Thursday, December 21, 2017

Carpe Diem: Student’s Life Long Dream Granted at NASA

UVI Student’s Research Published...
Lauren Arnold has always had a keen interest in astronomy from a tender age and despite being otherwise converted, she has always returned to her main interest. Last summer, Arnold a senior undergraduate student of the University of the Virgin Islands, spent 10 weeks from July to August at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Washington, D.C.

“When I was in third or fourth grade, I applied to Space Camp and I was accepted on a partial scholarship,” she recalled. “However, my single-parent mother could not afford the additional money and so I could not attend. So that caused me to give up on wanting to be an astronaut”, she said. “I started getting into marine science and that was when my love of the ocean and sharks began”, she continued. “Since then I have wanted to become a marine biologist, which is why I attend UVI as a marine biology major, so that I can do shark research”, she said.
Still interested in pursuing her lifelong dream, Arnold said, “two summers ago my mom and I went to Kennedy Space Center in Florida and I met two astronauts.” “They said that although I am a marine biologist, I can still be an astronaut. I got bit by the space "bug" again, and wanted to get my foot in the door at NASA, any way that I could”, she stated. Arnold said that she applied to the NASA OSSI internship and was accepted to work on exoplanets at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Maryland.

“At NASA I was able to help out on a bunch of different projects, not just my own. As a result, this internship has helped me to become more versed in disciplines other than marine biology, like astrophysics and planetary science”, Arnold said.
Arnold credited much of her success at NASA to her mentor, Dr. Knicole Colón, under whose tutelage she was able to carry out her project, titled, "Characterizing Thermal Emission from Hot Jupiters."

“I was identifying how the thermal emission signals vary between exoplanets with different masses and temperatures to explore the diversity of exoplanet atmospheres”, she said. “This is done to help identify which planets could be labeled as "candidate planets" if it has a similar atmosphere as ours”, she added. “Dr. Knicole Colon, was incredible and I am still in contact with her to continue working on other projects”, Arnold said.
Arnold has had her work in the observing campaign using the Maunakea telescope published. “Being published as an undergrad is incredible, not a lot of students get the opportunity to”, she said. “I am currently working on two papers in marine biology, one on the invasive seagrass Halophila stipulacea and one on tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) movements”, she said. “These publications will help me to be more competitive when applying to graduate school”, she further added.

“She has gained in-depth knowledge of the hardware and software used to identify life outside of our solar system”, said Dr. Cucchiara. He added that, “she had the opportunity see first-hand the techniques that the astrobiologists are using to find life in planets.”

During her internship, Arnold worked with NASA scientists to find planets around nearby stars that may host life. She has participated in an observing campaign and collected data from a NASA infrared telescope located in Maunakea, Hawaii, on a particular planet orbiting a star in the Hyades cluster. “Her data has contributed to identifying the planet not as a "new Earth", but as a Neptune-like object”, said Dr. Cucchiara. This is the first identified binary system with Neptune sized planet in the Hyades cluster.

            “This shows us how, with just a few months of research UVI students can shine and demonstrate their incredible potential. It also shows how UVI Physics faculty are fostering more and more research based interest in astronomy”, said Dr. Cucchiara.
Lauren is a marine biology major, “so this is a great demonstration that the Physics department provides research opportunities across the board”, said Dr. Antonio Cuccchiara. He said, “our faculty has been working with other faculties and departments to form research in connection with other partners at different institutions and national and international laboratories.”

The University’s new bachelor of science degree in physics and astronomy began in Fall of 2016. This exposure is important to promote the work being undertaken in the Bachelor of Science in Physics with concentration in astronomy. “The Etelman Observatory in St. Thomas will be a prime facility to observe and identify more "exoplanets" in the future, involving students form UVI and local high-schools”, said Dr. Cucchiara.
In 2015, the University of the Virgin Islands was awarded a five-year, $2.7 million grant from the NASA. The grant is designed to expand aerospace research and development, increase participation by faculty and students at minority serving institutions, and ensure that underrepresented and underserved students participate in NASA education and research projects to assist their pursuit of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers.  Since then, UVI has used the grant to hire two new faculty to support the existing physics program, among other activities.
Over the last three years students of the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) have been participating in several National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) and astronomy related internships, thanks to the National Aeronautic and Space Administration - MUREP Institutional Research Opportunity (NASA MIRO) grant.

Monday, November 27, 2017

VI Caribbean Cultural Center at UVI Celebrates 5th Anniversary

Despite hurricanes Irma and Maria’s damage to the Albert A. Sheen Campus and in proactive recovery mode throughout the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI), the Virgin Islands Caribbean Cultural Center (VICCC) celebrated its 5th Anniversary on November Nov. 9, 2017.  The anniversary celebration was held in the VICCC Administrative Conference Suite in the Delta Jackson Dorsch Residential Complex with an interactive multi-cultural and multi-generational audience of the University Virgin Islands (UVI) and wider St. Croix community.
Group members of VICCC pose for photo after 5th anniversary event
Giving opening remarks at the anniversary celebration, UVI President, Dr. David Hall said, “I want to congratulate VICCC for its consistent cultivation and promotion of Virgin Islands and Caribbean culture through numerous programs, publications, courses, internships and collaborations with various local and national partners.”
“The original vision for the Center is still unfolding and still needs the support of the UVI and broader community”, said Dr. Hall. “If we do not celebrate our culture, it will be lost; if we do not house the artifacts of our culture, they will be scattered; and if we do not support the institutions that are the caretakers of our culture, we will continue to repeat the mistakes of the past.”
Bidding the organization congratulations, Dr. Hall said, “May this five-year anniversary of VICCC remind us all that we have made tremendous progress down the pathway to greatness, but we still have a long way to go. With your support and participation, we will make the next five years even more successful than the first five years.” 
An ice-breaking discussion on “What is Culture to You?” engaging all the attendees added to the creative digital educational video which displayed VICCC’s progress from 2012 to present. This served as the background for many inspirational and congratulatory remarks, cultural heritage reflections and presentations shared during this 5th anniversary celebration from UVI students, administration, faculty and staff; partners, community supporters and advocates for VICCC. 
VICCC Director, ChenziRa Davis Kahina extended acknowledgments and thanks to the communities throughout the Virgin Islands, Caribbean and Americas that have contributed, supported, financed, prayed for and holistically donated time and resources to help the VICCC celebrate five years.

VICCC Director, ChenziRa Davis Kahina addresses audience at 5th anniversary event

VICCC is nestled within the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) at the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI).   VICCC is designated to produce, develop and institute state-of-the-art research, publications, multi-platform media, regional, national and international conferences, academic exchanges, collaborative initiatives, student, faculty and community partnerships; interdisciplinary resources for cultural exchanges, educational institutions and eco-heritage tourism developments. It also serves as an academic, technological, cultural heritage education and artistic cultural research center for CLASS courses, seminars, and academia embracing UVI’s innovative mission, vision and strategic goals as the only HBCU in the Caribbean and a Land Grant Institution.

Friday, November 3, 2017

UVI Students Get First Look at S.W.A.T Season Premier

UVI students pose after S.W.A.T. screening.

Lights, camera and there was plenty of on screen action as University of the Virgin Islands students on the St. Thomas Campus enjoyed a screening of the pilot of S.W.A.T., starring Shemar Moore.

Armed with popcorn, snacks and a comfortable movie theater atmosphere, students cheered to Moore’s personal message to the University of the Virgin Islands prior to the screening.

S.W.A.T. , a crime drama on CBS premiered on Nov. 2, just hours after students got their first look. The screening had been planned for much earlier but two category 5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, pushed back the date. 

Leon LaFonde, Student Activities Director,
serves up popcorn and snacks. 

Students jumped, squealed and laughed as the story line jumped from action to suspense laced with well placed humor. With more than 23 years of experience, some of Moore’s most memorable roles include starring as Malcom Winters on “The Young and the Restless” and as Derek Morgan on CBS’s “Criminal Minds”. Moore’s role as Hondo kept more than 75 student’s glued to their seats.

At the end, Moore asked students in a pre-recorded video to use the hashtag is #SWAT on their Twitter account @SWATCBS, Facebook @SWATCBS, Instagram @SWATCBS and the Writers Twitter account @SWATWritersRoom.

S.W.A.T. airs on Thursdays at 10 p.m. Eastern Time. Students can keep up with S.W.A.T. on the day after it airs.

About S.W.A.T.

Inspired by the television series and the feature film, S.W.A.T. stars Shemar Moore as a locally born and raised S.W.A.T. sergeant newly tasked to run a specialized tactical unit that is the last stop in law enforcement in Los Angeles. Torn between loyalty to where he was raised and allegiance to his brothers in blue, former Marine Daniel "Hondo" Harrelson has everything it takes to be an excellent leader and bridge the divide between his two worlds. Hondo's elite unit includes David "Deacon" Kay, an experienced S.W.A.T. officer who always puts the team first, despite feeling overlooked for the lead job; Jim Street, a cocky but promising new member of the group; Christina "Chris" Alonso, a skilled officer and the team's canine trainer; and Dominique Luca, an expert driver who gets them in and out of high risk situations. Overseeing the unit is Jessica Cortez, the captain of L.A. Metro who values her job above all else, including her off-the-books relations with Hondo. Hondo's team enjoys an intense rivalry with another L.A.-based unit led by Mumford, an aggressive leader who likes to do things his way. With Hondo leading the charge, these dedicated men and women bravely put themselves at risk to protect their community and save lives.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Former 4-H Participant Shares Experience at National CYFAR Meeting

Andre Joseph 
Approximately 14 years ago, Andre Joseph joined the afterschool program at the Croixville Apartments where he changed from a wayward young man to a budding poet. Now an aspiring businessman, he is presently a student at the University of the Virgin Islands – Albert A. Sheen Campus majoring in Business.

That after school program was a part of the University of the Virgin Islands’ Cooperative Extension Service’s Children, Youth and Families At-Risk Program. Program coordinators were excited about the selection of one of its former participants in the local CYFAR program to participate in the recently held National CYFAR Meeting in the Washington D.C. area in May 2017. Joseph, one of three former CYFAR participants from throughout the United States (U.S.) was chosen to make presentations to an audience of over 250 attendees representing the U.S. and its territories. Attendees wanted to hear how the CYFAR Program impacted the former participants’ lives. The two-day meeting also emphasized the importance of evaluation of programs, building community partnerships and strategies for increasing sustainability of programs.

During the presentation at the National CYFAR meeting, Joseph indicated that he was a wayward youth and joined the program only at his mother’s insistence. Being slightly built at approximately 10 years of age, he was attempting to appear ‘bad’ so the bigger fellows would not bully him and therefore he tried to “out-bully the bullies.”  Such behavior created disruption in the program amongst the other youth, so a decision had to be made regarding keeping him involved. The site coordinator at the time made a decision to try to keep working with him, and over the years the behavior changed. He emerged as an excellent example of what the CYFAR afterschool program could do for the youth, and the over 250 plus attendees at the national meeting gave him a rousing round of applause following his presentation which he ended with an original poem he had written. Going from a menace as a child to a second-year college student at UVI was seen as quite an accomplishment.

In a poem, Andre wrote entitled “The Open Road of Success,” he makes mention of the fortitude and perseverance needed to achieve success.
“The open road of success doesn’t mean that you’ve reached your maximum potential in achievements.
Success is the overall experience that one has journeyed through to get to a particular position of might and will….
The road of success opens after hard work, dedication, and most often after tribulation.
In thus, success is the entity of our lives in which, with a little patience can be achieved by anyone. (Andre Joseph, 2012)”

“He [Andre] is a good example of the 4-H motto ‘to make the best better,'” said Lois Sanders, CYFAR project director at Cooperate Extension Service. “When youth are given the opportunity to succeed they are quite capable of “stepping-up to the plate” to display their best.”

Under the auspices of the National 4-H Program, CYFAR is federally funded and seeks to improve the quality of life of youth and families across the nation. Approximately 47 CYFAR programs exist throughout the U.S. and are managed through land-grant institutions, like UVI, receiving funds from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

At Tutu Highrise on St. Thomas and the New Testament Church of God on St. Croix, five to 14-year-olds get a steady stream of information and experiences in nutrition, gardening, and physical activity during the afterschool program held Monday – Friday. The participants also received tutoring, homework assistance,  and 4-H programming with involvement from parents and volunteers.

In the earliest iteration of the program, computer technology was the primary focus of programming to minimize the digital divide in the country. Although computer technology continues to be important in the program’s mission, special emphasis is now placed on the aforementioned focus areas in light of the increased national concern regarding obesity. The current program in the territory is entitled, “Healthy Youth Leading the Way in the Virgin Islands.” With an overall goal of reducing childhood obesity and modifying the eating habits of youth, the program seeks to have a long-term impact on the health and welfare of the community.

For additional information regarding the CYFAR Program, contact the UVI/CES - 4-H/Family and Consumer Sciences Program at (340) 692-4094.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Nontraditional Student Earns Master of Arts Degree; Accomplishes Lifelong Goal

Left to Right: Sherma Albert-Ferdinand, Dr. David Hall, Robert A. Beck and Juliette Heddad-Mille

Robert Beck, originally from Southern California, was among the first three students to graduate from the University of the Virgin Islands after earning the new Master of Arts Degree in School Counseling and Guidance. This program grew out of the Master of Arts in Education with a concentration in guidance and school counseling.

“It feels like a really big accomplishment,” said Beck. “To finally have both degrees offers a great sense of closure and opportunity.”

Beck chose to retire to the U.S. Virgin Islands after serving more than 43 years as a railroad worker and union officer who represented and counseled co-workers, because UVI invites senior citizens to take classes for free. He barely graduated from high school and did not think of himself as college material. Nevertheless, his interests in literature and history inspired him to find a junior college without entrance requirements.

Beck started taking college courses and immediately excelled, which led him to believe that he was either a late bloomer, the presentation of high school material had been ineffective for his learning style, that he had received defective counseling – or all of the above. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Studies at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) after completing one last English class at UVI. In 2007 he started to take classes at UVI in multiple subjects while mentoring fellow students. He discovered while doing independent studies with professors in marketing and history that he had the ability to do academic research.

Later, when a beloved professor encouraged him to pursue a master’s degree, he chose the Master of Arts in Education with a concentration in Guidance and School Counseling. Even though he had no background in education, he had a strong interest in psychology and counseling. He also thought that he might be helpful to youngsters who could benefit from the attention of a caring and insightful adult.

“I enjoy being retired and am not looking to work full-time,” said Beck. “But I do plan to volunteer, and am pleased with the preparation I received through both degree programs.” Beck continued, “I look forward to working with and hopefully inspiring young people who don’t see futures for themselves in which higher education plays a role. I didn’t think I could go to college, but I did. I could do it, I know they can, too.”

The other two students who earned the new 48 hour degree are already gainfully employed by the public school system on St. Croix. Juliette Heddad Miller is the assistant principal at Ricardo Elementary School. Sherma Albert-Ferdinand is a high school counselor at the St. Croix Educational Complex.

The Master of Arts in School Counseling and Guidance is a rigorous program designed to prepare aspiring school counselors to become strong and effective leaders, capable of facing challenges in a changing world. The program provides students with professional and pedagogical knowledge and skills in core requirements, and a solid content knowledge in the area of school counseling and guidance. Individual courses are aligned with the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) standards, thus ensuring that the program represents a synthesis of content and experiences required for successful practice.

The new program also allows students to take the same CACREP approved courses that are offered through colleges and universities on the U.S. mainland, guaranteeing that the degree is at the same level of those offered in the United States. As the program meets the requirements for CACREP accreditation, UVI can now choose to submit an application for CACREP approval.

The new degree creates competitiveness with similar programs offered elsewhere, mandates a higher entry level salary and opens up more job opportunities. It also qualifies graduates to take the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) National Counseling Examination as a first step to becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), which Beck just did.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

UVI Entrepreneur Poised to Hit the Ground Running

Aron A. Gumbs
(Aron A. Gumbs, St. Thomas Campus; Hospitality and Tourism Management)

Aron A. Gumbs is not just about to graduate from the University of the Virgin Islands. He is about to graduate with $10,000 in start-up capital to launch King Events, the mobile event and wedding planning service that he created and subsequently developed within the 13D Entrepreneurship program and competition that started last fall. He placed third in the competition, which earned him the $10,000 that will soon be used to jump-start King Events.

Originally from Anguilla, Gumbs confessed that when he was looking at colleges, his dream location was Las Vegas. But the costs were too high so he settled for the University of the Virgin Islands, figuring that he would stay two years and then transfer. Because the Hospitality and Tourism program allowed him to follow his passion, and because a significant portion of his education unfolded through hands-on internships that allowed him to hone his skills and make great contacts at the same time, he eventually saw no reason to leave.

“It has been wonderful to learn in and out of the classroom,” said Gumbs. “Because of my summer internship experiences at Black Orchid Florist and Events and Ani Villas on Anguilla, and at International Capital Management Company (ICMC)’s concierge and property management division on St. Thomas, I got to experience what it felt like to truly be in my zone.” Gumbs continued, “I also made so many contacts through my program and these jobs that I have new clients even before King Events has officially launched.”

King Events will be a mobile business, existing without a storefront but with a large vehicle in which Gumbs will be able to transport numerous samples to event and wedding planning house calls. This will allow him to be very flexible, which is important as highly customized events are to be the cornerstone of the business. Gumbs is not yet sure whether St. Thomas or Anguilla will function as a home base for his company, but he expects to work internationally as his company grows. He feels indebted to UVI, he said, for preparing him for a bright future in which he has the luxury of earning a living by doing what he most loves.

A Graduate Who Leaves a Legacy

Alphea Browne
(Alphea Browne, St. Thomas Campus; Accounting)

Alphea Browne, an accounting major from St. Kitts, is not only about to graduate summa cum laude from UVI on the St. Thomas Campus, she is also preparing to leave a legacy. Having realized that there was a great opportunity for students involved with professional associations while at The Washington Center for Internships and Seminars last fall, she spearheaded an initiative to reactivate the National Association of Black Accounts (NABA), and the National Association of States Board of Accountancy Students Centre for Public Trust (NASBA Student CPT) at the University of the Virgin Islands.

“When students become members of professional organizations, they gain access to all sorts of information about scholarships, internships and job opportunities,” said Browne. “I feel happy and proud of the achievement. But I’d feel even happier if I was sure the organization would remain up and running after I leave.” Browne continued, “It will be a lot of responsibility for the student who steps in to fill my executive position, but it’s definitely worth it. If your college is not an active member of NABA or some other comparable organization, it puts you at a big disadvantage in terms of being nationally and internationally competitive.”

While a student, she interned at Central Union Mission in Washington D.C. and at Domino’s Pizza Inc. Corporate Headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She also served as a Thurgood Marshall College Fund Student Ambassador for 2016-2017, and as a Resident Assistant from 2015 – 2017.

Browne has several good job prospects on the horizon thanks to the excellent professional network she cultivated during her time as an undergraduate. She said she is excited to leave behind the student life as she embarks on the next phase of her journey in which she will join a community of business professionals among whom she has already established numerous connections. Browne also feels profoundly grateful to UVI not just for the fine education she received, but also for the empowerment and mentoring that have prepared her for a promising career.

“UVI has helped me to clarify exactly what I want to do,” she said. “It also helped me build a great professional network filled with connections and references through a variety of internships, revamping NABA, and launching the NASBA Student CPT on campus.” Browne continued, “I also want to credit my advisor, Dr. Dion Gows, who has become a true mentor to me. I know that our relationship will continue long after I leave this University.”

Browne will begin preparing for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensing exam shortly after graduation. She is currently in the process of deciding where she wants to live and work, but is open to a variety of national and international possibilities that include St. Thomas and her home island of St. Kitts.

First Tubist to Graduate from UVI Pursues Educational Leadership Role

Erick Willie
(Erick Willie, Albert A. Sheen Campus; Master of Arts in Educational Leadership)

Erick Willie, the first tubist to graduate from the University of the Virgin Islands with a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education, immediately put his degree to use upon graduating in 2014. He started to teach music at Arthur Richards Junior High School on St. Croix, and has been introducing youngsters to the joys of band, choral and Quellbe music for the last three and a half years.

Willie derives great satisfaction from working in the classroom, but knew that he wanted to be involved with shaping the direction of public education, particularly with regard to incorporating the arts into the core academic curriculum So he returned to UVI for a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership. He will graduate on May 11, on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix.

“The biggest challenge for me was finding a balance between being a student again, and being a teacher,” said Willie. “But the program was exceptional, and I was able to do an internship with the administrators at my school, which enabled me to see what a principal really does. Based on that experience, I definitely want to pursue educational administration and leadership. There’s such a huge need for initiatives like band that will raise school pride, and get students to feel enthusiastic about learning.”

Willie himself was first exposed to music as a junior high school student who went on to become a valued member of the band at the St. Croix Educational Complex. He started out as a trumpet player, but when the band director said that tuba players were needed, Willie volunteered. He fell in love with the instrument. He had always dreamed of becoming a teacher, and was excited to learn that UVI would allow him to merge his two passions by training to become a music teacher.

“A lot of people have asked me why I didn’t go to study in the states,” said Willie. “I reply by asking them why I would want to study in the states when I can attend a school right here in the Virgin Islands that produces the best of the best.” Willie continued, “A lot of people overlook UVI, and that is a mistake. This university has helped me to develop as a musician and as an educator. Through both programs I’ve learned so many strategies that I’ve been able to implement in the classroom. And I had a great time doing it.”
Erik Willie and Kevin Dixon

21 Year Journey From Teen Mom to College Graduate

Andrea Brathwaite
(Andrea Brathwaite, Albert A. Sheen Campus; Information Systems and Technology)

Andrea Brathwaite, a 39 year-old mother of six, started her journey toward a college degree from the University of the Virgin Islands 21 years ago, in 1996. Back then, she said, she was a teenaged mom whose parents valued education and were nevertheless prepared to pay for her education. But she wasn’t ready. Shortly after she started classes, she dropped out to raise her son.

Her first child led to a second, and a third, until eventually she was the mother of six. It wasn’t easy. In addition to the overwhelming work and expense associated with raising a large family while holding down a demanding full-time job as a para professional at Ricardo Richards Elementary School, Brathwaite faced a number of challenges that included the deaths of her father and half-sister; an accident in which she sustained numerous first and second degree burns; and a seemingly endless series of financial struggles. Throughout everything, however, she clung to her dream of one day earning a university degree.

Brathwaite returned to UVI several times over the ensuing years, but was always thwarted by a lack of time and money. Nevertheless, when she attended the graduation of a good friend and co-worker who had gone to UVI to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher, Brathwaite had an epiphany. During the ceremony, a nursing student was being honored for pushing through her studies and completing her degree even as she was being treated for cancer.

“I realized right then and there that if this woman could do it, I could too,” said Brathwaite. “I’m alive. I’m healthy. There’s no reason why I can’t do this.”

And so she did. With assistance and encouragement from a mighty support system that included her mother, sisters and significant other; her co-workers and friends; and eventually a growing network of professors and staff at UVI, she leaned into the completion of a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Systems and Technology. The journey has been a challenging one, just as Brathwaite suspected it would be, but her determination and persistence have earned her a consistent place on the Dean’s List since 2014, and very soon she will graduate on St. Croix with the Emerald Jubilee Class of 2017.

“I felt really excited today as I picked up my invitations,” said Brathwaite. “It’s been a struggle, but there have been so many professors that kept encouraging me. I was very fortunate to attend such an amazing and supportive institution.”

Class of 2017 Celebrates Commencement Amid Themes of “Rising Up”

(Left to Right: President David Hall, Keynote Speaker Iyanla Vanzant,
Honorary Degree Recipient Ruth Elma Thomas) 

The University of the Virgin Islands Class of 2017 took their first steps into the future at Commencement Ceremonies, which were held on May 11, on St. Croix, and on May 12, in the Sports and Fitness Center on the St. Thomas Campus. Themes of rising up and persevering in the face of adversity were embedded in every aspect of the event from President David Hall’s welcome, to Iyanla Vanzant’s keynote address, to Monel Marcellin’s class speaker remarks, to select interviews with students and alums. “

Keynote Speaker, Iyanla Vanzant
The thought that got me through college as a single mother on welfare with three children by three different fathers was that there is nothing to fear,” said Keynote Speaker Iyanla Vanzant, a commanding author, inspirational speaker, television personality and healer of people. “Fear comes from what you tell yourself about yourself, and whether or not you believe it. Fear can hold you back, but only if you let it.”

Vanzant, who helps people by encouraging them to engage in deliberate thinking, shared a narrative of her personal history peppered with insightful and amusing anecdotes. She then suggested to the graduates that they tackle the future by arming themselves with a kind of personal intelligence apparatus. But in the world according to Vanzant, CIA stands not for Central Intelligence Agency, but rather for Character, Integrity and Appreciation.

“Developing your unique character means making sure that what you do is in line with who you are,” she said. “Integrity is about making sure that what you think, feel, do and say are all in alignment. Do what you know is right even when nobody is looking.” Vanzant continued, “Appreciate yourself, along with those who came before you who endured horrible things so that you could be here today. Appreciate your parents. Whoever they are, they did the best they could.”

Toward the end of her masterful and inspiring address, Vanzant encouraged the class of 2017 to wake up every morning knowing that they had the opportunity to make a new choice. She urged them to “… get focused, get purposeful, claim it, and speak it as though it is.”

President David Hall
President Hall’s welcome address focused on the idea of three magical rivers flowing together in 2017 – the 100th anniversary of the Virgin Islands as a US territory; the 55th anniversary of UVI; and the four-year journey of the class of 2017 – all contributing to a fertile landscape in which these graduates, like the University itself, will continue to rise up despite challenges and disappointments; hardships and losses. So it was with fitting continuity that shortly after being introduced by Dr. Hall, Monel Marcellin, the class speaker on the St. Thomas Campus, shared the stories of several classmates who’d managed to earn degrees despite unplanned pregnancies, abject poverty, family separations and other privations.

Marcellin, who was accepted by six law schools, invoked the famous Mother Teresa quote to support her pride and ongoing faith in her classmates, and in herself: “To those who have done so much with so little for so long, you are now qualified to do anything with nothing.”

St. Thomas Class Speaker Monel Marcellin
Marcellin went on to thank the UVI faculty and staff, along with family members and friends of the graduates, for “believing in us when we could not believe in ourselves.” She expressed gratitude about having been invited to “step outside her comfort zone” so that she and her classmates could “celebrate being alive and present.”

In closing, Marcellin suggested to her classmates that they use their cell phone cameras to focus on what is important; capture the moment; and develop the things that you wish to carry into the next phase of your journey. She then said to the class of 2017: “We have brains in our heads and feet in our shoes. After today, we can go anywhere we want.”

The UVI Class of 2017 are all extraordinary products of a unique journey. Select the following links to read a few inspiring stories that offer some insight into the character of that cohort, and into the great diversity and resilience of the student body at large.

21 Year Journey From Teen Mom to College Graduate

First Tubist to Graduate from UVI Pursues Educational Leadership Role

A Graduate Who Leaves a Legacy

UVI Entrepreneur Poised to Hit the Ground Running

Dr. Frank Mills (center)
Commencement exercises are a time to embrace the future, but they also provide an opportunity to recognize the past. Specially honored this year are members of the Class of 1967 who are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their graduation from the College of the Virgin Islands. Culled from this cohort are two of UVI’s most distinguished professors, Dr. Frank L. Mills and Dr. Simon B. Jones-Hendrickson. Following graduation, both men – originally from St. Kitts – left the Territory to earn advanced degrees but chose to return and settle into long and rewarding careers as educators and researchers.

Dr. Mills, currently the interim vice provost of the Eastern Caribbean Center Provost’s Office of Research and Public Services, never imagined that he would teach at UVI for 45 years after earning graduate degrees in geology and quantitative methods from the University of Western Ontario and Clark University. But the work was so gratifying and the growth of the University so steady that he never saw a reason to leave.

“The most rewarding thing is not just that the institution has survived,” said Mills, “but that it has survived in a way that makes it outstanding.”

Dr. Mills shared a story about a gentleman from the U.S. mainland who publically lambasted the College of the Virgin Islands, calling it a white elephant that was so unlikely to succeed that funding it was a waste of money.

“It’s hugely satisfying to me that history has proved this guy dead wrong,” said Mills.

Having worked with five different presidents, Dr. Mills referred to President David Hall as a visionary, and praised his unbridled determination to pursue growth and innovation. “Dr. Hall is not afraid to change things on the front end in order to make things happen,” said Dr. Mills, who continues to enjoy working and is therefore in no hurry to retire.

Dr. Simon Jones-Hendrickson

Dr. Jones-Hendrickson, who taught economics at UVI for more than four decades before retiring, is also taken with the various ways in which the institution has grown and evolved. He remains intensely connected to the University, and was honored by President David Hall at the Third Annual Virgin Islands Literary Festival and Book Fair on April 21, 2017.

“Simon is a creative force, a prolific author, a counselor to world leaders and a beautiful man,” said Dr. Hall. “Just like the flamboyant tree that is the symbol of his native land, he stands apart but brings people together. This ‘lit-fest’ is one of his many creations, inspirations and lasting legacies.”

Given his background as an educator and thinker, Jones-Hendrickson is prone to expressing his affection for the things he cares about through reflecting about they could be made even better. Regarding UVI, he misses the 1960’s when the college was more international, and hopes that the University will be able to attract more international students, especially from around the Caribbean, going forward.

Jones-Hendrickson would also like to see more distinguished professor chairs, a center for economic development, a University Press, and an offering of classes in intellectual property rights. “Intellectual property constitutes nine to ten percent of the gross domestic product of most countries,” he said. “That could make a big difference for the Virgin Islands.”

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

UVI and the VI Sea Turtle Project Document Their 100th Turtle

Sometimes a number is just a number and sometimes, just sometimes, a number is a milestone. On April 19, 2017 the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) Center for Marine and Environmental Science and the VI Sea Turtle Project (VISTP) documented their 100th sea turtle hitting a major milestone. 

Members of UVI Marine Science and the VI Sea Turtle Projet celebrate the 100th documented turtle.
 All work is conducted pursuant to a NMFS permit
"When we started tagging and documenting sea turtles in the fall of 2014, Dr. Paul Jobsis and I estimated the number of turtles using Brewer's Bay and Hawksbill Cove to be around 40-50 turtles, at most," Scott Eanes said. "The estimation was based off of previous research by Dr. Jobsis and Kemit Amon Lewis, but almost three years later, we were really wrong, and we couldn't be happier." 
Eanes, founder of VI Sea Turtle Project, is best known for naming the bay south of the runway, Hawksbill Cove. He and Dr. Jobsis started tagging turtles in 2014 as part of Scott's master of arts thesis and they haven't looked back. 
Scott and Kate Eanes from the VI Sea Turtle Project
with the first turtle documented back in September
2014. All work is conducted pursuant to a NMFS
"Every turtle we documented is measured , weighed,  receives a series of identification tags and a small genetic sample is taken," Dr. Jobsis said. "This allows us to know how fast our turtles are growing, how many we have, how they are using the bays, and possibly, where our turtles are from in the Caribbean." Jobsis continued, " It also means that when these turtles reach adulthood and leave the USVI they have a greater chance of being identified, wherever they go next."

The US Virgin Islands has two year-round resident sea turtles species that use the numerous bays and inlets: one is the threatened Green Sea turtle and the other is the critically endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle. St. Croix has the bulk of nesting activity with St. Thomas and St. John recording very few nesting female turtles. This means the juvenile turtles most frequently seen by tourist, snorkelers and divers around St. Thomas and St. John more than likely originate from other Caribbean islands, Central America, Florida and possibly Brazil. One of the joint research project goals is to discover the origin of the turtles using Brewer's Bay and Hawksbill Cove.
"This has been a long difficult road only accomplished through a lot of hard work and teamwork. Scott's passion and commitment to understanding and protecting sea turtles has been crucial to our success."
- Dr. Paul Jobsis, UVI Center for Marine and Environmental Science

"We need to find out where our turtles are coming from because each week we are out there we see untagged turtles, and it would be great to know where our turtles come from so we can make sure they get a home to nest, ensuring the next generation of turtles in the USV," Eanes said. "And as we see more turtles we still haven't documented, it makes you wonder just how many turtles call these two bays home. If you love sea turtles this is really an exciting location to study."
The research team from UVI and the VI Sea Turtle Project would also like to remind the general public that this research is permitted through the National Marine Fisheries Services and it is against the law to harass, touch, or retain sea turtles without the required permits. UVI and the VISTP plan to continue their research through 2019.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Caribbean Writer Remembers Derek Walcott

“The Caribbean Writer (TCW) mourns the passing of its esteemed founding editorial board member, Nobel Prize Winner, Playwright, Poet and Artist, Derek Walcott, who passed away earlier this morning," said, Alscess Lewis-Brown, editor of The Caribbean Writer, a refereed, international  journal published by the University of the Virgin Islands annually.  She added that “,Walcott’s meticulously woven metaphorical poems and plays captured the essence and spirit of Caribbean expressivity across a spectrum of Caribbean political and social consciousness. His support and insight helped to shape and guide “The Caribbean Writer’s” path over the pass thirty years.  For this, we are grateful. We will miss his abiding frank and witty manner.”

“He was a great advocate for the Caribbean,” said Lewis-Brown. She added that in an interview with Walcott in 2014, from his home in St. Lucia, in response to her question about “his thoughts on what might be considered idealism in the notion of pulling the fragments of the Caribbean together,” 

Walcott had this to say:

“Everywhere has division in all countries. I don’t know what the division comes from, but of course there is a difference in things: difference in pronunciation, accent, and stuff like that. Even in little St. Croix there is a division between Christiansted and Frederiksted. Each island has different qualities assigned to it by other islands. However, I think that regionally we are coming together through the products of our creative imagination. The Caribbean Writer is a good example of that effort. So, no. I don’t think we are being idealistic when we talk about pulling the fragments of the Caribbean together. Poets are doing it”.

UVI Professor and The Caribbean Writer Editorial Board Member Dr. Vincent Cooper, fondly recalls that during the 1970s Derek Walcott either directed or provided advice on the staging of several of his plays in the Virgin Islands. Between 1973 and 1978, he directed scenes from “Dream on Monkey Mountain”, “The Charlatan”, and “Franklyn”, on St. Croix, and later that year on St. Thomas. In 1974, he directed Ti Jean and his Brothers on St. Croix, as well as on St. Thomas, as well as on Tortola. In April 1977, he directed Remembrance on both islands. During the Fall of 1978, he directed Pantomime on both islands. Throughout the Fall of 1979, Walcott taught a seminar on Tirso de Molina’s The Trickster of Seville (El Burlador de Sevilla) and Walcott’s adaptation of Molina’s play, “The Joker of Seville”. Walcott also spent part of the summer of 1979 revising his new play, “Marie Laveau”, while residing at the University of the Virgin Islands ( then known as  CVI) campus.  Tirso de Molina’s The Trickster of Seville and Derek Walcott’s adaptation, “The Joker of Seville”, as well as Walcott’s musical, “Marie Laveau” were first produced at the University of the Virgin Islands in St. Thomas, in November 1979.

Author and Poet Edgar Lake another TCW editorial board member recalls his presence at a Walcott poetry reading in New York Public Library in a poem entitled, “Walcott Reads to Brodsky’s God Mother” published in Calabash, a journal of Caribbean arts and letters in  2007.   The following is an excerpt from Lake’s poem:

“ …He reaches for his poems, curled in a coat-pocket – and begins to read, the lady shifts her weight, and clamps her feet about her bags, Walcott caught his breath and leapfrogs to another page. He’s accustomed to this silence, pigeons caught in eaves some simile, once winged, and now fretting for the rhyme Walcott, litany-voiced, free-verses about sea-grapes…”

“Walcott has had a long history with the University of the Virgin Islands and The Caribbean Writer,” said Emily A. Williams, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.  “Our writers and scholars have been enriched by their drinks at his intellectual and artistic font. May the spirit of his creative genius continue to inspire us all.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Researchers Poised to Uncover Secrets of the Universe

UVI Astronomers Gain Access to Gemini Telescopes in Chile and Hawaii

The Gemini Telescope (Photo Credit:

Astronomers at the University of the Virgin Islands received an early Christmas present in 2016: acceptance of their proposal to the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) granting access to two of the world’s largest telescopes in Chile and Hawaii. UVI scientists, collaborators and students will now be better able to study gamma-ray bursts (GRB), explosive phenomena generated by exploding stars 30 to 100 times larger than our sun. These may be the first generation of stars ever to have formed in the universe, which makes their analysis critical to our deepening understanding of the formation of the universe.

Alexander Fortenberry, Physics Student, working
at the Etelman Observatory
“We are entering a great era in the history of UVI astronomy,” said Dr. Antonino Cucchiara, assistant professor of Physics in the College of Science and Mathematics. “Because our students will be able to participate in cutting-edge research that is a top priority of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the University of the Virgin Islands will take on a significant role within the worldwide spectrum of top astronomy research institutions.”

The Gemini Observatory consists of two 8 meter telescopes that collectively provide access to the entire sky from strategic mountaintop locations, and are capable of providing nuanced information about astronomical events that is not visible through smaller telescopes. The UVI team was granted four hours of use on the southern Chilean telescope, and ranked in the top quartile for the Northern telescope in Hawaii. Meanwhile, a smaller but faster robotic telescope is coming online at the Etelman Observatory (the Virgin Islands Robotic Telescope, VIRT), which will be able to identify gamma-ray bursts (GRB’s) a few minutes after they have been discovered by satellites. With access to both technologies in different parts of the world, UVI researchers will be among the first to obtain and analyze GRB data as it becomes available.

Virgin Islands Robotic Telescope (VIRT)
GRB’s are usually identified by a rapid “flash” of very energetic gamma rays that only lasts a few seconds. NASA’s Swift satellite, launched in 2004 to study these phenomena, detects 100 GRB’s a year. Once the gamma-ray emission is detected, the satellite communicates the coordinates of the GRB explosions to scientists and computers around the world via email and text messages. Within a few minutes after the explosion, the UVI team is able to point the VIRT and other facilities at its disposal, such as the Gemini telescope, to collect data immediately. To rapidly receive these data from distant facilities, astronomers like Dr. Cucchiara and the Etelman Observatory staff can communicate with the astronomers in Chile to obtain critical data in real time. This data is analyzed at UVI and the results are shared with the astronomical community via the GRB Circular Network, which is a specialized mailing-listed based at NASA, within a few hours after the GRB explosion

According to Dr. Cucchiara, who spearheaded the initiative, one factor that contributed to the proposal’s success was the physical location of the Etelman Observatory. Because UVI has the easternmost astronomical observatory in the United States, VIRT will be the first in line after Europe to pick up satellite detections of gamma-ray explosions. From these images, Cucchiara and his team will be able to determine whether or not an explosion is worth a more detailed look. If it is, UVI researchers are now authorized to tell Gemini South technicians in Chile to drop whatever it is they are doing and point at the explosion. They can also tell the technicians how to point, in an effort to collect maximum useable data from the massive telescope about the distance and chemical composition of the bursts.

“We are essentially filling a gap between observatories in Europe and Arizona,” said Cucchiara. “By adjusting the strategy for exploration of the bursts based on what we see, we will be able to share resources with a worldwide network of astronomers. Analyzing these astronomical events will help to explain how the universe evolved. It will also function as part of a knowledge base for a wide variety of climate change studies involving water, wind speed and weather analysis in general.

Dr. David Morris
Dr. Cucchiara and his colleague, Dr. David Morris – assistant professor of Physics and director of the Etelman Observatory – are excited about the incredible opportunities that are opening up to do top level science at UVI through remote access to sophisticated technology at other facilities and institutions. But they are also eager to raise awareness about local astronomy developments with an eye toward fortifying their own facility. According to Dr. Cucchiara, UVI’s astronomy program and observatory are strong, but additional support is still needed for supplemental equipment, a past-due overhaul of the observatory’s computer system, and more volunteers.

“We will certainly be applying for grants,” said Dr. Cucchiara. “And we’re hopeful about that because our goal is to become more of a resource for scientists from all over the world.” Cucchiara continued, “The more we can engage with the worldwide network of astronomers, the more able we will become to give our students incredible opportunities to continue their education in astronomy and physics. The experience they gain at UVI will also catapult them to the forefront of research experiences at other institutions such as NASA, the Space Telescope Science Institute or Harvard.”

To learn more about supporting the Etelman Observatory as a donor, partner or volunteer, visit or contact

Monday, January 9, 2017

Golden Key Honor Society Wins ‘SPARK a Change’ Award

St. Croix Chapter Impacts UVI & VI...

The St. Croix Chapter of the University of the Virgin Islands’ Golden Key International Honor Society received the 2016 “Spark a Change” award. From month-long initiatives to campaigns with a specific purpose, Golden Key members have been committed to making a difference. Last fall the group volunteered at UVI’s Open House, Red Ribbon Week at Ricardo Richards Elementary School, and hosted the Virgin Islands Senatorial Forum held at the University. The award is for the Golden Key International Honor Society’s service project “Spark a Change for Children.” The St. Croix Chapter won third place in 2016 and was awarded second place in 2015 at the international competition.

“This is quite an accomplishment for our small island university chapter, but very indicative of the dedication of our members and officers to service,” says Patricia Towal, Golden Key chapter advisor. “Golden Key rests on three pillars: Service, Academics, and Leadership. This chapter embodies all of the Golden Key Pillars.”

“I believe the Golden Key impact is being felt beyond UVI's Campus, from our ‘Back to School Supply Drive,’ to our ‘Nurturing Young Minds to Become Golden Students Mentoring Initiatives,’ and our Virgin Islands Senatorial Forum,” says St. Croix Chapter president, Kevin Dixon. “I see Golden Key as an organization that can serve as a change agent, thus, with a focus on our service pillar, we plan to continue to fill voids in our community.” Dixon, a UVI alumnus, is currently earning his master’s in business administration and is working towards careers in higher education and public policy. 

In fall 2016, Golden Key hosted the Career Pathway and Graduate School Panel, where honorary Golden Key members presented to the Virgin Islands Department of Labor Investing for Tomorrow (LIFT) Program interns and UVI students. Panelists included former Commissioner and Entrepreneur Albert Bryan Jr., Cardiologist Dr. Dante P Galiber, UVI Professor Dr. Barbara Flemming and Attorney Genevieve Whitaker. The panel discussed their own career pathways and the importance of graduate school.

With the restoration of classes for the 2016-2017 school year, Golden Key held a back-to-school drive, which enabled the organization to donate more than $1,000 worth of school supplies to the Queen Louise Home for the Children. The chapter received generous donations from UVI’s Research and Technology Park, Optimal Printing, Plaza Extra East, Cost-U-Less, Honorary Member Michelle Albany and University Bound.

“After helping the community, it makes me feel really good about myself, knowing that I am involved in making someone feel special and giving them hope," says Lennoxea Thompson, UVI graduate student and the organization’s webmaster. Thompson is currently pursuing her masters of business administration degree. She aspires to open a small management firm in hopes of aiding those who would like to start their own small business.

As part of the “SPARK a Change,” initiative, which lasted for the whole month of October, the organization launched “Nurturing Young Minds to Become Golden Students” at the Alexander Henderson Elementary School. Golden Key members worked alongside, Anhya Lord-Jerris, UVI St. Croix Career Services coordinator and Golden Key member, to deliver presentations on careers, the importance of working hard in school and the importance of volunteering in their community. UVI’s Roots Poetry, a new organization dedicated to making positive changes in the community through creative writing and performance arts, discussed creative writing and provided the students the opportunity to express themselves through words. 

“Knowing that I am trying to help someone who is less fortunate than I am gives me the drive to be active with Golden Key,” adds Lennoxea, who also loves providing awareness of the organization. People may know of the Golden Key, but they don’t know exactly what we do, she says.

“I like being a part of an organization when the main purpose is to give back to the community," says Rosan Walters – Mulley, the chapter’s public relations officer. “Being a part of Golden Key gives me the opportunity to offer individuals a sense of hope, and a reminder that there is still good people around. I get a sense of purpose, and become happy to see the appreciation in the eyes of those whom we were able to assist.”

Rosan is currently obtaining her master’s in business administration. Ultimately, she aspires to be an entrepreneur and financial consultant, with a possibility of working in the retail industry.

Earlier in the semester, the chapter was recognized for maintaining the Gold Standard. A gold level standing usually means that a chapter has achieved the highest possible reporting standard in the organization through active implementation and participation in events, service projects and more.

The St. Croix Chapter has also attained their third “Key Chapter” award, which carries a monetary prize and is the top award given to only a select group of chapters which go beyond the Gold Standard.

Planning for spring 2017 began in the fall. “One major initiative we will be focusing on during the spring semester, is to host a scholarship gala in order to raise funds for scholarships for the betterment of Golden Key members,” Dixon says. “We believe it’s important for our students to not only get to college, but through college, thus we want to provide resources to our members to ensure college completion.”

Golden Key accepts members who maintain a 3.33 grade point average, or higher, and have earned at least 60 credits. The organization is currently accepting new member applications for the Spring 2017 semester. For more information see this link: Golden Key International Honour Society