A Look at the 5th Annual Playwrights in Paradise New Play Festival


ST. THOMAS – Anansi the spider, a Ukrainian “Mail Order Bride,” a polar bear and an ornery St. Thomian bus driver joined many other characters to create the 5th annual Playwrights in Paradise New Play Festival that took place in the UVI Little Theatre on Sunday, April 27, 2015.

Continue reading A Look at the 5th Annual Playwrights in Paradise New Play Festival

The Little Theater Painted Black


ST. THOMAS – Thursday morning on March 12, 2015 was an ugly morning; a combination of steel-grey cloud bands choking the sunlight from the sky, along with a growing heat emanating from the ground made for muggy conditions across UVI’s St. Thomas campus. For Professor Pamela New and the students of her “Voice and Diction” class, their teaching space wasn’t much of an improvement: a dimly-lit, derelict mini-stage room within the second floor of the CAB building known only as “The Little Theater.”

The UVI Little Theater in its current state of disrepair. Photos: David B. Gumbs
The UVI Little Theater in its current state of disrepair.
Photo credit: David B. Gumbs

For many performers, students and Humanities professors, to say that conditions within UVI’s “Little Theater” are “humble” would be considered a gross understatement. The stage consists of little more than bare concrete flooring and rickety, raised plywood platforms covered with scattered screws and nails that have fallen from the patchwork ceiling, from where the stains of water damage and raw electrical cables hang exposed for all to see.

The seating consists of nothing more than 30 or so raggedy stadium chairs, some with a view of the stage that is obscured by the handful of ill-placed support beams that are strewn among the front row seats.

Completing the forlorn and creepy atmosphere, almost the entire room – from the derelict stage, to the splintery plywood walls, to the dilapidated ceiling, and even the aforementioned support beams – are covered in endless layers of thick black paint. Coupled with the non-existent sound system and lighting that operates seemingly on its own accord, the conditions of the old theater can be considered absolutely oppressive by modern standards, and unquestionably neglectful for a $40,000-a-year University.

Despite the horrendous conditions, however, the UVI Little theater and those who have dedicated themselves to the craft have given the island some of the most critically acclaimed performances in modern memory: plays such as The Lady of Param, Angels in the Snow, and the recent “Hubert Harrison” have all received universal praise and serve as powerful examples of the students’ dedication and talent for the arts.

The theater photo credit: David Gumbs
The theater’s sound and light control room
photo credit: David Gumbs

The performing arts are not the only discipline to feel the sting of the university’s neglect; a mere fifteen feet away from the foreboding darkness of that crumbling theater lay the offices of the Humanities: a cramped, narrow wooden trailer segmented into 12 claustrophobic rooms. Whereas fields such as mathematics or the sciences are given proper, expansive offices and supplies to properly conduct business, it would seem that the Humanities constantly find themselves shortchanged and disregarded at every turn, regardless of the success and acclaim that they earn.

In light of the praise and recognition that the Humanities (and the Little Theater in particular) earn for UVI, one question surfaces: “Despite UVI’s self-marketed identity as a “Liberal Arts” institution, is the university truly dedicated to the Arts?”

“The quick answer is ‘no,’” says Dr. Alexander Randall, a professor of communications. Fresh from his late afternoon communications class, his jovial, laid-back disposition brimming with energy nevertheless dims with frustration at the aforementioned inquisition. “No university gives enough support to the Humanities, yet cannot explain ‘why?’”

The Little Theater Sound and Lighting control room. Photo credit: David B. Gumbs
The Little Theater view obstructed by support beam
Photo credit: David B. Gumbs

Speculating on the reason behind the lack of support, he said “There’s more of a focus on ‘practicality’ versus ‘passion.’” An example of this alleged preferential treatment of the other disciplines over the Humanities lies in his recent successful campaign to add two new art classes to the curriculum.

“It took 2 years of constant battling with the Curriculum Committee, just to add those two classes,” said a weary and frustrated Dr. Randall. “All the while, they fought back by nitpicking over things like the font used in the required textbooks, or the margins in the report I had to submit. Then at the end of it, some guy from the Business department came in and casually requested, like, another set of textbooks and they immediately fast-tracked his request, without the two-year process I just had to go through; It’s very frustrating.”

One Humanities Professor, the resident playwright David Edgecombe, offers a more sympathetic, but similar view. With his salt-and-pepper hair askew and his eyes bloodshot from a lack of sleep, he sniffles and coughs throughout the interview, his illness stemmed not from a cold or flu, but rather from a flurry of preparations and last-minute adjustments; it is the premier night of his latest work at the Little Theater, a biopic play about the titular character, “Hubert Harrison.”

“The question of whether or not the Humanities are being marginalized is a difficult one,” he said. “Like anything, it’s a matter of costs; resources are scarce, and sometimes people aren’t attuned to looking at the arts. That’s not entirely the responsibility of the school; it falls also on the artist to promote the arts to the public.”

Other Humanities instructors, such as the aforementioned Pamela New, equate Dr. Randall’s views.

“”The Arts are being under-funded and are under-supported,” stated Professor New plainly, who despite suffering a sore shoulder earned during some household gardening, remains passionate and dedicated to the subject at hand. “The Humanities are being marginalized and are lacking support; Performances are being carried out in disreputable conditions with faulty equipment.”

Despite the various setbacks, restrictions and varied opinions on the matter, however, everyone agrees that the Humanities are still popular and important, not just for the school but the local community overall.

“Students are still interested,” Professor New said. “Students are still signing up for Humanities courses, Reichold Theater events bring in a great amount of capital for UVI, and most of the events such as the theater productions are usually sold out… So there is still definitely interest.”

According to Dr. Randall, “The arts are very important to local culture; the Humanities make us aware of the unknown, what it means, and inspires us.”

“Theater helps to understand the world and culture around us,” professor Edgecombe said, equating the views of Dr. Randall. “The concept of ‘education’ is progressively outpacing the institution of the ‘academy’ or the ‘school.’ If we are to avoid becoming an anachronism, we must learn to embrace a wide spectrum of subjects, rather than prioritizing some subjects over others.”

With the overall feeling of oppression by the bureaucratic masters of the school, the final question that arises from this subject is “what would these champions of the arts do differently, if given the authority to change the current status quo?”

Both Dr. Randall and Professor Edgecombe believe that the answers lie not with academic bureaucrats or high-minded college professors, but instead with high school students, and those who are not yet certain about their future.

“The management should treat the Humanities with respect,” Dr. Randall commented. “Instead of prioritizing one subject over another, we should be considering more high school rallies and career days, and convince the next generations on why college is important.”

“A ‘theater-in-education program would be a wonderful bridge between the humanities and other education departments,” Professor New said. “Everyone remembers the teachers that engaged us through vibrant, dynamic communications skills and content… I would also restore the Little Theater, which would grant students a proper place to perform, while serving as a source of additional income to recoup the costs.”

Time will tell whether or not the gulf between UVI’s business side and artistic side can be mended. Until then, that darkened antechamber of theatrical wonders will remain in its dilapidated repose, and both Professor New and her students will continue their performances within the little theater painted black.

College Graduation: the challenging downside


ST. CROIX — Even though I knew it was coming, I wasn’t prepared for how it would feel.

I cried every day during the final semester of my undergraduate year. Between current expectations and the nearing future I realized that I wasn’t ready to graduate.

I wasn’t the only one.

Senior year is romanticized. Seniors are expected to have their lives planned out. This was what they have been preparing for the moment they left high school and entered institutions of higher learning.

These students are expected to be bold and brave, bearing smiles and excitement for the coming of May when it will all be over. Few realize that, while exciting, senior year is overwhelmingly stressful. After several years, their lives are summed up in a month.

May doesn’t mean the same thing anymore for graduating seniors. It is a month of changes.

Dr. Aletha Baumann, associate professor of psychology at the University of the Virgin Islands, recounted a situation where a student broke down in front of her.

via Life After Empty Nest
via Life After Empty Nest

“She wasn’t sad about going off on her own or finding a job,” Baumann said. “She cried because she just didn’t want to leave UVI. This was her home.”

Graduation is a big transition that often causes students to feel depressed or anxious.

Will they find a secure job right out of college?

What do they do with their degree?

Will they find a job within that degree?

After finding a job they must now budget, decide living arrangements, make new friends and say goodbye to old ones. It is a period of leaving the familiar and meeting the unfamiliar.

In a 2014 article by US Health News, Vicki Hays, director of Counseling and Psychological Services at the University of Michigan, said graduation depression is more common than many think.

“I think it’s much harder actually leaving college than it is coming to college,” she said. “Leaving is something completely new. For most people, they have not been without the structure of organized education ever in their lives.”

For some students, the problem wasn’t leaving college. The problem was the process in order to leave there.

Lorie Jeffers graduated from the University of the Virgin Islands with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology last May.  According to her, there were personal points of depression for herself and her fellow classmates.

“I know there was not one person in my class who did not express their frustration with their final semester in one way or another,” Jeffers said.  “I remember tears from some, hopelessness from others.”

Jeffers also said that the stress levels among herself and her peers were unstable.

“In between our moments of despair and depression were lots of moments of triumphs and victories. However sometimes it felt like for every victory there was a setback,” she said.

A 2001 article in The Guardian stated that while one in four students suffer depression during their university years, there aren’t any official statistics for the post-graduation nor pre-graduation period.

In the article, Mike Burton, of the Sussex University Counseling service, said that this group “slips through the system.” These students become indivisible from any other adult going through transitions and even counselors are unaware of the problem.

Patricia Towal, director of counseling and career services at the University of the Virgin Islands, said that while students do come in for counseling, she wished there were more.

“A lot of students don’t understand what counseling can really do for them,” Towal said. ” I wish more students would seek out what they already paid for and it’s one of the few times you’ll get free counseling in your life.”

Baumann also agreed that students in their final semester need that extra counseling to cope with their difficulties.

“This is the time people should be talking to counselors about life especially if you’ve never been stressed like this before,” Baumann said.

Many students, however, admit that they do not seek counseling in their final year and that is mostly because they handle the feelings of stress and anxiety on their own.

Deidre Dubois, senior psychology major at the university, said that rather than see a counselor, she took a day off.

“I was feeling very overwhelmed,” Dubois said. ” I did not go to class and I did not attend my internship for a week either. I was told to relax before I broke down.”

Dubois also said that between school, her daughter, and other personal struggles, she felt  like jumping off of a cliff.

Another psychology senior, Shanah Bannis, also didn’t see a counselor to handle her stress.

“I just got over it. I’m not at the point where I have breakdowns anymore,” Bannis said. “I used to freak out over not failing and I just went numb to it.”

However, despite the call for counseling, Aletha Baumann felt that many of the students were not at clinical levels of depression and anxiety, which is why there are very few studies on the topic.

According to Baumann, many students often use the word “depressed” as a way to express unfamiliar stress and sadness.

“The senior year of any program is really intense. You’ve got your internship, practicum, senior project, and all other classes you didn’t want to take,” Baumann said. ” Those extreme pressures can cause you to feel depressed, not clinically depressed, just very sad and overwhelmed.”

Towal agreed that many of the students appeared to show signs of stress rather than clinical depression or anxiety.

“For most graduates they don’t get that closure because even though their educational world has closed their professional world is beginning,” Towal said.”It’s actually ‘eustress,’ which is good stress, like starting a new job, or moving to a new place. It’s stressful because it’s new and there are a lot of decisions to make.”

“I think it’s that not knowing, that ‘what’s the best choice for me?’, ‘how can I optimize my money, time and effort to get the best degree I can?’ that causes stress because it’s open ended,” Towal said. “It is overwhelming because you have to live by your decision and the consequences.”

Where do you go from here?  Via Sexisoprano
Where do you go from here? Via Sexisoprano

However, while the students at the University of the Virgin Islands are overwhelmed, Baumann believes that they are the type of students that overcome easily.

“Students, particularly here, are very resilient,” Baumann said. “So, even when they say ‘This is it I’m not doing it,’ oftentimes what they need is just reassurance that they are on the right track and they can do it.”

With the help of great advisers and peers, the struggles of coursework and the nearing future become minuscule troubles.

If it weren’t for the constant reassurance and kind words from my professors I might have given into the pressures of my senior semester and crumbled.

Thanks to them I, and many of my peers, will not only be graduating in May, we will be evolving and becoming ready for the world after graduation.

Published in the Virgin Islands Daily News on Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Top 3 effective Study Habits


ST. THOMAS – Exam time is upon us, and so is the stress. Many students are not adept at the correct ways of studying. Although highly discouraged, many students prefer to “cram” the information the night or morning before their exam.

According to Marc Dussault in his article, “Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Cram to Study,” “cramming is pretty risky since it can cause quite a bit of stress.” He also says that repeatedly cramming can cause your health to be compromised.

Below are the top three study habits that will help students retain and recall much-needed information.

Studying Hard Image by © Randy Faris/Corbis
Studying Hard
Image by © Randy Faris/Corbis
  1. Study with a Friend – Studying with someone who has the same class as you, has its benefits. The two of you can exchange ideas and tips, so that remembering the material becomes easier. When there is a second opinion, the tough concepts usually become simpler. Another benefit of having someone else study with you is that both of you can teach each other the material so that you can explain them on your own, without books or notes.
  2. Use Flashcards – This is a simple straight forward way to remember information. It is especially effective for vocabulary, short definitions, and keywords. First, gather all that you need to know and write them on separate pieces of flashcard paper, or if you don’t have any, use printer or card stock paper. It can work just as well. Every time you have completed the pack, shuffle them to prevent you from only remembering them because of their place in the pack. Do not be afraid to pull them out at any time of the day. The extra study time would help a lot.
  3. Recite aloud – hearing yourself repeat the concepts and terms can help to retain in the material quickly. First, review the information straight aloud from your textbook or your notes a few times, four would be great. Next, remove the material from your eyesight, make sure that all of the papers are put away to avoid cheating the process. Then, recall the main points out loud. After you have done that, open your books to see if what you said was correct. Redo the entire process about three times, or until you can recite the work easily and without flaws.

Studying can be one of the most stressful things to do, especially during finals week, but it does not have to be. Using these study tips can make exam week a breeze. Do not forget to take breaks between subjects, or every half an hour. Either listen to some calming music or take a walk outside.

Happy studying!

Change isn’t Easy: International Student Challenges at UVI


ST. THOMAS – Liliana Moreno comes to the Center for Student Success for about three hours every day where she works as a Learning Assistant.

Some of her time at the CSS is spent tutoring students in Spanish, but when she is not patiently explaining to her tutees how to conjugate stem-changing verbs and other difficult concepts in Spanish, she sits at a table by herself catching up on her assignments. She barely converses with the other learning assistants or other students inside the CSS. She would politely smile, though, and return a greeting, but she would hardly initiate a conversation.

At the end of her shift, she folds her laptop, signs out her hours, leaves the center and heads for her next destination.

More than a year ago, Liliana Moreno, a Mexican exchange student, left her Universidad Internacional located in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico and headed for the University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas campus. Her friend, who attended UVI but has since returned to his native Mexico, told her about the university and relayed the wonderful experiences he had on the island.

“He loved the food, the language wasn’t a problem because he speaks English very well and he told me it was a nice place,” Moreno said.

At the urging of her friend, Moreno left her hometown and flew almost 4,000 miles to the U.S. Virgin Islands. When her plane landed at the Cyril E. King Airport, the island was enveloped in darkness, except for airport lights and streetlights.

“When I first came, I saw the island; it was a little different than I thought,” Moreno said. “When I saw it, it was so small and I thought that I was in the middle of nowhere, nobody lived here and I had to go back home.”

Moreno managed to settle into her college dorm, but she has had to grapple with several challenges: the language barrier, the culture, the food and the attitude of the locals.

“When I came here, I couldn’t speak or understand one word of English. It was very difficult for me. I thought I would have to drop every class,” Moreno said.

After three semesters of taking English classes, Moreno has improved in speaking English but she now faces the challenge of writing the language.

She is still not fluent in English and that has hampered her participation in class.

“Even if I understand and want to say something, I don’t know how to say it,” Moreno said. “It takes time for me to formulate a thought and by the time I want to say it, it’s time to move on to another subject. I usually stay quiet in the class and if I have a friend in the class, I go to them for help and ask them to explain to me what the professor said in class.”

St. Thomas Campus entrance sign. File photo from UVI’s website
St. Thomas Campus entrance sign.
File photo from UVI’s website

Even outside of the classroom, Moreno has difficulty talking with her peers.

“I want to be in conversations, but people talk fast. By the time I finish my sentence, people are on another topic,” she said.

The manner of English speakers is also baffling to Moreno.

“English and Spanish speakers speak differently,” she said. “We speak with more passion; English speakers are less passionate. When we laugh, we say ‘ha, ha, ha,’ but English speakers say LOL. Or if they think they’re laughing a lot, they write LMAO. In my culture, if you say something, it shows.”

Moreno faces another conundrum – the attitude of local students.

“I have a problem with the people; I don’t understand how they act sometimes. For example, they say yes when they mean no. I don’t understand that. In Mexico, when we say no, we mean no,” she said. “Another thing is that sometimes students speak to me, we have a good conversation, and then for the next few days, they don’t speak to me. I see them in the hallway and when I say hello to them, they look at me strangely. I don’t understand that.”

As for the food, Moreno misses her spicy gastronomical delights.

“The food tastes different and at first, I didn’t enjoy it. I am able to eat it now, but not a lot like other people. Nothing is spicy, nothing is lemon; I feel like something is missing from it,” she said.

Moreno is one of the 120 international students who are enrolled at UVI and who also face challenges on campus. Even students from other neighboring Caribbean islands have expressed some issues that they face. Candace Samuel, a Kittitian, is one such student.

“As international students, we have to wait for a whole year to get approval to work on campus and then we have to wait to be processed by Social Security,” she said. “When I was approached by the Science Department to be a peer instructor for Science 100, I readily agreed and when I began the employment process, it appeared that Mary Myers, program specialist II counseling and placement wasn’t very receptive about having international students work on campus. However, I went through the process and now I’m employed.”

Her sentiments were echoed by another Kittitian student, Andrea Wilson.

“Students have to wait a year before they can get a job on campus and even when they are enrolled for a year, they still can’t source an on-campus job. Also, it’s very seldom that international students get selected for jobs at the Access and Enrollment office or the library; they mostly get jobs as RAs,” she said.

South Dorm is one of several residence halls on the St. Thomas campus. File photo from UVI’s website.
South Dorm is one of several residence halls on the St. Thomas campus.
File photo from UVI’s website.

Another gripe for Samuel is that there are not enough scholarships for international students.

“Some of the scholarships don’t apply to us. Most of them are for permanent residents or U.S. citizens. I think UVI can offer more scholarships for international students,” she said.

Lack of communication is an issue for Lyncia Dore, a student from St. Kitts who is majoring in education.

“You have to go up and down to get information. It’s like a back and forth when you’re trying to find out information. You go to one office that you think should have the information you’re looking for, they send you to another office and that office refers you to the office you’ve already been to. Information is not readily available. I think they need an office to deal with the affairs of international students,” she said.

Unlike some universities on the mainland that have an Office of International Affairs that helps international students to adjust to their new environment and fosters a vibrant international community, UVI has a Coordinator of International Services. Barbara Todman holds that position on the St. Thomas campus.

Todman confirmed that international students are required to wait for one year before they can be hired on campus by the Placement Office. She said, however, that although not all divisions hire international students, there are some departments that do hire them.

“Whenever students come to me for help seeking employment, I send them to offices that do hire them, like the President’s Office, the Office of the Provost, Accounting, Reichhold Center and the Associate Vice President of Administration and Finance,” Todman said. “Some students are here for three or four years and they haven’t found work since they applied. So I tell them to go to speak with those employers, they set up with Ms. Myers in the Placement Office and she puts the paperwork through.”

Mary Myers holds the position of Program Specialist II Counseling and Placement Provost’s Office. Calls to her office were not returned.

International students cannot get paid out of federal funds, but if they are hired by a department on campus, that department must have disposable income to pay them, Todman said.

According to Todman, international students have other employment options, such as Optional Practical Training.

“They can do OPT for 12 months here in the Virgin Islands or on the mainland after they graduate,” she said.

The exact number of international students enrolled at UVI was not available. Todman recalls that in January, she processed about 123 international students on the St. Thomas campus alone.

Star-Studded Panel Encourages UVI Community to Show More Pride for Their School


Left to Right Emmanuel Lewis, Shanti Das, Thomas Dortch, Tracy Broughton, Demetria McKinney involved in panel discussion at Legacy Lecture Series at UVI Sports and Fitness Center, St Thomas Campus
Left to Right: Emmanuel Lewis, Shanti Das, Thomas Dortch, Tracy Broughton, Demetria McKinney involved in panel discussion at Legacy Lecture Series at UVI Sports and Fitness Center, St Thomas Campus

ST. THOMAS – The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) community, engaged in eye-opening discussions with African American entertainment leaders, philanthropists and entrepreneurs on Thursday 23rd April at the Sports and Fitness Center.

The Andrew Young Emerging Leaders Legacy Lecture series 2015 was held for the first time at the University of the Virgin Islands in April 2015.

The event held under the theme: “Building dreams through leadership,” featured presentations from Tracy Broughton, Ms. America 2011; Thomas W. Dortch, Jr. Founder & Chairman, NBCA Hall of Fame; Demetria McKinney, Actress and Singer; Emmanuel Lewis Actor and Philanthropist; Shanti Das, The Hip Hop Professional.

The lecture series are held annually at a chosen Historically Black College and University (HBCU). The event, organized by the National Black College Alumni (NBCA) Hall of Fame and the UVI Division of Students Affairs, was held at UVI to celebrate the success of Ms. Elisa Thomas, the first Miss UVI to capture the NBCA Hall of Fame title.

Thomas Dortch, founder and chairman of the NBCA Hall of fame said that the journey to the Virgin islands is expensive, but it is important to include UVI in the HBCU family. He encouraged the students present to be more proactive, seek out opportunities and demand more from their leaders and administrators.

Dortch also shared his experience as a successful entrepreneur and urged students to pursue a degree in career areas that are in demand. He said while it is important to follow your dreams, students should consider degrees in Technology and Science. He urged the students to take control of their destiny.

Photo Credit: Dale Morton Front View of crowd including Student Government Association Leaders at Legacy Lecture Series, UVI Sports and Fitness Center
Photo Credit: Dale Morton
Front View of crowd including Student Government Association Leaders at Legacy Lecture Series, UVI Sports and Fitness Center

Ms. America 2011, Tracy Broughton encouraged the students present to organize more social activities and not fixate on what the school does not have. She encouraged the students to utilize what the university currently has even if it’s just a basketball team.

The panelists mainly answered student questions ranging from funding cut for HBCUs, social media, African Americans in corporate America and the entertainment industry. They also shared personal struggles, successes, and genuine words of encouragement to the students.

Broughton, used her experiences as a disabled female to encourage the audience to not be defined by their current situation. She shared personal stories about rape, disability, homelessness, and kidnapping. She credits these experiences as the worst experiences in her life and attributes them to her success today.

Photo Credit: Dale Morton  Members of the student government association and other student leaders participating in private panel discussion at UVI Sports and Fitness Commuter Longue, St Thomas Campus, USVI.
Photo Credit: Dale Morton
Members of the student government association and other student leaders participating in private panel discussion at UVI Sports and Fitness Commuter Longue, St Thomas Campus, USVI.

Commonly known for his role in ABC’s sitcom Family Matters, Emmanuel Lewis, dressed in a blue UVI Pride Day t-shirt and a St. Thomas, USVI straw hat, expressed his love for the Virgin Islands. He described St Thomas as his home away from home. He said he could not wait to enjoy a home cooked meal from ‘roun de field’.

The lecture series aims to inspire and encourage African American students to reach their full potential. The night’s discussion included topics such as Black Lives Matters, Credit Worthiness and Job Possibilities, Voting & Civil Rights, Domestic Violence, Lyrics being used by recording artists and entertainers, Social media and how it impacts one’s professional and personal future.

The event included a question and answer section moderated by UVI alumni, Rick Grant.

A Long Way From Home: International Students at U.V.I


ST. THOMAS – The international students and the diversity they bring, lend quite a bit to the melting pot of the University of the Virgin Islands’ population. At UVI the population comprises American students, other Caribbean students and a small mixture of students from foreign countries. These students play an influential role in aspects of the university experience. Their impact extends to the economic, cultural and educational spheres.

Among other things, international students weigh heavily on the economic scale. They are required to pay tuition and other fees which are generally higher, than for resident students. In some instances, they are required to rent apartments, which in effect requires that they purchase food, buy groceries and take transportation to and from school and other places.

Aside from academia, students require some level of entertainment which oftentimes leads them to visit popular sites around the island, ‘hang out’ and spend money. To some extent, international students merit the same value as tourists. To say the least, they can be considered as tourists on an extended stay.

With various languages such as English, Spanish, French and others, international students bring a variety of slangs, phrases and dialects. Their unique languages encourage the bilingual spirit of some students who are interested in adopting the language of another country.

The overall varying lifestyle of international students introduces a new dimension to other students. Their differences in fashion, food preferences, norms and customs are all intertwined as they share the same temporary home.

The myriad of religious beliefs brought by international students help to open other student’s minds to what lies beyond their own culture. In essence, international students bring to the university a new way of life, a different culture.

An international student on the St. Thomas campus "hanging out" and enjoying island life.
An international student on the St. Thomas campus “hanging out” and enjoying island life. (photo credit: Liliana Morenoreyes)

Although all students come to UVI with the common goal of learning, international students bring with them a variety of different learning techniques which they are able to share. Similarly, students engaging in foreign languages can seek the assistance of international students who possess these languages as their first language. Peer tutoring is an asset to any learning institution as it is understood that while students may not grasp concepts taught by their professors, it is sometimes easier to understand material explained by a peer. Also, international students are known to excel even beyond their academic disciplines. Their involvement in a number of extracurricular activities helps them to stand out among other students.

It is fair to claim that international students serve an important role among the general UVI student population. It is understood that due to their different backgrounds, they possess a host of differences compared to resident students. Thus, when all the international students, American, other Caribbean and a small mixture of others are combined with the resident students, it produces a melting pot, a diverse university.

Eight prepare to participate in The Washington Center internship program this summer.


twcST. THOMAS – Eight students at the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) are currently preparing to spend their entire summer in Washington D.C.

The students will be participating in The Washington Center (TWC) Internship Program commencing May 27 until Aug. 7.

The 10-week program includes an internship, networking opportunities, leadership forums, academic course, and civic engagement programs. The students will also receive academic credits for their participation in the program.

Students will be immersed in the corporate and civic culture of Washington D.C.

The successful candidates were chosen to represent UVI from a pool of 15 applicants including graduate students.

TWC liason, Leslyn Tonge, said choosing the eight students was a difficult task.

Tonge said that the process began as early as February in order to meet the priority deadline. According to Tonge, the recruitment process included email blasts, class visits, presentations, workshops and one on one conversations. UVI also engaged a representative from TWC to meet with students and introduce them to the program.

Tonge said that UVI’s selection criteria included a 3.0 or more GPA and second semester sophomore and upper class-men.

A five-member committee chose the final eight participants by looking at the quality of the essays, recommendation letters, interest statements and professional statements submitted by the students.

The total cost for the university’s participation in the program exceeds $100,000. However, the school is confident that the students will benefit from the program.

UVI’s participation is made possible through funding from the Virgin Islands’ Legislature.

Provost Camille McKayle says that the investment is worthwhile. She said that UVI’s participation is in line with the university’s commitment to provide various educational experiences for students, outside of the UVI classroom.

“One of the things that we have really been trying to focus on is getting students different experiences. [We want students to] use UVI as a pathway to anywhere they want to go and not to think of education as just within the classrooms at UVI, but as varying sets of experiences,”McKayle said.

Provost McKayle hopes that students’ participation in these experiences will allow them to have different perspectives on the world of work. She also noted that participation in the TWC program, “enhances intellectual activity and conversation on campus.”

McKayle expects that the students will be organized, professional and ambassadors for the Virgin Islands. She encouraged the students to be the best all the time.

The eight participants include Music and Business major, Chyrstal Duncan, Communications major, Zoe Walker, Accounting major Alphea Brown and Tayla-Marie Manners, Criminal Justice Majors Depa Punjabe and Alana Carbon, Communications and English major Patrice Reneé Harris, and graduate student Lorenzo Donastorg.

Sophomore accounting major Alphea Brown says that she is pleased to have been selected. Browne said she is particularly “looking forward to learning new skills, expanding her network and gaining new opportunities.”

Communications major on St Croix, Zoe Walker, said that she is excited to participate in the program. She says she is looking forward to gaining work experience in Human Resource Management. “I am really looking forward to networking, because UVI does not offer Human Resource Management as a major. This internship will give me the experience I need to land a job in Human Resource Management after I leave UVI,” Walker said.

Walker is currently researching and acquainting herself with the mission, vision and culture of her internship site.
Presently, the university is finalizing travel arrangements and stipends, and approving the students’ academic program. The students are confirming internship and housing placements.

Upon their return from the summer internship program, the students will present their experience to the board of trustees.
This year marks the third year that the UVI has participated in the program. Each year the program has grown with an increasing numbers of applications from the university.

Truth to Power: My Time in Journalism


ST. THOMAS – In his 1839 play, “Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy,” the English writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton first coined the phrase “… The pen is mightier than the sword.”

More than a century and a half later, the idea that the written word could be stronger than any force of aggression or intimidation remains both undeniably true and immensely important. It is a belief that has taken hold across all of humanity regardless of borders such as nations, culture or language.

It is also an ideal whose usage – and indeed misuse – has shaped the course of history time and again, and will continue to play a guiding role for mankind as we collectively move into this new age of uncertainty.

Thanks to the astounding advancements in technology, the world is now more connected than ever before, and events that were once unknown or kept far at a distance from us can be brought to the attention of the entire world.

However, with all the potential for good that this can generate, there is an equal, terrible potential for harm; for we are indeed more connected through news as a species than we have ever been, but that same news also arguably less trustworthy that it has ever been too.

To easily have half-truths and yellow journalism enflamed opinions and stirred outrage and passion in the hearts of many, only to ruin the lives and reputations of innocent people by the time their falsehoods are exposed to the world.

In this time of both journalistic greatness and uncertainty, institutions such as the UVI Voice and UVI’s Communications classes are more important that they have ever been before.

Through my experiences in my Com 200 class, I learned how to do research, draft articles and write for an audience in a professional and – most importantly for news – impartial manner.

My time as a writer and reporter for the UVI Voice helped me even more giving me real, hands-on experience in working for a newspaper company in an educational and familiar environment. These two experiences have helped me immensely, and as we move towards a future where the power to become a reporter and change the world is at everyone’s fingertips, it’s important that we have a place that can instruct us and teach us about the enormous responsibility that comes with that power.

We live in a world where pen being mightier than the sword is not only a clever adage but the law, and in this world, each and every one of us has the power to change the world.

SGA Election Results Announced


ST. THOMAS – The results of the Student Government Association elections have been announced.

A week after the student body on the St. Thomas campus went to the polls to vote for the candidates of their choice, the SGA Elections Committee published the results in a general campus email on Wednesday morning.

According to the correspondence, the following students have been elected to serve as SGA officers for the upcoming academic school year 2015-2016:

President-elect: Yohance Henley
Vice President-elect: Cashkim Bussue
Treasurer-elect: Tonya Greene
Senior Senator-elects: Tonecia Rogers and Michelle Malone
Junior Senator-elects: Lisa-Marie Hodge and DeWein Pelle
Sophmore Senator-elects: Denine Hurtault and Kaunda Williams

(not pictured below: Michelle Malone and Kaunda Williams)

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In an interview with the UVI Voice, Rogers thanked those who supported her and said she is honored to serve in her new capacity for the seniors’ benefit.

“It’s an opportunity that I won’t take lightly,” Rogers said.

For his part, Pelle thanked his constituents, support group, and the UVI community.  He promised to “wholeheartedly dedicate my time and productivity in attempting to eradicate the grievances of the student body. We are all scintilla of the adept Virgin Islands environment. I intend to catapult our academic atmosphere by reintroducing and rebranding of academic programs such as assistance learning and expanding UVI outreach programs at the university to craft a congenial and altruistic relationship with the VI community.”

Greene said it is a wonderful feeling that the students entrusted their confidence in her to have her work on their behalves.

“I want to thank the students for giving me an opportunity to serve on the SGA,” she said.

The other elected members could not be reached for comment.

Students also voted on the referendum question: Do you think the Student Government Association members should receive adequate compensation each semester?  A total of 248 students voted “yes,” while 78 indicated that they were not in favor of SGA members getting paid, according to the Elections Committee.

The day following the elections, Director of Student Activities Leon Lafond notified the student body via email that the results “have been postponed to accommodate some write-in candidates who have to be certified by the Access and Enrollment Services in order to declare their candidacy.”

Then, four days later, Lafond issued another e-mail to inform students of a further delay in announcing the outcome.  “On behalf of the SGA Elections & Grievance Committees, there have been some inquiries about the official results for the 2015 Student Governance and Leadership elections,” the email read. I regret to inform you that the announcement has to be postponed due to unfortunate circumstances. At this present time, there are some grievances filed that need to be addressed accordingly.”

Meanwhile, the Student Representative to the Board of Trustees has not yet been named as the elections committee is awaiting the results from the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix.

The swearing-in ceremony for the SGA is scheduled for the fall semester.  No date has yet to be set.

Student Entrepreneurs at UVI


ST. THOMAS – Yentyl and Khalarni wake up each day enthused about their new business. Their hectic 18-hour days begins at 6 a.m. Throughout the day, they bounce between jobs, assignments, classes, school organizations, and their new business, leaving little time for a social life. or sleep.

Left: Khalarni Rivers, Right: Yentyl Levet at The Mix on the waterfront infront of BurgerMaxx, downtown Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas USVI. Photo Credit: Yentyl Levet
Left: Khalarni Rivers, Right: Yentyl Levet at The Mix on the waterfront infront of BurgerMaxx, downtown Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas USVI.
Photo Credit: Yentyl Levet

At this time of the semester, many students at the University of the Virgin Islands are worrying about final projects, research papers, carnival celebrations and senior year.

The same cannot be said of 21-year-old Yentyl Levet and 22-year-old Kharlani Rivers. These two students are not ordinary UVI juniors. Yentyl and Khalarni are busy running their own business – The Mix.

The Mix is a recently opened coffee stand located in front of Burger Maxx on the Charlotte Amalie waterfront. The Mix offers frozen and hot organic coffee.

Ultimately, Levet and Rivers wish to turn the coffee stand into a full-blown business by 2016.
Kharlani decided to open The Mix to inspire more Virgin Islanders to become entrepreneurs.

Khalarni said, “As a young Virgin Island male, I realized there weren’t many black locally owned businesses and I wanted to change that.”

The idea to open The Mix began about six months prior to the launch of the business and came as a result for the need to do something greater for themselves and their community.

Establishing this business was also a means to provide funding for their youth initiative- TEHO, To Each His Own- a community project designed to help young adults reach their full potential. Opening The Mix meant more than giving up their social lives; Rivers is now taking fewer credits in order to run the business daily.

DJ Temp playing at SGA's Back to school party at UVI Sports at Fitness Center, January 2015.  Photo Credit: Michael McFarlane
DJ Temp playing at SGA’s Back to school party at UVI Sports at Fitness Center, January 2015.
Photo Credit: Michael McFarlane

Desperate for opportunities and exposure, some students such as Michael McFarlane and Branford Parker did not have to reduce their course load, but gave up video games in their pursuit of becoming business practitioners.

Parker, a freelance photographer and videographer, and McFarlane, a radio personality and disc jockey, are rising Communication majors at UVI.

Both students said that at first they had to provide their services for free to make a name at the university.

While most of their work is freelance, it is their dream one day to open their own companies, but for now, they use the money made from small gigs to fund their schooling.

McFarlane, DJ Temp, plays regularly at nightclubs around St. Thomas and hopes one day to be on the poster for every party. McFarlane believes that he is getting closer to his goal as his weekends are becoming a lot busier.

Malisa Ragnauth.  Owner of Caribbean Imports, Tortola, British Virgin Islands Photo Credit: Malisa Ragnauth
Malisa Ragnauth.
Owner of Caribbean Imports, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Photo Credit: Malisa Ragnauth

For many British Virgin Islands students at UVI, like Malisa Ragnauth, their weekends usually include a commute home via the ferry every Friday.

However, Ragnauth is not journeying home just to meet with friends and family. The graduating accounting senior is the owner of her own business, Caribbean Imports, based in Tortola.

Ragnauth said it is not easy commuting every weekend to Tortola but her business depends on her physical presence. For Malisa, one of her greatest regrets is not being physically present to receive customer feedback.

Ragnauth’s business has been in existence for the past two years and was created at first when her parents, originally from Guyana, were not able to find Guyanese products in Tortola.

Malisa’s company imports fresh seafood, spices, seasoning, groceries and clothing from Trinidad and Guyana.

Malisa said she wanted to fill the void left by supermarkets offering American products only.

Kharlani, Yentyl, Branford, Michael and Malisa are not the only students at UVI working to achieve their goals of becoming business entrepreneurs.

The culture of entrepreneurship is being cultivated by the school’s annual 13-D competition. Participants in the program stand to win as much as $30,000 in prizes for their business ideas.

UVI 13D Coordinator, Glen Metts said “This year the competition started out with approximately 20 teams in the fall. The first competitive round was held on March 20th, which declares 6 finalist teams to compete on April 24th,” Metts said. “The competition is very exciting and the remaining participants will present their business ideas to a panel of judges.”

Sexual Assault Awareness Month at UVI


ST.THOMAS – On Wednesday April 15, 2015 UVI students, under the supervision of Dahlia Stridiron, created a table to promote sexual awareness for the month of April. This activity was sponsored by the Counseling, Career, and Health Service Departments of UVI.

The St. Thomas Campus Cafeteria, decorated with t-shirts about sexual assault. (photo credit: Kiana John-Baptiste)

The students were able to create a “t-shirt” with their own sayings and quotes. These “t-shirts” were then posted in the cafeteria on a clothes line, displaying what the students wrote. Upon completing the t-shirt, each student was given a dark green ribbon for participation. There were also pamphlets and booklets about sexual assault awareness.

Shanaliz Natta, a sophomore stated, “In my point of view, the table had an array of information pertaining to sexual assault. I liked it because it was well decorated with the colors representing sexual assault, depicting that the volunteers were passionate about getting the message out there to men and women.”

Some shirts had simple quotes like “Do Not Touch” or “Leave me alone.” Others had quotations like “You have a hand. You don’t need me.” Some decided to write inspirational messages such as, “You are not alone” or “Get help, and we will believe you.”

This activity is one of many across the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 5 women are sexually abused. The research also stated that 1 in 59 men are raped in their lifetime.

Although many may not come forward, this horrendous act still occurs. It’s up to the people of the community to prevent this from happening and also console the victims if and when it does.

The students of UVI demonstrated sympathy and awareness about this subject.

College Without the Classroom: How Online and Video-Conference Classes at UVI Compare to Traditional Courses


ST. CROIX — It’s 4 o’clock on a Monday afternoon as Sarah Jagrup heads to her first class of the new semester. A brief glance at her schedule indicates she has Caribbean Literature in room 401 from 4-5:15 p.m. She is unaware that the class is a video conference course or that the professor is on St. Thomas as she enters the theater in the Evans Center Building.

She walks in to find the room in complete darkness and completely empty. Sarah double-checks the room and time on her schedule. Reassured, she turns on the lights and makes her way to the center of the room as she waits for her classmates and her professor to arrive.

Ten minutes pass and nothing happens. She is still alone in the largest classroom on campus. Sarah decides to investigate why no one is there and finds out that the class is video conference, so she heads to the library to get help from the IT department.

After a thorough investigation to determine which classroom the class is being held on in St. Thomas, the helpful IT technician connects Sarah with her class on St. Thomas.

When the connection goes through, she finds they have been conducting class without her for the last 30 minutes. She is the only student registered for the course on St. Croix while there are about 17 or 18 students on St. Thomas. A single person missing is easily overlooked.

Touch screen display which controls the video conference equipment.  (photo credit: uvi.edu)
Touchscreen display which controls video conference equipment.

Sarah goes through this tedious process of trying to connect with her professor and classmates on St. Thomas every Monday and Wednesday afternoon. She makes it a habit to contact IT before making her way to her class since she anticipates an endless list of issues with the equipment. She is at a total loss on how to operate the video conference equipment herself until six weeks into the semester, when an IT technician decides to show her how to operate the technology.

As an education major, Sarah has to have a certain amount of patience, but she confesses that after several days of dealing with lags, glitches, missing out on class time, and being overlooked, her patience was at an all-time low.

“It was horrible and disappointing to me. I was lost and really fed up with the course,” Sarah said. “I could not wait for it to be over.”

“I felt like the ugly duckling, and I was at a total disadvantage,” Sarah said. “It should not be that bad, but it is. The people on the other side just don’t understand our frustration.”

After such a horrible experience, Sarah developed an aversion to video conference classes, but she would soon realize that video conference and online classes are impossible to avoid at the University of the Virgin Islands, and in any case, it is a totally different experience when the professor is on St. Croix and the St. Croix students have the advantage.

Out of the roughly 330 classes currently being taught at UVI’s St. Croix campus – some of them repeated courses being taught by several professors or in different sections – 70 of them are video conference courses and 33 of them are online. Most of these courses are upper level courses and the professors are located on the St. Thomas campus. This means that about 31 percent of all classes being taught on the St. Croix campus are asynchronous upper level courses in which the student either never sees the professor or in which the professor is merely one of several faces on a screen.

Online and video conference courses do have their advantages because they allow students to have access to more classes and more professors than one campus provides. Online courses in particular can also be more convenient for commuter and non-traditional students who have busy lives and have a harder time making it to classes on a regular basis.

Despite the advantages, students and even some professors seem to prefer regular classes to online or video conference classes.

Dr. David Gould, an English professor, prefers teaching in the classroom to teaching online because in online classes there is “not enough face to face communication and online classes encourage plagiarism.”

The login page for the site used to connect to classes online. (Photo credit – Arige Shrouf)
The login page for the site used to connect to classes online.
(Photo credit – Arige Shrouf)

“I prefer regular classes in a single classroom in which I can interact with the professor and my classmates more effectively,” Corwin Commabatch, a junior majoring in business administration said. “But online classes represent a challenge that can be useful for when we graduate and we are on our own.”

According to Commabatch, online classes force students to be more responsible, to “learn to adjust and be professional” and they are more convenient because they allow him to work at his own pace.

Dr. Valerie Combie, a Master Professor of English, certified to teach online classes said, “I always prefer regular classes. I like the interaction and I can assist students more when they are present in real life.”

“In video conference classes, it is harder to engage with the students,” Dr. Gould said.

With about 88 percent of junior and senior level English courses, 85 percent of upper level communications courses, 58 percent of criminal justice courses, 50 percent of accounting courses and 35 percent of upper level psychology courses – just to name a few – currently being taught online or via video conference, UVI professors and students are no strangers to the varied class formats and most have their preferences.

Zohn Fleming, a sophomore speech communication and theater major said, “I like the video conference classes better because I get to hear a lot of different opinions from students on both or all three campuses. I wish more of my classes were video conference, but I don’t like online classes because I just keep forgetting to do the work.”

With asynchronous classes, it sometimes seems to be a case of “out of sight, out of mind.”

“The video conference class got to the point where I just did what I had to do and nothing more. I would sit in class and be on my phone or iPad the whole time because no one cared,” Sarah Jagrup said. “My interest was not there at all because there was a total disconnect and I was left out. I wished I had more access to my professor.”

“I can’t engage in an online class when the professor is on St. Thomas, but now that I am a senior, I just don’t care anymore,” Sarah said.

“I don’t think it’s fair for students on the remote campus,” Dr. Combie said.

Sophia Horsford, a junior majoring in criminal justice said, “the professors in St. Thomas are hard to get in contact with and if more of our classes were regular classes with just St. Croix, we would have no technical difficulties.”

I would prefer if more of my classes were regular/traditional classes because in class it’s more personal,” Olinger Augustin, a sophomore majoring in communications said. “You don’t have to yell over to the camera and you are more likely to be remembered.”

Shanah Bannis, a senior psychology major said, “I prefer regular classes for the interaction and online classes for the convenience, but in video conference courses is it not easy to engage both sides.”

Despite the challenges of asynchronous courses, they play a crucial role in our campus and, when the technology works and the students are kept engaged, these courses can be effective and provide the campus with a useful resource to connect with not only St. Thomas but St. John as well. Without video conference and online courses, there would be over 100 fewer classes at UVI and taking the necessary classes would be an even greater challenge for students trying to graduate in a timely manner.

Video conference classroom in the St. John Academic Center, allowing students to connect with the two main UVI campuses.  (photo credit: uvi.edu)
Video conference classroom in the St. John Academic Center, allowing students to connect with the two main UVI campuses.
(photo credit: uvi.edu)

“I actually like VC classes,” Dr. Gillian Royes, a communications professor said. “It can be fun with small classes where the students on both campuses get to discuss issues together.”

“Providing video-conferencing and on-line courses provides a service to those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to matriculate,” Nancy W. Morgan, a professor of education, said. “With a motivated student, is not ‘something’ better than ‘nothing’?”

For students like Sarah Jagrup who have had horrible experiences with online or video conference classes, that motivation is hard to come by or maintain.

“At the end of the day,” Sarah said, “you just have to suck it up and get used to it because more and more of your classes are going to be online or video conference.”


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