Friday, October 12, 2018

VIMAS Introduces Advanced Aquatic Training to VI Youth

Dive Instructor, Kristen Ewen (far right) and students

The Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service (VIMAS) newly introduced Scuba Diving Program began on September 22 with seven participants who obtained their open water scuba certification.

The training program is an extension of the annual 4-week marine science-based summer program, the Youth Ocean Explorers Summer Program held this past August.

Student snorkeling at Coki Point Beach

 “We are adamant about finding ways to continue education for the YOE students post program. One such way is to engage students through scuba classes,” said YOE Project Director, Howard Forbes Jr.

Youth Ocean Explorers (YOE) Project Director, Howard Forbes Jr.

A second set of five students are expected to complete their open water certification by the end of October, 2018 bringing the total to 12 Virgin Islands students who will have received their certifications through the YOE Summer Program.

The scuba diving program which enables student to dive up to 60 feet is facilitated by the Coki Dive Shop.

Dive Instructor, Kristin Ewen providing theoretical instruction to students

As many of these students are interested in some aspect of marine science, the organizers of the Youth of Ocean Explorers (YOE) program have since been involving the students in various activities that have enabled them to continue to use their new skills.

“I personally believe that this opportunity will help to give them an advantage especially when trying to apply for internships and colleges in their related fields,” Forbes said.

Students have since been involved with the Coki Point cleanup which consisted of both a land and underwater based clean-up. Students attended the clean-up and assisted with the removal of underwater debris such as lawn chairs.

Student removing debris from the ocean at Coki Point Beach

Through a collaborative effort with the V.I. Reef Response program, students will be diving to Flat Cay and assisting with the general maintenance of the coral nursery there.

The V.I. Reef Response program is an initiative of the Virgin Islands Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (VI-EPSCOR). Through this program a partnership has been established with local dive shops to recruit divers (both local and visiting) to assist with the maintenance of the coral nurseries.

“This is an amazing opportunity for the students as it is something that many Virgin Islanders don’t get an opportunity to do, said YOE Program Coordinator, Javon Stout.

Youth Ocean Explorers (YOE) Program Coordinator, Javon Stout

 “This would provide youths of the Virgin Islands with opportunities to be considered for certain jobs such as underwater construction and marine operations that typically, due to their inability to swim or scuba they would otherwise not be considered for.”

The VIMAS coordinated program aims to remove the stigma and fear associated with the ocean by getting the youth acquainted with the ocean at an earlier age and thereby exposing them to the endless amount of opportunities that are available in the marine industry.

Scuba diving students in training at Coki Point Beach

The Program is of no charge to participants. However, interested students must be medically cleared for diving and will be required to complete a swimming test prior to their enrollment.

 The program is sponsored in part by Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI) and Saltchuk, parent company of Tropical Shipping.

For more information about the Scuba Diving Program, contact Howard Forbes Jr. at  340-693-1672 or email

UVI Passport to the World Visits South Africa

A group of students, staff, alumni and friends embarked on an exciting travel-learning tour of South Africa on May 25 to June 8, as part of UVI’s Passport to the World Travel-Learning Program.

The twenty-four-member contingent spent the first week in Johannesburg and the second week in Cape Town. In both cities, participants gained an in-depth understanding of South Africa's history, pre and post the Apartheid regime.

To do so, they need to step out of their comfort zones and see the world.

"At UVI, we want our students, faculty, and staff to be well-rounded, to be global citizens,” said Camille McKayle, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. “UVI Passport to the World Travel-Learning Program to South Africa provided an opportunity for participants to make those connections between our culture and that of South Africa in many ways"

In Johannesburg, the group visited the Apartheid Museum, the home of Nelson Mandela in the South Western Township (SOWETO) as well as the Hector Peterson museum.

The attendees partook in a cultural immersion experience which included visits to the Lesedi Cultural Village on the outskirts of Johannesburg where they learned about the different tribal cultures that contribute to South Africa being known as the "Rainbow Nation".

UVI’s visiting contingent also had the opportunity to visit non-governmental agencies such as the Johannesburg Development Agency; local business ECONET, a telecommunications and technology company; and institutions of higher learning within the Johannesburg area.

The second week of the program was spent in Cape Town where participants were able to enjoy and experience Table Mountain—one of the 7-wonders of nature. A steep cable ride up the mountain revealed picturesque views of the city of Cape Town.

While in Cape Town, the group continued its exploration of South Africa's unique history by visiting Robben Island, the island which housed the prison of its name in which Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment. 

The group had the chance to speak with one of the former prisoners who served with Nelson Mandela—Sparks, who related his experience and that of the over 500 prisoners who endured hard labor on the island. 

A tour of the inside of the prison allowed participants to visit the actual prison cell in which Mandela spent his time. 

They also visited the District 6 Museum where they interacted with a colored man who was forcefully removed from the area by the South African Apartheid government in the 1960's.

For UVI Alumnus and doctoral student, Rick Grant the trip to South Africa wasn’t only about learning about the country’s rich history and past., Rick is most proud to have shared his recently published children’s book, "When I Grow Up" to a group of children in Cape Town.

“As a mentor, author and educator, my interest was being able to give back to
a local group of children,” said Rick. “Being provided the opportunity to engage and encourage children, read my own book and leave copies with the native South African children of the Happy Feet after school program was the most impactful takeaway for me.”

Akeem McKintosh, UVI alumnus and staff member describes the trip as an awesome opportunity and a great experience that deepened his love and understanding for African history and culture.

“I enjoyed visiting the various museums and Robben Island, getting a detailed lesson in South African History,” McKintosh said.  “Gaining a deeper understanding of the Apartheid system and the struggles of South Africans added much more context to the music of Lucky Dube. It was easily one of the most memorable days of the trip, I enjoyed getting up- close and personal, having heart to heart conversations with many local South Africans.”

Lorna Freeman, UVI staff member lauded the UVI Passport to the World Program as eye opening, humbling and impactful experience that allows the UVI community to explore different cultures.

“This is a really great program that the University has embarked upon in order to
open the eyes of its students, faculty, staff and alumni so that they may be able to
experience other cultures outside of our immediate Caribbean area,” said Freeman. “It is really great for people who would normally not have the opportunity to travel to those areas on their own, to do so in a group setting.”

The UVI Passport to the World Travel-Learning program is housed in the Office of the Provost and was created in 2015 with a goal to bring UVI to the world. This experiential learning opportunity fuses education, culture, and recreation to create a culturally immersive experience for participants. In the past, the program has included travel to China and India.

UVI's Passport to the World Educational Travel Program partnered with World Strides, with it’s over 50 years of experience in organizing travel-learning experiences, to provide this capstone program. 

The program is opened to UVI students, staff, faculty, and alumni and takes place annually. The program for 2019 is currently being developed.

Monday, July 23, 2018

UVI Announces Employee of the Year 2018 Winners

Monifa Potter and Debbie Joseph are the employee of the year 2018 winners on the St Thomas Campus and Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix respectively. Potter and Joseph received their awards alongside 80 other UVI employees, 28 on the Albert A. Sheen Campus and 52 on the St. Thomas Campus, who were recognized for their years of service to the university at the 44th Annual Service Awards.

The event took place on the Albert A. Sheen Campus, April 17 and on St. Thomas Campus on April 19. Employees who worked for five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, or 35 years as well as those who are retired were also honored at the event.
This year’s events were held under the theme: “We’ve Risen and We’re Gaining Steam — Service Awards 2018.”

“I am not doing this for the recognition, but from my heart,” said Potter, winner of this year’s award and Registrar at the university.

“I have worked hard for the University for over 10 years and I took on an enormous position at the University a few years ago,” she said.  “The leadership and dedication of the staff exemplifies great teamwork and provides a sense of accomplishment at the end of the year to see students graduate with the degree they have worked hard to earn.”
Joseph, winner of this year’s award on the Albert A. Sheen Campus has only been with the university for almost three years. When asked how she felt about receiving the award, Joseph responded by saying she was very surprised.
“That was the last thing I expected, it really caught me off guard,” she said.
Joseph prides herself for the work that she does and believes that the key to customer service is that the customer should always leave feeling better than when they first came to you.

“I try to put my best foot forward at all times. I always try to help as best as possible,” Joseph said. “I believe a little goes a long way, if I see something that needs to be done I don’t wait to be asked I take initiative and get it done.”
Joseph advises all employees at UVI to always put customer service at the forefront.
“We are here to serve people, we are here to help, we should always try to provide a listening ear to our customers,” Joseph said.

Debbie Joseph works as an administrative assistant to the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences on the Albert A. Sheen Campus.
Dr. David Hall, president of the university said that this year’s program is of great significance because of what each recipient and employee endured during the academic year 2017-2018.

“I continue to be impressed with the enthusiasm and service with which I see so many of our employees provide to the university through the work that they do and the extent to which they so often go above and beyond the scope of the job responsibilities,” Dr. Hall said.

The employee of the year program and annual service awards is organized by the university’s Human Resources Department and aims to recognize employees who have demonstrated and contributed to the improvement of the quality and performance of the University of the Virgin Islands.

There were a total of six employee of the year nominations for the 2018 award, four on the St Thomas Campus and two on the Albert A. Sheen Campus.
Employee of the year winners receive a $200 check, an engraved plaque, bouquet of flowers and a basket of fruits.

To be eligible for the award the recipient must be a full-time employee and have at least one year of continuous employment with the university. Employees are selected based on three of the criteria areas including professionalism, customer focus, quality, teamwork, and innovation.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

CMES Receives President's Appreciation Award

CMES staff receiving President's Award from Dr. Hall

The University of the Virgin Islands Center for Marine and Environmental Studies (CMES) was awarded the President's Appreciation Award on Saturday, June 2, at a UVI Board of Trustees meeting.
 University President David Hall, who bestows this honor quarterly at Board of Trustees meetings, highlights the excellence and commitment of those UVI employees or units that have performed exceptionally with this award.
“It is a reality that Center for Marine and Environmental Studies (CMES) is the anchor for our research transformation and research excellence at the University,” said President Hall.
The president noted that key to awarding CMES was the appointment of Dr. Tyler Smith to one of the National Academies of Science Committees.

Dr. Tyler Smith

“This is a prestigious appointment because it relates to the national importance of marine science research, and for one of our faculty members to be solicited by the highest and most prestigious organization is something significant and worthy of recognition,” said President Hall. See link for more information: 

MacLean CMES post-hurricanes Irma and Maria

 “Despite not having a building, the largest graduating class in the history of CMES of 17 students recently earned their master’s degree in marine and environmental science,” President Hall added. See link for more informaton:

The President further praised CMES for “taking the lead in the clean-up of St. Thomas’ East-End Reserve (STEER), which was a large scale mangrove community clean-up which brought together numerous volunteers to remove debris that negatively affect the environment.”

Volunteer removing debris from mangrove

STEER is a marine protected area on the east end of St. ThomasThe mangrove clean-up event on April 21, saw over 100 volunteers engaging in the removal of 3,000 pounds of debris. Most of the debris found were plastic products; this included over 4,000 plastic beverage bottles, bags, cups, and containers combined. See link to UVI New Release for more information: 

Debris Accumulated from the mangrove clean-up
 He also highlighted CMES’ key involvement in the hosting of the annual Reef Fest event held on April 14. 

Attendees of  Reef Fest 

The theme for this year's event was "Marine Ecosystem Health" which encompassed topics such as sustainable seafooding, marine debris, coral bleaching, and mangrove protection.

Elementary school students showcasing outfits designed with plastic

Present to receive this quarter’s award were:
o Dr. Paul Jobsis, acting director of the Center for Marine and Environmental Studies
o Dr. Sandra Romano, dean of College of Science and Mathematics
o Dr. Marilyn Brandt, director of masters in marine and environmental sciences program
o Dr. Sennai Habtes, research assistant professor
o Stephen Prosterman, diving and marine field officer
o Howard Forbes Jr., director of the VI Marine and Advisory Service on St. Thomas

Friday, June 8, 2018

Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities Hailed a Success by President Hall

"Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities" Premiered at UVI
As the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) was already in the mode of Black History Month celebration, the Pre-Screening of Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities hosted on both campuses on Monday, Feb. 19, was well received.

            The 90-minute film drew large audiences including students, faculty and staff of the University, as well as members of the general public to both the Administration and Conference Center (ACC) Building on the St. Thomas Campus and in the Great Hall on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix. Many of whom were eager to view the film before it aired nationally on the acclaimed PBS series, Independent Lens later the evening at 8:30 p.m.
The pre-screening event was a part of a tour organized by HBCU Rising, the year-long multi-platform engagement project designed to drive dialogue sparked by the film among a variety of audiences. The film examines the impact HBCUs have had on American history, culture and national identity for more than 150 years.

            The event was hailed as one of the best events the University has hosted to date by President David Hall. “This is something that speaks to what we are going through right now. Our theme coming out of the hurricanes has been “UVI RISE,” and this film is about how HBCU’s rise above all the negative forces that get in the way,” Hall said. “This is really a nice marriage between our reality and the HBCU journey.”

The President said that he was particularly pleased with comments made by the students after the film. “It was clear that it spoke to them in the way that I had envisioned, which is that it would inspire them to work harder and appreciate that they are a part of something even greater than what they might imagine,” he said.

Directed by award-winning documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson, Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities was praised by members of the audience for revealing for the first time the complex history of how HBCUs, havens for Black intellectuals, artists and trailblazers, offered a path of promise toward the American dream, educated the architects of freedom movements throughout the decades and cultivated leaders in every field.

The pre-screening event was a collaborative effort of UVI and WTJX.

Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities is the second in a three-part series called America Revisited that includes The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, which broke Nielsen ratings and social media engagement records for Independent Lens, and the forthcoming, The Slave Trade: Creating A New World.

Independent Lens is an Emmy Award-winning weekly series airing on PBS Monday nights at 10:00pm. The acclaimed series, with Lois Vossen as executive producer, features documentaries united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement, and unflinching visions of independent filmmakers.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Jeanette Ferdinand: A Lesson in Balance and Student Leadership

Jeanette Ferdinand
     Jeanette Ferdinand, a 2012 graduate of the St. Croix Educational Complex High, began her undergraduate studies at UVI, where she first pursued an Associate’s degree in Nursing. On May 18 2018, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

     Ferdinand stated that the Nursing program has an added level of pressure as students have to earn a score of 75 or above on each course. In the even that a student earns a score lower than 75 they would have to repeat the course. Unfortunately, this was the case for Ferdinand as her graduation was set back by one year as she retook a course.

2018 Graduates
     She continued on to stated that UVI was more of a journey than a challenge as she always managed to balance her extracurricular activities with her academic pursuits. She became heavily involved on campus after she first worked with the Dean of Students on the St. Croix campus in 2012.

She assisted in the execution of the three previous Miss UVI Ambassadorial competitions - with the last two held on St. Croix.
     Ferdinand retired a life of just attending classes and picked up an extensive extra-curricular résumé at UVI along the way, which includes: the Student Government Association, Sisters with Purpose, Student Nurses Association, and the Student Government Association Queen’s Committee.

     She credits much of her success to Hedda Finch-Simpson, whom she describes as family. “Ms. Finch would encourage and push me to become involved on campus,” she said . “She was firstly my immediate supervisor but now she’s become more like family than a boss to me.”

     Immediately after graduation, Jeanette plans to travel to New Jersey where she will take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX RN) exam for entry level nurses before returning to St. Croix where she will begin her nursing career at the Juan F. Luis hospital - hopefully in the emergency room.

     Jeanette will be sharing her special day with her older brother Garfield Ferdinand who will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics.

     While at UVI Ferdinand earned many scholarships including, Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) scholarships from Costco, Wells Fargo, as well as Walmart Mentorship training.
Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) Pinning Ceremony

Kriston and Ourieka Petty: From Newlyweds to Newly Grads

Kriston and Ourieka Petty
Kriston and Ourieka Petty
     Married couple Kriston and Ourieka Petty are defying the odds that wedding at a young age sets one back from achieving one’s dreams. The couple who began their studies in August 2015 will both walk in this year’s commencement ceremony.

2018 Graduates
     The Petty's recall naysayers telling them they were ‘throwing away their lives.’  Among the slew of negative comments were accusations that they’d be too distracted by each other to focus on their studies and that they’d be not be ready to handle that kind of responsibility.

     According to the Petty’s, both 23, they were happy that they stuck to their dreams and remained committed to completing their undergraduate studies.

     “We managed to prove that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible” said Petty. “Whether, married or not, one just needs the right kind of motivation in order to shine as bright as the sun.”

     When asked about plans for the future the couple assured that this isn’t the end for them, they are committed to continued success. "We do not plan to end the journey here either,” said Petty. "Our plan is to go to graduate school together in order to continue elevating ourselves.”

A Happy Graduate
     Kriston and Ourieka, both originally from St. Kitts-Nevis, are happy they chose UVI to complete their Bachelor degrees. They believe that their accomplishment is testimony that at UVI any individual from different walks of life regardless of their circumstance or situation can and will succeed.

     “Whether one is single, married, old, young, rich or poor, UVI is the place for them,” said Petty.

Kriston and Oureika will both graduate summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences with a minor in Environmental Science respectively. Summa Cum Laude is the highest honor added to a degree or a diploma for work that is considered to be the highest quality.

Jaecena Howell: From Graduation to Amazon

     Jaecena Howell could not have asked for a better gift to celebrate her 17th birthday in 2014 when she first began UVI as an early admission student and scholarship recipient. Howell got accepted to UVI at the age of 16 and extrapolated what she now describes as the best four years of her life.

     Howell defined her first encounters with UVI as challenging considering she was so young and many professors already knew who she was as she had just attended a summer semester in China where she learnt mandarin and Chinese history and culture.

     For Howell, she had to live up to the stigma of her early success especially when professors referred to her as a genius.
Danny Glover Giving A Speech

     According to her, UVI was no walk in the park for her, she recalls having to re-do an accounting class after she got a C-.

     Howell will be graduating magna cum laude on the Sheen Campus with a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and an Associate’s degree in Business Management, she will also be this year’s class speaker at St. Croix’s Commencement Ceremony.

     She is definitely no stranger to business and accounting, she was one of the winners in this year’s annual 13D entrepreneurship competition. Howell’s app-development business, Style-Up, is a phone application for hair stylists and their customers to better manage appointments.

     Howell also completed a 10-week internship with in summer 2017, in Lakeland, Fla. landing her a full-time position as an area manager in Braselton, Ga. beginning in May 2018.
She accredits her success to UVI’s endless opportunities for its students. She believes that attending an HBCU (Historically Black College and University) gives you more opportunities than most other universities.

2018 Graduates
     Howell took advantage of every opportunity available to her. “UVI gave me job exposure, through the help of Ms. Lord I was able to complete three internships and subsequently land a position at Amazon,” she said.

     Howell hopes that her success story will inspire UVI students to accomplish great things and to be proud of the school they attend.

     “This accomplishment positively impacts UVI because… people will know which university I attended and would be driven to find other students at my university who possess the same qualities,” said Howell. “It will also help potential students consider UVI because they will realize that their opportunities are not limited.”

Jose Perez: From the Military to Restaurant Management to a BSN

Jose Perez

     At 51-years-old Jose Perez will be one of the first generic students graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix during this year’s commencement ceremony.

Governor Mapp addressed graduates on St. Croix. 
      Perez, whose journey began in the military, later entered the food service industry where he succeeded in management for many years. Originally from Connecticut, Perez decided to move to St. Croix and became enthralled with the island and found himself unexpectedly with a fina...l career in nursing. Perez said he always thought about nursing but didn’t pursue this goal until he moved to St. Croix four years ago and enrolled at UVI.

      According to Jose, when he first moved to St. Croix he had a few options in mind about how he would occupy his time.

      “I moved to St Croix for personal reasons, when I first came here I had a plan a, b and c,” said Perez. “I looked into a frozen yogurt business, when I saw how much it would entail financially I decided it was too risky. With UVI being right down the street and newly offering BSNs it was an added bonus—I decided to make it my choice.”

      In 2015, Sen. Kurt Vialet sponsored a bill that provided the resources necessary to establish BNS on the Sheen Campus. Previously students were only able to earn an Associate’s Degree in nursing and would have had to travel to St. Thomas achieve a BSN. Perez is excited to be one of the first students graduating from St. Croix with a BSN on May 18. According to Perez, he is looking forward to making a change in the life of his patients. He will graduate magna cum laude, an honor added to a degree or a diploma for work considered to be of much higher quality than average.

Graduates process into the commencement ceremony.
      “While in the military I learned a lot about responsibility, and strength of character,” said Perez. “Nursing allows me to be of service on a higher level and gives me the opportunity to make a difference in people’s life.”

      He describes his experience at UVI as fulfilling, he said the time was well spent and help was never too far away.

“UVI is amazing, whenever I needed help it was always immediately available,” Perez said.

Che-Raina Warner:  Crowns, Titles, Microphones and the Podium

UVI Saint Thomas Class Speaker Che Raina Warner
Che-Raina Warner Speaking

     Che-Raina Warner, the undefeated pageant queen, is this year’s class speaker on the St Thomas Campus. Also known for her work as a tutor in the Center for Student Success, Warner is excited to deliver this year’s commencement address to the graduating class of 2018.

     Though mostly known for her success in pageantry, Warner is a scholar student who received the Chairperson’s award for excellence in Communication and earned a position on the dean’s list every semester since her enrollment at UVI.

Graduates Celebrating
     Warner, originally from St. Kitts-Nevis, will graduate summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication with honors. She attributes her success at UVI to the overwhelming support and encouragement she received from her friends and family in St. Kitts. According to Warner she had no choice but to excel and place her country above self.

     “Hailing from the Federation of St. Kitts-Nevis, I was motivated simply by the mere idea that our twin island federation has great expectations for its people to dominate wherever we go and that has propelled me to do nothing short of making my country proud,” said Warner.

     She was crowned Miss UVI in 2016 and went onto win the Miss UVI Ambassadorial Title and the National Black College Alumni (NBCA) Hall of Fame Title also in 2016. Warner is only the second student to win the national crown in UVI’s history. She said winning these titles meant juggling assignments, classes and ambassadorial duties in which she had to gain a certain mental balance.

     “While I cannot say that I have absolutely mastered the art of balance, I was often times comforted by the words of my classmates who were amazed at how I managed to stay focused,” Warner said. “Although it was a very challenging period for me, I take pride in having been a motivation to some student who felt that his plate was too full and he couldn't manage.”

2018 Graduates
     She also became involved on her campus beyond pageantry by working in the university’s Public Relations Office as well as a radio host at WUVI – the school’s student ran radio station.

     “I’ve never known myself in all my schooling years to merely go to school,” said Warner. “School for me meant being immersed in a host of extra-curricula activities.”