All posts by Patrice Renee Harris

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

PATRICE RENEE HARRIS │

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.

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

PATRICE RENEE` HARRIS |

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.

Student Entrepreneurs at UVI

PATRICE RENEE’ HARRIS |

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.”

UVI Anticipates Successful Afternoon On The Green 2015

Patrice Harris |

ST. THOMAS — The University of the Virgin Islands is set to host the 26th edition of Afternoon on the Green on Sunday March 15, on the Herman E. Moore Golf Course, St. Thomas Campus. UVI is inviting the community to partake in food, family fun and live entertainment. The event commences at noon to 5 p.m. and will be held under the theme “It’s a Cultural Scene at Afternoon on the Green.”
atogLiza Margolis, UVI senior coordinator of donor relations and special events said that Afternoon on the Green is a one-of-a-kind fun event that changes every year. Proceeds from the annual event fund scholarships for UVI students.

Prizes for this year’s cook-off competition include round-trip tickets to Puerto Rico, dinner for four provided by Passion Fruit Chefs and two round-trip tickets to St. Croix. Prizes will also be awarded to cooks in each category, which include pastries and sweets, soups, native drinks, vegetables/casseroles, main dishes/meats/poultry, seafood, and breads.

Entertainment will be provided by Cool Session, Flip Switch, Flambo Combo, the EBO Steel Owls, the Mungo Niles Cultural Dancers and the Cherubim Wesleyan Methodist Dancers. In the Kid’s Village, there will be fun games, relay races, kick ball, hula hoops, tug of war and bounce houses. There will also be a mini parade of 25 vintage Volkswagens and Mustangs that will make a grand entrance on the green.

The Afternoon on the Green is sponsored by West Indian Company Limited, First Bank, St. Thomas Federal Credit Union, the VI Housing Authority – Youth Build, VI Waste Management Authority, Thrive Chiropractic, Pro Solar, VI Auto Club, MSI, Merchants Bank, Paint Depot, the West Indies Company, Choice Communications, Seaborne Airlines and 104.3 The Buzz.

UVI Contracts New Vendor for Dining Pavilion

PATRICE RENEE HARRIS |

cafeteria
New furniture at UVI Cafeteria Photo Credit: Patrice Harris

ST. THOMAS — Responding to concerns and outcry from students for an improvement in the dining experience at the University of the Virgin Islands St. Thomas Campus, the university contracted Goddard Catering Group (GCG) as the new vendor in January 2015.

The five-year contract with GCG , which commenced in spring 2015, replaced L’ettoile Catering, which served the university for nearly a decade.

Housing and dining services supervisor at UVI, Sean Georges, said “the university received bids from four vendors and were impressed with the plans and presentation by GCG.”

Georges also said that the new cafeteria is a brand new style of dining.

The new vendor has implemented massive changes since assuming its role in January 2015. These changes include: All-you-can-eat buffets from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, and the installation of new furniture and healthier meal options for students. Another newly implemented change is that students are no longer allowed to remove food from the dining pavilion.

According to a statement on the company’s website last September, GCG intends to improve “student nutrition and meal plans as well as the dining area by providing unique, innovative, cost-effective concepts that would provide the students with a variety of meal options with flexible pricing and meal times to accommodate their busy schedules.”

General Manager Jahmal Dyer said the dining pavilion is not complete. Other changes to be made include the installation of air conditioning, a sound system, touch screen monitors to display daily menus and a wider variety of menu choices.

Dyer added that the company is currently searching for another chef to help implement a greater selection of special diet meal options and cultural days including Oriental Day.

Secondary education senior Kimberly Donovan said that she likes the new cafeteria. She said that the staff is friendly, the décor is welcoming and the food has improved significantly.

While students have lodged complaints and provided suggestions on how service at the new cafeteria can be further improved, the overall feedback on the new dining pavilion has been positive.

The award winning company supplies food to US Airways, United Airlines, Continental Airways, Delta Airlines and Net Jets. GCG is also the proprietor of Delly Deck on St. Thomas.

GCG is based in Latin America and the Caribbean and owns restaurants in the Virgin Islands.