! I knew she had it in her! Congratulations.

Che-Raina Warner’s Facebook Page

Avonelle Carey: Gongrats Che Raina!!!!!!!

Tessa Phipps: Congrats Dear

Iclima Paul: Congrats. Continue climbing to the top of the ladder, but always remember to put god first. Proud of you.

Verna Rubaine: Amen so true congrats to you, your family and all the fellow citizens of Sandy Point. A well done job keep pushing for the stars. Big-up a proud Sandy Pointer

UVI Student Activities – St. Thomas Campus

Sophia Tyl Johnson: Yessssssssssssss!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Twitter @UVI_edu

Nanyamka Farrelly: UVI does it again! Miss National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame Che-Raina! #NBCAHOF

Friday, September 2, 2016

Ph.D. Candidates to Fulfill Advance Degree Dreams at UVI

UVI Celebrates History Making Program
UVI's first Ph.D. cohort poses with administrators and faculty. 
Ron Meek stood among 50 doctoral candidates ready to embark on UVI’s first Ph.D. program in Creative Leadership for Innovation and Change. It was a goal he had set for himself while working at another university where he was also a doctor of education candidate for educational administration.

“I was four classes and a dissertation away from my degree when I got sidetracked by dirt bike racing,” Meek said at a welcome reception for Ph.D. candidates on Sunday, Aug. 21, at the President’s Guest House. “It was a passion I shared with my sons, which at the time seemed like a lot more fun than academic scholarship,” said Meek. “But it always bothered me to have left that goal unfinished.”

Meek, now director of Human Resources and Organizational Development for the University of the Virgin Islands, is looking forward to being among the students to join the first cohort of UVI’s first Ph.D. program to fulfill his longstanding dream of earning a doctoral degree.

Ron Meek
“When UVI’s first Ph.D. program emerged, offering the perfect opportunity for me to resume my study of leadership in service learning, I got excited,” said Meek. “I’ve always been drawn to the idea of education that can stimulate individual growth and the common good at the same time.”

The candidates, a diverse group of life-long Virgin Islanders, U.S. mainlanders, international students from around the Caribbean and beyond, shared personal stories of the journey that brought them to UVI’s Ph.D. Program.

“Earning a Ph.D. was always something that I wanted to do,” said Charmaine Mayers, a St. Thomas native, who earned her Masters of Arts Degree in Business Administration from UVI and is currently the federal grants coordinator for the Virgin Islands Department of Health. “But I had a daughter and I wanted to put a lot of energy into getting her through school. Finally she has her degree in engineering, and the time has come around again for me to do me.” Mayers is eager to start the program’s Organizational Development and Leadership track.

UVI Alumnus David Cannonier, a police sergeant for the Virgin Islands Police Department who also teaches psychology at UVI, as well as at the police academy, shared his enthusiasm about joining the program’s Educational Leadership (ELC) for Change Track. “I am here because Dr. Frank Mills, who was my master’s thesis advisor, advised me that this was something I should do,” said Cannonier. “This is the only University I have ever attended, and I just feel so proud and happy to be part of this inaugural class.”

UVI Provost Dr. Camille McKayle stands with Ph.D. candidate at opening and welcome ceremony.

UVI alumnus Timothy Hodge, who is from the island of Anguilla, has sent two of his daughters to UVI and was mildly startled to find himself back on campus. “When Dr. Maddirala came to Anguilla and put the application form in front of me, I signed it,” he said. “My mother always told me that I should get my Ph.D., and now I am.”

Kenisha Thompson is a consultant for Humana and an adjunct professor at Ottawa University who currently lives in Louisville, Ky. According to Thompson, she had been looking into graduate programs in innovation for the past four years. She chose UVI for her doctoral work despite being recruited by Purdue and Indiana University when she saw that a fellow Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) was launching a program. “My family is full of HBCU graduates,” she said. “I graduated from Spelman in 2003. My brother went to Tuskegee and Howard. HBCU’s run all through the family. So when I did a little bit of research and saw what this program had to offer, I tweeted Provost McKayle. She tweeted me right back and that’s how I became one of your classmates.”

The development and launch of UVI’s Ph.D. program in Creative Leadership for Innovation and Change was, as UVI President David Hall pointed out in his welcoming remarks, itself an act of creative leadership for innovation and change. President Hall and the Board of Trustees had already determined that the creation of a Ph.D. program was inevitable for the University; but in what area? After attending a powerful conference on creative leadership, Dr. Hall became convinced that – given the territory’s need for a new generation of strong and insightful leaders who possessed the skills to drive positive social and economic change – creative leadership would be the perfect interdisciplinary field for UVI’s first Ph.D. program in which not just one, but all departments could participate.

UVI Provost Dr. Camille McKayle speaks at welcome reception.
Dr. Hall met with UVI Provost Dr. Camille McKayle, who received the idea with great enthusiasm. She then recruited Dr. James Maddirala, associate provost for global, graduate and academic affairs, who gladly stepped up to become the primary architect of the program. Together, Dr. McKayle and Dr. Maddirala reached out to other institutions, eventually finding partners in Buffalo State University and Fielding Graduate University for the first Ph.D. of its kind. But, Dr. Maddirala declared, it would not be the last. “Nowhere else in the world have three institutions come together to create a program like this,” he said. “Now that it has been done, it can be done again in India, Brazil and China. If we all stay here and work really hard, UVI can be a global university.”

“Just think for a moment about how much we read in the newspaper and on social media about the need for stronger creative leaders,” said Dr. Orlando L. Taylor, vice president for Strategic Initiatives and Research at Fielding Graduate University. “But many people have not taken the time to look at the fact that strong leaders have strong preparation.” Dr. Taylor continued, “They have not focused on the fact that there is an art, a science, and a set of best practices associated with leadership. And so the pursuit of this Ph.D. – and at Fielding we talk about the scholar/practitioner – is a journey where you all will attempt to link scholarship and theory with practice so that you can do things like change the world, change society, change organizations, and change local communities.”

“We are going to focus on leadership for a diverse world, a global world, a multi-cultural world, and that is what makes this program so very special,” he said.

Ph.D. candidates Rhea Beckett and Monica Rae speak at welcome reception.
“Be the change you want to see in the world,” said Gerard Puccio, department chair and professor at the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State University, quoting Mahatma Gandhi. “I honestly believe that the world would be a better place if we had more creative leaders. Imagination conquers fear, and because of that I see all of you as pioneers. This is a historic evening.”

A substantial portion of the degree requirements for UVI’s doctoral program is completed at a distance, but residencies are required each semester. The program is unique in that traditional classrooms and lectures have been replaced with flexible workstations and master practitioners who will work with adult learners as peers. During the weeklong residency sessions, students will connect with the game-changers of a global world to jointly explore possible futures and exciting ideas. For more information visit:

Friday, August 19, 2016

UVI Voices of Inspiration Community Choir Rocks St. Kitts Audiences

Choir Invited to Tour the Caribbean and Beyond

Members of the Voices of Inspiration Choir Performing on St. Kitts

The University of the Virgin Islands' Voices of Inspiration Community Choir took audiences on the island of St. Kitts on “A Musical Journey Through Time” and shared their powerful, spirit filled voices.
Between Aug. 3 – 8, the Voices of Inspiration Choir, presented two spectacular and culturally enriching performances.  The 28 member choir, comprised of alumni, current students and community members performed  first at the Calvary Baptist Church in Sandy Point on Friday, Aug. 5, and then in the elegant Saba "St. Kitts" Ballroom at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort Hotel on Saturday, Aug. 6.  
The choir opened its concerts, which doubled as educational journeys through cultural heritage, with songs of Africa.  Next came the spiritual roots of gospel music, which segued into the sounds of classical, jazz, bebop, hip-hop, Caribbean-flavored gospel, and more.  The effect was a crescendo of music, drama, theater and liturgical dance that captivated the numerous people who attended these magnificent events.
“The overarching purpose of this trip was to represent UVI and to showcase opportunities that are available for advancement at the University,” said Kevin Dixon, a UVI graduate student and member of the choir.  “While in St. Kitts we appeared on four local radio programs to promote the concerts, but also to promote UVI,” he said.  “Since many of our students come from the Federation, we want to foster a great relationship with the community and government leaders.”   
 An exquisite choreography of movements, sounds and spirit integrated the concerts, which were expertly and artistically led by Josephine Thomas Lewis, UVI music program instructor and director of the UVI Voices of Inspiration Choir.  The “unity of the community” was also on vibrant display throughout both evenings, reflecting UVI’s ambassadorial spirit, along with a special dash of St. Croix flavor since the choir is based on the Albert A. Sheen Campus. 
Musical Ambassadors for UVI Performing
          at St. Kitts Marriott Resort Hotel
“The five days we spent in St. Kitts were wonderful because we showcased the best vocal talent the University has to offer,” said Felicia Emmanuel, a recent UVI graduate and member of the choir.  “But it was also deeply satisfying to be ambassadors for the University.  The show itself was moving and the audience truly didn’t want it to end.  I met one UVI alumna who recounted that there were no music classes being offered when she attended.  She felt so proud to see the tremendous talent that had come from her alma mater, and how young people are doing positive things in the community.”
Distinguished leaders – His Excellency Sir Tapley Seaton, Governor General of St. Kitts and Nevis and the Honourable Vance Amory, Premier of Nevis and UVI Alumnus – were joyful members of a spirited audience on Saturday night at the St. Kitts Marriot, which included many distinguished UVI alumni.  Special thanks in the customary UVI style was extended along with gifts to St. Kitts community supporters and production sponsors at the closing.  
"These successful and well-attended concert events once again reflected UVI’s commitment to community engagement as the only Historically Black College and University, and Land Grant Institution in the Caribbean,” said Dr. ChenziRa Davis-Kahina, director of the UVI Virgin Islands and Caribbean Cultural Center. 
After the performances, the UVI Voices of Inspiration Community Choir received invitations to perform on Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Queries about sharing this exceptional concert in other locations throughout the Caribbean and beyond are also pending. 

Choir Director Josephine Thomas Lewis Thanking Dr. Simon
B. Jones Hendrickson (far left, red shirt) and
Other Concert Tour Supporters
Major contributions for the concert tour performances were provided by platinum sponsor, Dr. Simon B. Jones Hendrickson, former dean of the UVI College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, and by former chief economic policy advisor for the Office of the Governor of the Virgin Islands.  Crucial logistical and spiritual support was provided by the Calvary Baptist Church of Sandy Point, St. Kitts, and by the UVI St. Kitts Nevis Alumni Association.  Additional financial support for the tour was also provided by the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost, UVI Research and Technology Park, Institutional Advancement, and the Office of Administration and Finance.
For more information, or to become a part of the music program, please contact Josephine Thomas-Lewis at (340) 692-4110, or via email at  The choir is open to students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members.  See this link to our Facebook page: UVI Voices of Inspiration Choir Facebook Page . 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Summer Research Symposium Showcases Student Works

Internet of Things (IoT) Fellows Present Homegrown Projects

UVI undergraduates Natisha Hode, Joseph Chalres, and Jordan Atemazem, and Dr. Michael Smith from Intel
            Anyone who has ever doubted UVI’s claim that it “specializes in futures” would have been well advised to attend one of the largest summer undergraduate research symposia in the University’s history, which took place on July 29, in the Sports and Fitness Center on the St. Thomas Campus. 
“Normally we have about twenty to twenty-five undergraduate research fellows,” said Grants Manager Aimee Sanchez.  “But this year as a result of extra funding from multiple sources including NASA, the cybersecurity initiative, VI-EPSCoR, Title III and others, more than forty research opportunities have been made available to UVI students.”
The second floor west mezzanine of the Sports and Fitness Center was abuzz with excitement as students presented work they had done through a variety of summer programs under the Emerging Caribbean Scientist (ECS) umbrella. These rigorous programs provide UVI students with challenging summer employment opportunities that encourage intellectual expansion while they invite comprehensive explorations of careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  “The students learn research techniques and methods they will be able to apply to upper level courses," said Sanchez.  “They also get a taste of what it might be like to attend graduate school.”

UVI Internet of Things program participants with Dr. Michael Smith (far right)
This year, five summer programs were funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) grant; the Virgin Islands Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (VI-EPSCoR); the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program; and the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
Nick Drayton, Joseph Charles, and Jordan Atemazem
present their bird counting research
The newest VI-EPSCoR offering was a pilot program called The Internet of Things (IoT), which like traditional research programs allowed students to work closely with a faculty mentor.  But unlike traditional professors, IoT expert Dr. Michael A. Smith works for Intel Corporation where he runs the company’s IoT academic programs.  During his three and a half week program, Dr. Smith provided training and guidance on how to apply Internet and Maker Space technologies to marine and environmental science challenges.  Focusing on micro-computing and connectivity, he divided the course into progressive segments that started with conventional instruction, segued into project development, and concluded with final implementation. 
“It was intense,” said Dr. Smith, who acknowledged the rigor of a program that introduced students to a whole new approach to learning and productivity within a limited time frame. “It was modelled like a condensed Master’s program.  The students started with nothing, not even an idea, and ended up with a good start on a project of their own creation.  The IoT program is also very hands-on and collaborative.”
Bird counting meeting with Daniel Nellis DPNR
The IoT fellows were divided into three groups mentored by UVI STEM faculty in addition to Dr. Smith.  One group used a wearable medical device to determine how music affects the quality of your sleep; one developed the architecture for a cell phone app that would record frog calls in order to track frog populations in a particular area; and one used image segmentation and edge features to enhance the accuracy of bird counting.  All three projects were designed to boost the efficiency of scientific research in the Virgin Islands while challenging their creators to solve problems and develop fresh skills in the service of a common and practical goal.

Khadijah O’Neill was the only member of her VI Frog Count group that had not yet declared a major, but she said that her summer experience as an IoT fellow had definitely encouraged her to pursue a STEM field.  “This program was tough,” said O’Neill.  “We spent the first two weeks learning the process.  But it was rewarding to start a project from the ground up that could potentially be used to solve real world problems. It’s very important to keep the frog population of the Virgin Islands up for a variety of reasons, one of which is to control the mosquito population, since mosquitos carry diseases.”
STEM Undergraduate Research Programs
Three of the more conventional ECS summer programs – the Summer Sophomore Research Institute (SSRI), the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE), and the VI-EPSCoR Summer Undergraduate Research Program – allow current UVI students to work closely with a faculty mentor on research initiated by that mentor. 
Kiana Rawlins presents fluorescence spectroscopy
research mentored by Dr. Stan Latesky
One such student was Josh Howsmon from the VI-EPSCoR  group who presented his research on the effect of seasonal occurrence on larval fish in Brewers Bay with great enthusiasm.  Thanks to his faculty mentor, Dr. Sennai Habtes, Howsmon and his research partner, Travis Hamlin, learned how to use Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD) to collect samples from thirty-three sites across the bay. 
“It was amazing to see how you can track the whole bay and collect samples of hundreds of thousands of marine organisms,” said Howsmon. “If global warming heats the water, the digital catalogue we’re in the process of creating will help us to understand what is happening.”
Narome Belus, a rising sophomore who is majoring in chemistry, spent her summer studying the effects of drying on antioxidants.  After computing antioxidant levels in a variety of fresh leaves and their dried counterparts, Belus was happy to have achieved tangible results: three of the five plants she worked on (papaya, lemongrass and French thyme) contained higher levels of antioxidants after they had been dried than when they were still fresh.  But what excited Belus even more was learning how to use a monitoring device called the UV-VIS spectrophotometer. 
Star Matthew presenting her coral disease
modeling research mentored by Dr. Robert Stolz
“It was difficult at first, but after I got the hang of it I realized what a great skill it was to have,” said Belus. “This device allows you to transfer data to excel and make all sorts of amazing graphs and charts.  I just love this skill and can’t wait to use it on other research.”
Many other math and science majors presented work at the symposium, much of which focused on marine biology.  But there was also one nursing project, two or three education projects, and a cybersecurity project that was undertaken by two computer science students, Kelvin Dover and Leroy Matthais.  This project focused jamming attacks and was unique in that it started off-island but finished at UVI.  The wireless security project also received additional support through a grant from the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration.
Math Behind the Science
The only ECS program that presented their work on the evening before the summer research symposium was Math Behind the Science (MBS), a residential readiness program for incoming and current students. This summer bridge program enhanced the mathematics readiness of college-bound STEM students, preparing them to enter the introductory calculus course while providing an enriching transition to college life.
Math Behind the Science students
Hairol Breton and Jendahye Antoine
“MBS was kind of like a math boot camp,” said Jendahye Antoine, a recent graduate of Charlotte Amalie High School who entered the program in search of a smooth transition from high school to college, where she plans to study marine biology.  “We had classes seven hours a day, for six weeks, and we lived on campus.  It was a great preparation.  In the end, I tested into calculus, which was the main goal.”
In addition to studying math, MBS students are required to take classes in computer science and writing skills, along with a freshman development seminar.  But the greatest benefit for MBS students has to do with an approach to mathematics that encourages students to make connections between what they are learning and practical applications in the real world.  “When you focus on teaching concepts, and encouraging students to ask why, the learning goes a lot faster,” said Brandon Rhymer, a UVI alumnus who taught the MBS math classes and was also a resident advisor.   “I just love seeing the light come on behind their eyes.”
Just as the flamboyant trees shower the Virgin Islands with bursts of color every summer, UVI’s STEM fellows anoint the territory with a spray of promise.  When asked why he was interested in bringing his IoT program to the Caribbean, Michael Smith replied without hesitation: “I see a lot of untapped potential here.  There’s no Intel Corporation or Silicon Valley in this part of the world, but that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be.  The students here are capable of reinventing themselves and the world in which they live.”