Thursday, July 28, 2016

27th Afternoon on the Green Raises Funds & Friends for International Peace

Two UVI Students receive $4,000 in Scholarships

           This spring, the 27th Annual Afternoon on the Green offered something for everyone, from tantalizing food to lively entertainment, a boisterous children’s play area, and a tent brimming with information on UVI’s academic programs. 
Parachute Ball Bounce for Children Splashes Color Across the Green
This year’s theme was “International Peace is the Scene for Afternoon on the Green 2016.”  The event promoted goodwill and better relationships, and all proceeds supported the Edward E. Thomas Volunteer Scholarship Awards.  “Two scholarships were funded by this year’s Afternoon on the Green,” said special events coordinator, Liza Margolis.  “One was for $2,500 and one was for $1,500.  Our hope for 2017 is to raise enough money for three scholarships.” 
The scholarships were presented to Charlotte Amalie High School student McKim Colaire and UVI junior, Duane Hyatt.
Moko Jumbies Flank
            UVI Homecoming Queen
In addition to being a fundraiser, Afternoon on the Green is a major “friendraiser” for the University, which reaches out to dozens of cooks and restaurants with the hope that some will donate their best dishes.  This year’s event saw the largest response in years as volunteer cooks brought more than 200 dishes to the green.  People turned out in droves to sample food from some of the finest chefs on the island while colorful flags from a variety of countries flapped in the breeze.
“Afternoon on the Green continues to be UVI’s primary community engagement event, exceeded only by commencement,” said Mitchell Neaves, vice president of Institutional Advancement.  “The AOG Planning Committee developed an outstanding event this year with the purpose of embracing the entire Virgin Islands community.” 
He continued, “A heartfelt thank you to the cooks, vendors and hundreds of volunteers who helped to make this event such a success.  Most of all, we appreciate the community members who spent the entire day on campus listening to music, learning about the University and celebrating the great food and drinks created by Virgin Islanders.”
Some volunteer cooks donate a dish every year, while others were newcomers.  One such newcomer was Dr. James Maddirala, UVI associate provost for Graduate, Global and Academic Affairs. He submitted five dishes and watched in awe as each one disappeared quickly. “I never thought it would happen, but I am happy,” said Dr. Maddirala.  “Maybe it’s because I am vegetarian, and a lot of people want a vegetarian alternative.”
A Clown Entertains Children with
    Play Parachute
Dr. Maddirala’s curried vegetable soup won third place in the Overall People’s Choice Award. His fragrant and colorful Aloo Gobi (cauliflower and potato casserole) also took third place honors in the Vegetables and Casseroles category.
Gloria Gumbs, a returning chef, was excited about her and husband James Gumbs’ culinary contributions this year.  “We had the best, best salad,” Gumbs said. “It’s a combination of kale, romaine lettuce, tomatoes and other good stuff.  It’s a real robust salad.”  She added, “Our mango chicken was a hit. And people liked our rice succotash.”
Lending another international flavor was Chef Taj of Buddha Sushi with his California rolls, Philly rolls and Pad Thai. He drew one of the largest crowds.  Even MC Tony T. took a break from his duties onstage to sample the sushi. “This is the best thing you can eat,” he exclaimed.  “It’s light and it tastes good.  Taj always brings it.”
Linda Meadows and Roger Londberg, who reside on a boat off St. Thomas, were attending their first ever Afternoon on the Green. “We wanted to do something special and looked online for activities,” said Meadows.  “We were attracted by the theme of promoting peace and wanted to try the many food dishes.”  Londberg  meanwhile, was enjoying a sample of vegetarian penne.  “It’s really good,” he said. “I also had some delicious curry basmati rice.” 
Members of Steel Pan Orchestra from Bertha Boschulte Jr High School
The Academic Tent, filled with information about UVI degree programs, clubs and activities saw a steady stream of visitors.
Hubert Brumant, general manager of the Magen’s Bay Authority, knows a thing or two about ocean life, so he was eager to participate in an interactive exercise presented by the Center for Marine and Environmental Studies (CMES).  CMES had displayed 20 pictures of various sea urchins, coral, sea grass and other marine organisms. The challenge? Match the name of the tropical fauna with the correct picture.  Brumant got all 20 matches correct. “With my background it wasn’t that difficult, but it was challenging,” he said.
P'Your Passion Band Plays to an Appreciative Crowd
Many other events were similarly interactive. The UVI Hospitality and Tourism Organization set up a colorful dining table complete with plates, forks, knives, napkins and a centerpiece.  “We are teaching the proper table set-up for dining and where you place the knives, forks and spoons,” said Caliya Paul, a member of the organization.
While adults sampled food and browsed the academic programs, children climbed in and out of the three bounce houses in the kids’ tent area as parents kept a watchful eye.  Liz Gumbs enjoyed her lasagna as she watched her young son remove his tennis shoes and dive into a bounce house. “This is so nice to have for the children, Gumbs said.  “They really have fun.”
Norma Samuel brought her five grandchildren to the kids play area where they made a bee-line for the face painting station. Their faces were quickly transformed to reflect a rose, a Spiderman mask, and a crown.  Afterward, they lined up for airbrush tattoos.
Contestants for VI Carnival Princess Show Parade Across the Green
“They love it and I love it,” Samuel said, laughing. “I get a little breather when they go into the bounce houses.”
Adults were entertained throughout the day as well with spirited performances by the EBO Steel Owls, Mungo Niles Cultural Dancers, and the All Xccess Band. 
By the end of the day a mass of people, bellies full, danced and swayed to the sounds of the Cool Session Brass Band as the sun set over another successful Afternoon on the Green.

                                       Afternoon on the Green 2016 Winners

Overall People’s Choice
1st Prize – Jerk Chicken, Elbert A. Petersen
Community Members Sampling International
       Cuisine Under the Food Tent

Main Dishes/Meats/Poultry
1st Prize – Jerk Chicken, Elbert A. Petersen 

Side Dishes
1st Prize – Prudy’s Bake Macaroni and Cheese, Prudencia Freeman 

Vegetables and Casseroles 
1st Prize – Veggie Lasagna, Office of Senator Marvin A. Blyden 

1st Prize -  Pick-Up Saltfish, Edna Pole 

1st Prize -  Goat Water, Nalinie Ramnaraine 

1st Prize – Vanilla Cupcakes,  Dorian J. Hairston

1st Prize - Pumpkin Spice Bread, Vivian St. Juste 
1st Prize - Josie’s Banana Bread, Josephine Humphreys 

Native Drinks 
1st Prize -     Popeye’s Revenge, Marquis Aubain

For more information about Afternoon on the Green and photos, visit   

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Splash Drones Assist UVI-CMES with Sea Turtle Research at Brewers Bay

Dr. Paul Jobsis introducing the splash drone to Brewers Bay

            Counting sea turtles in Brewers Bay might not seem difficult, but ask any researcher at UVI’s Center for Marine and Environmental Studies (UVI-CMES) and you will hear a story about endangered sea turtles that must be protected.  Marine biology researcher Paul Jobsis and his students at UVI are working to save sea turtles from extinction.
            The Green sea turtles and Hawksbill turtles that reside in Brewer’s Bay are currently on the endangered species list, and their survival is becoming increasingly dependent on the care and accuracy with which they are monitored.  Fortunately, research teams at UVI-CMES are dedicated to tracking sea turtle populations and behavior patterns in and beyond Brewers Bay.  The recent use of a splash drone, provided by Virgin Islands Drone Services and flown by local enthusiast Nick Lynch, to determine the accuracy of the typical monitoring surveys has provided an aerial view of the turtles in the bay.
            “Counting sea turtles using swimming surveys can be tricky,” said Howard Forbes, Jr., a research and public service extension specialist.  “Because they’re underwater, it’s easy to count a turtle twice or miss turtles that swim out of view to avoid the survey team.  But the footage we get from the splash drone allows us to go back and check the accuracy of the swimming survey.  The images we collect are also useful for papers and presentations that contribute to our understanding of marine organisms.”
            A splash drone is a remote control flying device that carries a waterproof camera capable of capturing still and moving images.  In the context of marine science research, it is launched from a boat and navigated around the bay, hovering above the water.  Footage captured by the camera affixed to the drone gives scientists a birds-eye view not only of the sea turtles themselves, but also of the underwater eco-system in which these marine reptiles promote biodiversity.  
UVI researcher using a remote transmitter to control a splash drone.

“Everything within an eco-system plays a role,” said Forbes. “Take, for example, the loss of critical habitat when Hurricane Earl wiped out a large percentage of the sea grass beds within Brewers Bay.  This was a big problem for the Green sea turtles in the bay, who function as underwater lawnmowers.  But the sea grass is also reliant on the turtle whose continuous nibbling encourages it to grow faster.  The more we know about how turtles feed, reproduce, behave and interact with all elements of the eco-systems in which they live, the better equipped we will be to preserve those eco-systems.”
Sadly, the biggest threat to Caribbean sea turtles is the reckless behavior of human beings.  While it is illegal to harvest sea turtles in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands continues to maintain a two month-long harvesting season in which residents are allowed to hunt sea turtles.  The meat is used for food, while the shells are typically used for making jewelry.  But even as environmental advocates pressure the BVI to eliminate its harvesting season, poachers in both territories go on killing the animals without regard for the delicately balanced eco-systems upon which their survival depends.
Other man-made threats to sea turtles include climate change and pollution.  Warmer atmospheric temperatures resulting from climate change could possibly affect the gender distribution of sea turtles as warmer temperatures cause their eggs to produce more females. Sea turtles appear to be monogamous, so it is unclear how the changing ratio of females to males will affect the endangered populations.  Moreover, warmer water that has also been contaminated by harmful bacteria contributes to the destruction of coral reefs, which poses a threat to the Hawksbill sea turtle who dines on coral polyps and sponges.  The Leatherback sea turtle, which nests on St. Thomas, eats jellyfish, which are still in good supply.  But because the Leatherback sea turtle cannot distinguish between a jellyfish and a plastic bag, it will sometimes eat the bag, which sits in the turtle’s stomach, prohibiting normal digestion, until the turtle dies prematurely.  The proliferation of marine debris and plastics is a serious threat to sea turtles and the habitats in which they live.
The accumulation of knowledge is a crucial part of being able to prevent the further degradation of marine eco-systems such as Brewers Bay in which the endangered sea turtle once thrived.  So marine biologists get pretty excited when a new piece of technology comes along that can assist with some of the more painstaking aspects of the research process.  “The splash drone is an effective research tool that will provide scientists with a new way to study sea turtles,” said Forbes. “The more we know about these species, the better able we will be to protect them.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

UVI Celebrates 25th Anniversary of the Play – “Heaven”

Cynthia (Nyaila Callwood) returns to find Tony ( Paul Maynard Jr.)
consoling Dilys (Nastassia Jones) after she confronts him about
cheating on her.

Full-time Professor, Part-time Actor: Nastassia Jones Gives Acting a Shot...

A play about love and deception set in a discotheque called Heaven, the play features three UVI students, a UVI senior actor and UVI professor, Nastassia Jones.

Dr. Jones came to UVI last year after serving as an assistant professor of biology at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, AR. Now at UVI, Dr. Jones is an assistant professor of science education and managing director of the VI

Institute for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education Research and Practice.

As a full-time faculty member, Dr. Jones doesn’t have a lot of free time on her hands, but that didn’t stop her from pursuing the opportunity to play the role of Dilys in the play, “Heaven.” It was a huge time commitment, but a rewarding experience, she said.

Dr. Jones was accustomed to speaking in front of people as a professor, but she had no previous acting experience. The opportunity came about when, as she was stepping into her car at the end of a long work day, Edgecombe asked her if she had ever been an actor. “I was like, no, not at all,” said Dr. Jones. But Edgecombe was not deterred. He told her what he was looking for, and shared a rough verbal sketch of the character. “He asked me to read some lines and I said ‘sure!’”
Tony (Paul Maynard Jr.) is smoothing things over with
Cynthia (Nyaila Callwood) despite his wife
coming out for their Anniversary celebration.

“I read the lines at practice and I was like, this isn’t going to work. But all the other actors seemed to think that it did work, and that I was perfect for the part. I thought about it for a couple of days before I decided to give it a shot.”

“My favorite part about this entire experience was the audience engagement when we performed. You could hear them laugh during the show, which meant that we were into our characters and were believing us,” Dr. Jones said.

At the end of every play, Edgecombe would ask the audience for feedback. “He [Edgecombe] is a teacher. He’s an educator,” said Dr. Jones. “So any correction is from a place of perfection, a place of teaching us what we’re supposed to be doing and how to learn.”

This year in St. Thomas, the cast performed under a new lighting system at the UVI Little Theater. On April 19, the cast of Heaven recorded a digital version that is now available on DVD. “The lighting system upgrade really contributed to making the digital version possible.,” Dr. Jones said.

Dr. Jones doesn’t know if she will star in the next UVI production, but she is loving her time at UVI. “I love it here and I love my job,” she said. “I’m hoping that this will be a place in which I can continue to grow.”

Sam (Jerome Kendall) tries to persuade
(Khalarni Rivers) to see things his way.
In the weeks leading up to the play, which premiered at the Little Theater on St. Thomas, the cast rehearsed five to six hours a week, including on weekends. Dr. Jones played Dilys, Tony’s wife and a mother of three who chooses not to acknowledge that her husband is cheating on her. “I couldn’t connect to the character superficially,” Dr. Jones said. “But I had to revisit my childhood experience in order to play this particular role since my mom is a mother of three. Once I embraced that, it made everything else easier.”

Friday, July 8, 2016

UVI Names 2016 Employees of the Year Recipients

Professor Aletha Baumann accepts an Employee of the Year gift from President David Hall (left photo). Dr. Hall presents the Employee of the Year award to Henville Pole (right photo). 

Fifty-seven employees on the St. Thomas Campus and 34 employees on the Albert A. Sheen Campus, on St. Croix were recognized for their service and dedication to the University of the Virgin Islands at the 42nd Annual Service Awards ceremony. The event was held on April 12 and April 14, – on the Albert A. Sheen Campus and the St. Thomas Campus – respectively. The theme was “UVI Fulfilling Dreams, Service Awards 2016.”

As is customary, the UVI Employee of the Year recipients are kept secret until the service award ceremonies. Henville Pole, the director of budget and executive assistant to the provost, was awarded that honor on the St. Thomas Campus. On the Sheen Campus, Dr. Aletha Baumann, associate professor of psychology, was named Employee of the Year.

“I was stunned,” Dr. Baumann said. “So stunned, in fact, that when I made my way up to the podium I knew that I wanted to thank everyone. But I was speechless.”

Dr. Baumann came to UVI in 1998 as a part-time faculty member who became a full-time employee in 2001. “I have a deep and long-standing connection to UVI,” she said. “I was humbled and honored to be selected.”

Dr. Baumann is now excited to work with Fiona Alexander, last year’s St. Croix Employee of the Year, on the New Employee Orientation policy, which inspires new UVI employees who are learning the ropes. “I remember when I came here as a new employee,” she said. “It was tough to learn all of the processes of this organization.”

Both Dr. Baumann and Pole were initially caught off guard by the recognition. But after taking a moment to reflect, both felt that their successes could be attributed to their hard work and supportive relationships with colleagues.

“It’s definitely not a recognition that I expected,” said Pole, “but it’s something that I cherish because it says to me that my colleagues and the people I work with recognize the work that I do.” Pole often finds himself working late nights and weekends to catch up on things he can’t attend to during the week. “Given the nature of my job, it’s the only quiet time,” he said.

Dr. Baumann and Pole hope that their recognition will strike a chord with other UVI employees by promoting hard work and building positive relationships with co-workers. “What I loved most about this experience was hearing from my colleagues about how I have affected them,” said Dr. Baumann, “and how we worked together to accomplish tasks large and small.”

Gifts were awarded to the two employees of the year, and also to employees who had achieved five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, or 35 years of service. Retirees were honored as well. Senator Tregenza Roach was the honorable keynote speaker at both ceremonies, and President David Hall congratulated and recognized all of the employees. The event’s theme colors were orange, blue and white to celebrate UVI Pride.