Thursday, May 31, 2018

UVI Class of 2018: Defying & Overcoming the Winds of the Storms

Class Speaker Jaecena Howell for UVI's Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix

Graduates Resilient After Storms of Life…

The University of the Virgin Islands celebrated many firsts in this year’s commencement ceremonies held on the St. Thomas Campus and the Albert A Sheen Campus on May 17, and May 18, respectively.

For the first time in UVI’s history there were graduates from UVI’s extension campus on St. Maarten, five students graduated with Masters of Arts in Education degrees, two students graduated with doctoral degrees and 17 students graduated with Masters of Marine and Environmental Studies Degrees.(See Link here) Likewise, 36 students graduated with Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degrees, 12 of which graduated on the Albert A Sheen Campus as the first cohort of nurses to do so in the university’s history.

UVI’s president Dr. David Hall described this year’s commencement ceremonies as ‘sacred moments.’ Citing the challenges faced by the University—especially the students of the graduating class of 2018—after the passage of two category five hurricanes, Hall reminded the graduates that the metaphorical winds from the storm reflected their lives.

“We may not know all the hurdles you confronted and overcame but use the winds as a metaphor for your life,” Dr Hall said. “You will be resilient after they pass.”

Board Chairman Henry Smock, Keynote Speaker
Danny Glover & President David Hall

Acclaimed film actor, director, producer, activist and humanitarian, Danny Glover delivered the keynote address at both ceremonies. Glover, who was later awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, told the Class of 2018 that they have all been a source of inspiration to him.

“No adversity can break you, no storm can wash you away, the work you do in the world should always elevate our species,” Glover said. “Never forget the courage and fortitude it took for you to succeed.”

Che-Raina Warner, class speaker on the St Thomas Campus in her speech beckoned the graduating class to follow their dreams.

Che-Raina Warner - St. Thomas Class Speaker

“Today’s graduation is all the proof you need that if you apply yourself, and you strive bravely towards your aspirations, you can achieve it,” said Warner. “So, I say let the strength of your desire give force and momentum to your every step.”

Warner reminded that graduates that their resilience is what brought them through their final year.

“We matched the gale force winds of Irma and Maria with our own relentless forces of resilience. Class of 2018, we are the real survivors,” said Warner. “We were not [going to] give up, we worked harder because we had to make it.”

The theme of resilience continued on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix, where class speaker Jaecena Howell, thanked UVI for preparing the class to weather the storms of their lives.

“We are stronger than we think, the hurricanes did not deter us from achieving our goals,” Howell said. “All those nights of doing homework in the dark with flashlights and candles, with no internet at home, no water, no electricity to iron our clothes, all of our hard work paid off.”

Howell ended her address with a presentation of a check from the graduating class of 2018 to be given to a first-generation student at the University of the Virgin Islands. The cheque for $1,774.94 was presented to Dr. Hall and Dr. Henry Smock chairman of the UVI Board of Trustees, by Howell and Dwane Hendrickson, senior class president.

More graduate success stories

Ashley Goodwin: A Celebration of Firsts

Dr. Ashley Goodwin always wanted to pursue her doctorate and recalls her parents referring to her as Dr. Goodwin after she completed her associates degree. According to Goodwin, this planted a seed in her to further her education.

Ashley Goodwin

She was met by a professor at a creativity conference who encouraged her to keep applying to programs that she was passionate about and unleashed her creativity. He told her about the UVI doctorate program and the rest is history!

“It was one best decisions I ever made in my life,” Ashley said. “I am so happy I didn’t get into the program I first applied to. I used the disappointment to fuel me to go forward. I met people from all over the world. I would have never even thought to visit the VI had it not been for the University.”

Goodwin’s dissertation, entitled: “Exploring cognitive styles to examine explicit perceptions and implicit theories within teams”, describes the way in which we recognize uniqueness, and help teams to work better.

Post-graduation, Goodwin intends to publish based on her dissertation. She is already sifting through tons of opportunities including consulting for organizations and groups.

Goodwin completed the three-year program in two years and now is planning for life after her doctoral studies.

“I’m looking for another challenge to conquer to do more and accomplish” said Ashely. “I am so grateful to be a part of something bigger than myself.”

Ashley Goodwin is a first-generation college graduate, the first African-American female, and first person in her community to earn a Doctorate of this field as it is the first of its kind and the first PhD program at UVI.

“I’m still in awe that I have seen this accomplishment all the way through,” said Goodwin. “I’m a woman who sought out to achieve the impossible, and come out a champion, that just goes to show that we are all unstoppable if we just believe!”

Goodwin grew up and spent most of her life in Lackawanna, New York where she now works as the Chief Diversity and Innovation Specialist at the Maverick Agency which specializes in innovation and creativity in organizations, diversity training and team building.

Goodwin, a Western New Yorker, has always been committed to success, she earned her Associates degree in media communications, then later a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Communications and a Master’s Degree in Creative Studies.

Husband, Wife & Son Earn Degrees in UVI Class of 2018

Carlos Jr., Gabriel, and Irene Ramos are among the university’s historic firsts celebrated in the 2018 commencement exercises which took place on May 18.

Carlos Jr., Gabriel, and Irene Ramos

The mother, husband and son trio crossed the stage at the Albert A Sheen Campus where Carlos Jr. and Irene received a Master of Arts in Education with a concentration in educational technology while Gabriel Ramos earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.

“... [My husband and I] planned to do it together,” Irene said. “We presented our pieces at the same time. We should have graduated in fall 2017, however as my work at the registrar’s office became more hectic, we delayed our graduation and planned to graduate in Spring 2018 with our son.”

Their son, Gabriel, first enrolled in the university’s three-two engineering program, but soon shifted his focus after he completed his first physics course. Gabriel now has an extensive knowledge of programing, software, java, and servers. While at UVI, he participated in the Emerging Caribbean Scientists program in Norfolk Virginia in June 2015.

For Irene, who works in the Registrar’s office on St. Croix at UVI, and her husband Carols Jr., who works at Limetree Bay Terminals on St. Croix, it was especially challenging to complete the degrees considering their work schedules.

“Because we worked it was hectic, we spent many nights up doing research, writing our thesis, managing our work schedules, and our home,” Ramos said. “My husband’s time was limited because of his job, our professors worked with his schedule and helped him to ensure he completed his degree.”

The success story for the Ramos family does not end here. The couple are planning to continue their education even further while Gabriel, who graduated cum laude, is currently preparing for job interviews.

“We are happy it is over, my husband and I are thinking of doing our PhDs in a technology related field, but because of our schedules we are looking into online programs,” said Irene.

Three members of a family graduating at the same time is a historical first for the University.

Dwane Addison Hendrickson: A Lesson in Determination

Dwane began UVI in Fall 2015. When he first moved from Nevis he was a commuter student and anxious to begin his journey at UVI having been the first in his family to attend a university.

He first began working as an assistant to the student government association president, and later became a member of many clubs and organizations on campus including the St. Kitts Nevis Association as well as the Golden Key Honor Society.

Dwane became very active on campus as a Thurgood Marshall College Fund student ambassador, hosting different events and working with the residence life office where he later became a resident assistant.

Dwane Addison Hendrickson

In Summer 2016, Hendrickson completed an internship through The Washington Center Internship and Educational Seminar program where he interned with Citigroup Inc. as an associate in the International Governance Affairs department.

Fall 2017 began what Dwane now describes as a tumultuous period in his academic and personal journey.

“During the hurricane period it was my first semester being a resident assistant and I had to educate international students about hurricanes and ensure they were safe while worrying about my grandmother, school, and other responsibilities—it was one of the worst semesters for me emotionally,” said Hendrickson.

Dwane left St. Croix and returned to Nevis to be by his grandmother’s side as her condition worsened.

“I immediately left school to be by her side and take care of her full-time 24 hours,” Hendrickson said. “I neglected school work for an entire semester as her passing was too difficult for me. Upon my return in January, I had to push myself to ensure that I completed all of the courses in one week.”

According to Dwane his final semester was no walk in the park for him. However, he was able to persevere through his personal mantra EDGE which states that one must be enthusiastic and determined about what one wants to achieve in life, show gratitude and engage in entertainment—have fun, share in laughter and love.

Post-graduation, Dwane plans to obtain his accreditation as a chartered accountant and later attend Queen Mary University of London to pursue graduate studies in accountancy, management and international relations.

Dwane graduated on the Albert A Sheen Campus with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting, Cum Laude.

Rae-Dawn Richardson: This Mommy Graduated Summa Cum Laude

Rae-Dawn Richardson, originally from St. Kitts began UVI in 2015. Like any other first timer at college, Richardson was edgy about her new journey at UVI. For her, it was the first time she had to move away from her home and travel alone.

Rae-Dawn Richardson

“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Richardson. “I did not have much forehand knowledge of UVI.”

For the most part while at UVI everything went well, Rae-Dawn had adjusted into college well and earned A’s in almost all of her classes. She became involved on campus and was a member of the executive board for the UVI Business 360 umbrella for National Association of Black Accountants and National Association State Board of Accountancy. She was also the treasurer for the Alpha Mu Gamma Foreign Language Honor Society and assistant treasurer for the Psychology Student Association.

However, her seemingly smooth transition into UVI soon became a period of discomfort and uneasiness when she became pregnant.

Richardson began to worry about where she would live on St Thomas during her pregnancy and how she would support a new-born baby while still a college student. She was very worried about her financial state.

Her worries soon diminished as she was allowed to stay on campus up until the birth of her child in April 2017.

Richardson praised her amazing support system for the help provided during her pregnancy. “My best friend, friends, family, roommates and my boyfriend were really there for me,” said Richardson. “My best friend would wake me every morning so I wouldn’t be late for class, my family would bring me meals every few days and everyone would call and check up quite often. I had awesome friends who ensured that I was always up-to-date with all assignments and class information the few times I could not make it to class. I could tell they were really concerned about me. All of my friends carried an extra snack or food with them when I was around and pushed me to succeed no matter what. I really had nothing to worry about.”

During her pregnancy, Richardson said she learned how to manage her time.

“I had to ensure that I was well-rested, ate well and still maintain the responsibilities of being a student,” said Richardson. “I had to adjust my mindset and remind myself that it will only be for a time.”

One week after giving birth to her baby, Richardson attended the academic awards ceremony where she received an award as the best female of the year in the school of business, accounting faculty award and recognition by the Who’s Who Among American Colleges and Universities.

Richardson graduated on the St Thomas Campus with a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Accounting with a 3.96 GPA. She intends to return to St Kitts to seek employment.

“I am not encouraging students to get pregnant, but sometimes in life you will have ups and down and obstacles, but your support system will play a huge and supportive role,” Richardson said. “Always try your best to turn a bad situation or destruction into something positive and one way or the other you will get through.”

UVI Family Supports Dream of Graduate—Thank You UVI 

Shamara Garnett became a teenage mother at the age of 18 while she was still at the Charlotte Amalie High School on St Thomas; though challenging, she was determined to continue to further her education. Garnett enrolled at UVI several years ago as a part-time student while working for the Water and Power Authority (WAPA) during the day.

As a part-time student, she took semesters off from time to time. Garnett, who studied hospitality management, would often use her lunch hour to attend panel discussions organized by her program. According to Garnett, as a part-time student it was often very difficult to participate in many of the events at UVI. Eventually she decided to leave her job at WAPA in 2015, after attending a panel discussion with the Wyndham Resorts where she was hired on the spot as an administrator coordinator II at Margaritaville on St. Thomas.

After the hurricanes in 2017, through Garnett’s job with Wyndham Resorts she and her son, K’Vonte Kishawn Dowe, relocated to Orlando Florida where she worked at Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort. She wanted her brother to mentor her son, who she later enrolled at Lake Nona High School.

While in the throws of adjusting to her new life in Florida for her and her son, Garnett was concerned about how she would be able to complete her degree at UVI. Garnett made a pact with her son that they will both graduate in the Class of 2018.

Reluctantly, Garnett left her son Dowe behind in Florida with her brother and returned to St. Thomas in January to complete her remaining courses enabling her to honor the pact she made with her son to graduate in 2018. Her bother told her to ‘suck it up’ and go and follow her dreams.

Garnett returned to St. Thomas on January 31, 2018 and began registering for classes. On February 3, 2018, Garnett later learned that her 18-year-old son, Dowe, was murdered. The news devastated her and left her in shock up until today.

“Everything went crumbling down,” said Garnett. “I had to leave the island the following Monday and return to Florida to get his body. I had to deal with detectives and funeral homes. I even saw when my son’s body arrived in St. Thomas. I watched from the lawn at UVI as the American Airlines flight landed at the airport. If people only knew what I was going through they would be in awe.”

Though devastated about losing her only son, Garnett still pursued her degree. It often meant belting out tears in classes, or during tutoring sessions. Garnett spent her mornings and breaks between classes at the cemetery visiting her slain son's grave.

“Everything I did was for my son. I got him at 18, he died at 18 and we were supposed to graduate in 2018 together,” said Garnett. “I pushed myself through UVI to reach the finish line I wanted to show my son that education is the key. I was showing him that this is the way. For my last semester I took six classes. I wanted us to celebrate together.”

She graduated on the St. Thomas Campus with a Bachelors of Art in Hospitality and Tourism Management and later collected her son’s diploma at the graduation at Lake Nona High School in Florida.

“Through it all the staff at UVI assisted me, they were very compassionate,” Garnett said. “They came to my son’s funeral and represented. UVI’s staff is phenomenal, they go above and beyond to help students.”

Garnett is looking to further her education in Virgin Islands Culture and Caribbean history. Shamara wants other teenage mothers to know that becoming pregnant at an early age does not deter you from achieving your goals.

Friday, May 4, 2018

UVI Celebrates 56th Charter by Reflecting on Race Relations in VI History

The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) 56th Anniversary Charter Day celebration in March 2018, called for collective reflection as keynote speaker, Dr. Marilyn Krigger emphasized the significance of Race Relations in the Virgin Islands history. 

The joint celebratory event between the Albert A. Sheen and St. Thomas campuses saw both the Great Hall and the Administration Conference Center (ACC) packed to capacity. Many came eager to hear from Dr. Krigger whose book, “Race Relations in the U.S Virgin Islands” had just recently been published. 

Excerpts from Dr. Krigger’s book, which was also available for purchase, were highlighted and read by Raven Phillips, Student Government Association Secretary on the St. Thomas Campus. 

Coming on the heels of Black History Month, Dr. Marilyn Krigger emphasized the critical role that UVI has played in the advancement of education in the U.S. Virgin Islands. “In 1960, the Virgin Islands was at the beginning of a transformation that made it quite different from the Virgin Islands I knew growing up,” she said. 

Dr. Krigger praised former Governor Ralph Paiewonsky for being “proactive” once he took leadership of the Virgin Islands in 1961. She emphasized how the then governor used his political connections to benefit the Virgin Islands at large, highlighting UVI as one of his earliest accomplishments. 

Pointing specifically to the economic growth the Virgin Islands experienced during that period, Dr. Krigger highlighted the Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corporation and Harvey Aluminum Corporation on St. Croix. “This building, once called the Harvey Building was renovated through contributions made by the Harvey Aluminum Company,” she said speaking of the ACC building. 

“The Virgin Islands at the beginning of the 1960’s was at the initial stage of an economic revolution which would change these islands and make us the number one tourist port and one of the richest places in the Caribbean,” Dr. Krigger said. This she indicated, resulted in a hike in nearby Caribbean immigrants seeking employment as well as whites of the U.S mainland seeking business opportunities. “By the mid-1960’s the Virgin Islands had become quite a different place than what it had been before, that invoked feelings in Virgin Islanders that resulted in incidents such as the ‘takeover’ at the UVI library,” Dr. Krigger said. 
“Many of the students felt that not enough black faculty were being hired,” she said. Speaking of black underrepresentation on the island at large, she said that, “a few students felt that whites were taking control of many of the industries” and that there was an obvious practice of racial discrimination. “Not hiring blacks or if they did, at a lower salary than their white counterparts,” Dr. Krigger said. 

This period was marked by a slew of town hall meetings both locally and nationally, according to Dr. Krigger. Coinciding with what was taking place in the Virgin Islands was “the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 and a great deal of turmoil,” she said. Events such as the “take-over of the UVI library and the Fountain Valley Massacre on St. Croix all put together made for an uneasy atmosphere in the 1960’s,” she stated, “Many people who had not thought much about race relations before realized at that time, how much they were affected by it,” she added. 

Noting other social and economic challenges, Dr. Krigger highlighted the effects of the recession in the United States, the closure of the HESS Oil Refinery and competition in tourism from other Caribbean islands. “So, then St. Thomas is no longer the number one tourist attraction…and what Hurricanes Irma and Maria did multiply the situation,” she said. 

Dr. Krigger challenged the audience to think on possible ways to tackle the economic woes including housing and real estate that have been intensified by the hurricanes. “Black people are being priced out of the Virgin Islands and there is an overall gentrification taking place where it has gotten to the point that black people cannot afford to buy land,” she said. 

Referencing a proposal made to the government for a housing community project in Mandahl, Dr. Krigger indicated that investments such as these would not benefit the average Virgin Islander, who cannot afford to meet the high costs involved. “When a developer comes with those types of proposal, I think we should have a law or regulation that says, for every luxury style home you build, you must also build a modestly priced home,” she suggested. Dr. Krigger’s suggestion was received with a lusty round of applause and cheers. 

Both Dr. Kula Francis and Dr. Frank Mills, keynote respondents, lauded Dr. Krigger for highlighting UVI’s history in a very candid and honest manner. 

Commenting on Dr. Krigger’s book, Dr. Francis, an alumna and member of faculty, highlighted education and economic empowerment. “Specifically, one of the most salient matters from Dr. Krigger’s book is that race remains a major indicator of status and position in these Islands,” she said. 

“Although the days of white only schools such as the early days of Antilles School no longer exist, the fact remains, a large number of Virgin Islanders still cannot afford to attend these types of schools, even if they wanted to. Access still remains concerning,” Kula said. 

Dr. Mills, an alumnus and current administrator, recounted some of his experiences at UVI that Dr. Krigger had pointed to. He said, “UVI has in fact been resilient in overcoming the multiplicity of challenges it faced in its formative years and as a result is celebrating its 56th anniversary.”  

UVI’s Charter Day Concert is known to feature both students and faculty, and this year was no exception. The national anthem was raised by Ki-ana Tonge, Student Government Association president on the Albert A. Sheen Campus. Tonge was followed by Angelique Flemming, Miss University of the Virgin Islands 2017-2018, who gave brief opening remarks. She was followed by David Jeffers, a student of humanities, who made the audience erupt in laughter when he recited a creative word selection entitled, “Tiger vs Anansi at UVI”, a short story he wrote himself. 

Over the last few years, Dion Parson and friends have provided soothing yet stimulating entertainment, with each year seemingly surpassing the previous one. This year, the band featured Lorna Freeman, Jeanette Rhymer, Gylchris Sprauve and Sherwin Williams. Making a few special appearances throughout the program, the band performed “Valiant Virgin Isles”, written by Gylchris Sprauve and “My Favorite Things”, written by Rogers and Hammerstein. 

Dr. Marilyn Brathwaite-Hall, wife of President Hall, rendered the vote of thanks while gifting Dr. Krigger a bouquet of flowers. 

The curtains were drawn with the lusty singing by the audience of “Alma Mater”, which was followed by a calypso rendition of “Happy Birthday,” a tribute to UVI, performed by Dion Parson and friends. 

The event was jointly hosted by Provost Camille McKayle, vice president of academic affairs, on the St. Thomas Campus and Dr. Chenzira Kahina-Davis, director, Virgin Islands Cultural Center, on the Sheen Campus.