Friday, February 19, 2016

UVI Innovation Center to Spark Creativity and Entrepreneurship

UVIDEA club members present UVI's new 3D Printer

This spring, the University of the Virgin Islands made history with its first open house to showcase state of the art Innovation Centers.  Outfitted with computers, work tables, white boards and a 3-D printer – from which actual models or product prototypes can be digitally rendered out of biodegradable plastic – the newly established centers are located on the St. Thomas Campus and on the Albert A. Sheen campus on St. Croix.
UVI President David Hall addresses students, faculty and partners
at the official opening of UVI's innovation center

UVI President David Hall referred to the centers as “maker spaces” in which students will be encouraged to gather, brainstorm, and channel their classroom knowledge into creative endeavors with entrepreneurial potential.

“So many of the technological innovations we now take for granted were developed by real people in garages and basements and back rooms throughout the territory and the country,” says Dr. Hall.  “When you’re using something like a mobile phone app, it’s easy to forget that somebody actually thought about this.  Somebody put their energy into solving all of the problems that needed to be solved in order to make this application available and convenient to use.  We want that same energy to exist here at UVI. Our hope is that we will soon outgrow this innovation space and have to expand.”

“The Innovation Center is going to be a place where students can let their creative juices flow and know that others are there for the same reason,” says UVI Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Camille McKayle.  “It was gratifying to see the turnout at the opening and the sparkle in the eyes of those in attendance,” she said at the open house.  “Innovation, Design, and Entrepreneurship Association (UVIDEA) is a growing student organization, and I am sure they will consider this their new home.”

 “Investing in the progression of innovative ideas from our students will only return positive results for the university and the community as a whole,” says Daricia Wilkinson, UVIDEA club member.  She feels confident that the center will appeal to a growing number of young people as the semester unfolds. “The launch of the Innovation Center signifies the start of a new era in which Virgin Islanders will no longer be just the consumers of technological and innovative products, but also the creators.”
Leon Hughes (left) and Tim Faley (right) admire 3D
printer objects

Dr. Tim Faley, distinguished professor of Entrepreneurship and Special Assistant to the President, saw no reason why UVI should not join Stanford, MIT, the University of Michigan and other institutions that have already established thriving innovation centers. “The next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs are going to need both knowledge and know-how,” says Faley. “Knowledge can be transferred in a course setting, but developing know-how often requires hands-on experience. That experience can be acquired in experiential learning programs.”

The first such program emerged in the form of a $5 million grant from Kiril Sokoloff, the founder of the Research and Technology Park company, 13D Research (USVI) LLC.  The grant established a robust, cross-campus entrepreneurship and innovation initiative at UVI.  Under this initiative, the 13D Entrepreneurship Competition was created, in which any student who is enrolled in the university – though not necessarily full-time – can compete to win $10,000, $20,000 or $30,000 in start-up capital for his or her business proposal.  

Objects rendered from 3D printer
Another business collaboration that is fostering innovation initiatives at UVI involves Leon Hughes, founder of the St. Croix-based software technology company Nearix.  He believes that Hackathons – weekend-long events in which students work around the clock to find technology-based solutions to real-world problems, mostly in the form of website development or mobile phone apps – will help to promote a culture of creative problem solving among young people in the territory.  Hughes began to sponsor hackathons on both campuses in 2015.  Cash prizes totaling $900 have been awarded for the best hack, the most innovative hack, the most impactful hack and the most sustainability focused hack.

A look inside the new Innovation Center on the
 Sheen Campus . 
The UVI Hackathons were such dynamic events that President Hall and Dr. Faley undertook to create a physical space in which the brainstorming and collaboration could go on indefinitely.  “Our center is going to function as a working laboratory in which students from different academic backgrounds can pool their talent and work toward common goals, just like they do in real companies,” says Dr. Faley. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Buccaneer Empowerment Seminar Helps Students Prepare for Future

Mary Myers (left) and Verna Rivers (Right) were two of many speakers at the first ever Buccaneer Empowerment Seminar (BES) on the St. Thomas Campus

January 28, marked the first ever Buccaneer Empowerment Seminar (BES), a forum aimed to inform students of the dynamics of professional development.

The three-hour seminar took place on the University’s  – St. Thomas Campus. Thanks to the combined efforts of the Golden Key Honor Society, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Student Government Association (SGA), who were able to have experienced professionals from a number of different fields speak to UVI students.

Each presenter offered tips and advice from their own experiences. Topics ranged from how to dress for an interview to getting your first credit card. The seminar also included, an hour-long résumé workshop – a time where students could talk one-on-one with a career service counselor on ways in which they can restructure, or enhance the quality of their résumé.

Opening Ceremony

Patrice Harris talks about how to make
 a good first impression and how it can
 help you land a job.
The afternoon kicked off with Patrice Harris, the news director at WUVI – UVI’s student radio station. Harris said in the past, she has had to persuade bosses on why she should get a position, whether it is a full-time job or a summer internship. 

Harris then had a student (voluntarily) give her a 20-second speech introducing themselves and stating why they would be the best fit for their dream job.  After working with the student for about two minutes, the student developed a great 20-second speech. Harris said that making an introduction to an interviewer comes down to two key components: having confidence and being persuasive.

Harris also expressed how important it is to make a good first impression. She emphasized that in a tough job market you need to make sure you nail your interview and capitalize on every opportunity you get

Career Services and Résumé Fundamentals

Mary Myers, a programs specialist for UVI’s Provost’s office, and Verna Rivers, the dean of students at UVI, hosted the second speech of the day which was broken down into two parts. Part one focused on acing the interview and dressing the part, while the second half focused on building your résumé.

In the first half of the presentation, both mentioned that everyone should have a professional email and not have anything inappropriate or tasteless on social networking profiles. On the contrary, they mentioned how “Thank you” notes are a gesture that can increase your chances of landing a job.

Myers and Rivers also talked about what to wear for an interview. They both recounted experiences where interviewees have dressed inappropriately or they have features that draw the interviewers away from the substance of the conversation.

“You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression,” Rivers said, as she recounted interviewing someone with bad drawn-on eyebrows.

The second half of the presentation focused on re-tooling and improving one’s résumé. Rivers and Myers shared tips such as not putting your high school education information on your résumé if you are in college. Moreover, they said to make sure you are showing future employers the skills you gained, and not just summarizing the duties of your previous positions.

“I got a lot of great tips from both of them [Myers and Rivers]. I realized that there are definitely some things I need to change on my résumé,” said Mackenzie Lewis, an exchange student at UVI. 

Following the hour-long presentation was a résumé workshop, which allowed students to sit down with faculty members from career services to ask questions or fix problems on their résumés.

Students work one-on-one with professionals from career services on ways to fix their résumés.

Becoming an Entrepreneur

The third presenter of the day was Albert Richardson, who is currently a financial manager at Scotia Bank, but is a former entrepreneur. He spoke about finding startup money, risk management, insurance options and even dealing with landlords, and how well all those things correlate with owning a business.

“The things I am telling you today are things I learned on the street and through my experiences. These are not things you will learn in school,” Richardson said.

He reflected fondly on his days as a business owner, and he recommended it to anyone who is willing to work long hours and make sacrifices.

“At the end of the day when it comes to owning a business, you cannot doubt yourself. You have to believe in yourself and what you are doing, if you want to be successful,” Richardson said.

After the presentation, The UVI Innovation Design and Entrepreneurship Association (UVIDEA) and the University Innovation Freshmen (UIF) sponsored a 30-minute event on generating and improving quick business pitches and ideas.

Creating a Financial Plan

Shayla Solomon, a projects coordinator at
Banco Popular, 
discusses steps students should take
now to plan for life after graduation.
Shayla Solomon, a Projects Coordinator at Banco Popular, rounded out the day with a presentation on financial planning. Solomon touched on how to open a checking account or a savings account, while also discussing terms such as APR, interests rates, and IRA’s and what they mean and how they affect personal finances. 

Solomon offered a number of tips on budgeting and how to build credit early in your life. She also assured students that credit cards are not a bad thing – if used properly.

“From this age, I want to make sure you are making smart financial decisions to help you in the future,” Solomon said.


Each presenter at the seminar shared experiences and tips that are sure to stick with students as they prepare for life after university. From strengthening résumés, to developing a financial plan, students were given valuable insight on what it takes to be successful in the outside world. 

The majority of the students at the event were members of the Golden Key Honor Society, the Student Government Association or the National Society of Black Engineers – the three organizations that put this event together. Next year, they are hoping the seminar will attract all students from UVI, so everyone can obtain guidance from professionals.

“I feel like all students would benefit from opportunities like this,” said Mary Myers from the UVI Provost’s Office. “There were some great speakers at this event.”
Students receive a certificate after staying for the three-hour-long seminar.

At the end of the conference, all those who attended the seminar were awarded certificates. One student in attendance was Lisa Marie-Hodge, a junior at UVI and a member of the UVI SGA.

“BES was a great event. I learned so much from all the speakers. I’m thankful that these three organizations were able to come together and create such an awesome conference. It proves that UVI cares about their students even after they graduate,” Hodge said.

Friday, February 5, 2016

UVI Bucs Triumph at Paradise Jam Exhibition Game

Students adorned the Sports and Fitness Center (SFC) with their UVI gear
and painted faces to cheer the Buccaneers to victory.
With a score of 77-61, the UVI Buccaneers defeated the British Virgin Islands All Star team during the annual Paradise Jam exhibition game, held Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 in UVI’s Sports and Fitness Center. Paradise Jam gives men’s and women’s college basketball teams a pre-season opportunity to test and fine-tune their skills while having some fun in the sun.
Coach Myron Brown gives the team a pep talk
Coach Myron Brown gives the team a pep talk
during the 2015 Paradise Jam game against the BVI All Star team.
The Bucs earned an early lead in the game and held on to it throughout the first and second quarters, bringing the halftime score to 36 – 21. In the third quarter, BVI pulled ahead quickly and forced UVI to play catch up; but in the end, the Bucs sealed the victory.
Captain of the Bucs, John Nunnally, led the way, contributing 20 points to the team’s win. Paul Watson and Leo Castillo both chipped in with 10 points apiece; and Steven “Ace” Watkins, forward, managed to block six shots and grab eight rebounds.
Coach Myron Brown has been conditioning the players since October 2015 and describes practice as “structured and organized.”  After reviewing plays, the players work the defensive side of the ball for more than half of an intense three hour practice. 
John Nunnally seized the moment for a dunk at the 2015 Paradise Jam Basketball tournament.
John Nunnally seized the moment
for a dunk at the 2015 Paradise Jam
Basketball tournament.
The game included halftime performances by the UVI Treasures Dance Team and the cheerleaders. The dance team took the floor and energized the audience with their shimmering gold outfits and an original hip hop, R & B and Spanish infused routine. The cheerleaders followed with an exceptional rhythmic and acrobatic number, jam-packed with smiling faces, pompoms, and even more energy. 
While the action taking place on the court was, of course, the highlight of the night; there was action stirring on the bleachers as well.  Behind the dance team and cheerleaders sat a dedicated crowd of painted faces, blue and white shirts, and a placard that read, “What the Bucs.” It all came together as a creative and exciting display of school pride. “I have dreamed of this during various basketball games in the past, and to see it manifest itself was very touching and inspiring,” said President David Hall in his emailed community address.
What’s next on the Bucs docket? For spring 2016, they will participate in the Liga Atletica Interuniversitaria, the Intercollegiate Athletic League of Puerto Rico. According to Coach Brown, the team’s toughest challenges have to do with support – from the University campus and the VI community. “We hope to represent the University in high class model where everyone will be proud to call themselves a Buccaneer,” he says.