Featured Image: The official Roots club logo. (Courtesy of Nosakhere Williams, Roots president)
Alicia Taylor |
ST. CROIX – This year, UVI students sought to enhance student creativity in a way that would allow students to exhort their feelings in a positive manner. Thus is how UVI’s new poetry club, Roots, was formed.
Roots, originally named University Poetry, is aimed to allow students to root themselves into multiple attributes that characterize poetry such as strength, tranquility, compassion and freedom.
“We want to give college students the chance to express themselves through lyrics and poetry,” said Nosakhere Williams, a sophomore Information Systems and Technology major and the founder of Roots. “We want students to engage and interact with our community while allowing students to gain knowledge over various types of poetry.”
Featured Image: Theron and Timothy Thomas pose with UVI students outside of the WUVI campus radio station. (Photo courtesy of Shahim Skeete)
Nathalie Trow-McDonald |
St. Thomas native born performing artists, R. City, participated in an interview yesterday at WUVI, the student-run radio station at the University of the Virgin Islands.
Brothers, Timothy and Theron, spent about half an hour being interviewed by Shahim “Jay” Skeete, WUVI Production Manager, and D’Ajahni Estrada-Petersen, WUVI Public Relations Manager.
R. City has a history of supporting the local student radio station. They have participated in live interviews before as well as their father and producer, Kiebo Thomas.
The artists are currently on break from touring with Maroon 5 and returned home to be the first to receive the keys to the territory from Governor Kenneth Mapp. Not only did they receive the keys, but September 27, 2016, was announced as official R. City Day to commemorate their many accomplishments in the music industry and for serving as both role models and goodwill ambassadors for the territory
During the live interview, several UVI students who were present to meet the local stars were sharing the interview through Facebook Live. The brothers addressed callers to the station and the Facebook viewership to answer questions such as: “When will you return to Dallas?” or “Would you rather have [student] housing be renamed after you or keep the key [to the territory]?” Continue reading R. City Visits WUVI, Campus Radio Station→
Featured Image: Basket of roses that attendees tossed into the ocean in honor of 2016 murder victims.
Corliss Smithen |
ST. THOMAS – A small crowd converged at Emancipation Garden Sunday afternoon to celebrate the lives of their murdered loved ones during a somber and poignant ceremony to mark National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims, which was jointly organized by the Victim Services Unit of the Department of Justice and the Family Resource Center.
During the event, two survivors of victims – Kimesha Wade, who lost her fiancé three years ago and Aloma Blake, whose son was violently killed about 10 years ago – reflected on the lives of their loved ones.
Wade told those in attendance of the struggles she faces as a single parent raising her son alone after his father, Andre Christian, Jr., was killed on Sept. 28, 2013.
“Being a single mother has changed my life,” Wade said. “It has tested my physical and emotional strength, my ability to manage my time and personal life… As a single mother, I bear the weight of making ends meet on one salary to try and equal the second income his father would have brought in.”
Wade said she feels proud, though, when she is able to relax with her son, watch his favorite television shows with him and see his comfort in her.
“My son is my pride and joy, my heart, my soul and my world, and even though this job is every bit as gratifying as it is exhausting, it made me see how much of a strong, independent and responsible person I am,” she said.
Wade also vowed that these streets will not take a hold of her son. “I am breaking the cycle and I am raising our next doctor, lawyer, or aero-engineer. I am 100% vested in my son’s success; he will be someone great,” she concluded. Continue reading Murder Victims Remembered→
ST. THOMAS – He sauntered aimlessly into the classroom, ten minutes after the bell had rung, with his back stooped as if belabored by the small backpack. He shuffled to his desk, noisily pulled out a chair and slumped down with a sigh. His bag dropped with a thud on the floor.
Taking a cursory glance in front of him, he noticed the notes scrawled across the blackboard. Looking around the room, he quickly observed that his classmates were engaged in their classwork. Without even bothering to take his copy book from his bag, Jahlil, whose name like the others below have been changed, propped his head in the crook of his arm on the desk and closed his eyes for the entire session.
When the bell rang to signal the end of the class period, Jahlil lifted his head from the desk, yawned, stretched, rubbed the sleep from his eyes, picked up his bag from the floor, and left the room, as if in a daze.
“He’s like this most days,” his history teacher said. “He hardly does any work, but I continue to encourage him.”
Jahlil, 19, is just one of many students who appear to have little or no interest in academics. His school records show that he is failing all of his courses. Four other students who were interviewed are not faring any better. Brent, 17, is in ninth grade – for the third time. He thinks that school is a waste of time for him. He has no plans to graduate.
“School is boring,” Brent said. “I am going to drop out of school soon, get a job and get my own apartment. I’ve already discussed it with my mother and she agrees.”
Feature Photo Caption: Ryan Shaw ready to take on the new academic year and next, the world. (Photo taken on St. Thomas courtesy of Adeola Adelekan, Orientation Leader)
By Alicia Taylor and Nathalie Trow-McDonald
Albert A. Sheen- St. Croix campus new student orientation island tour, August 20, at Point Udall. (Courtesy of Catey Mendoza, a National Student Exchange student from Alaska)
Albert A. Sheen – St. Croix Campus Orientation: Perspectives of An Exchange Student
Attending UVI is the beginning of our flight towards success. With the help of the orientation staff and student leaders, we were introduced to the flight attendants and captains that will assist in our navigation throughout the journey we call college.
Throughout our flight journey at UVI, we were instructed on safety precautions and instruments we can utilize to assist us. We were educated about campus security, dating and violence, sexual assault and physical and mental health concerns. Through counseling and health services, RAVE and a variety of other departments on campus, students can be reassured that the flight they are traveling on is a safe one.
The theme for orientation on the Albert A. Sheen campus on St. Croix was “Navigating Your Path to Academic Success,” hence all the flight metaphors.
Being a National Student Exchange (NSE) student, the Virgin Islands was an unknown territory waiting to be revealed to me. Attending orientation allowed me the opportunity to experience the university and the culture of St. Croix first hand.
The orientation staff and faculty made it their priority to make sure each student either learned or was reminded of the heritage of St. Croix and the Virgin Islands. Meals were prepared with a variety of foods local to the Caribbean, including the introduction of two local food trucks for students to try at lunch.
The St. Croix campus offered orientation students to take part in a movie night at the Caribbean Cinema, an island tour, bowling at Ten Pins and snorkeling lessons.
Of all the organized activities and events, the New Student Convocation and Buccaneer Welcome Reception was my favorite. Specifically, President Hall’s address to the students.
“He was engaging, relatable and genuinely cared about each of us individually,” said Cassie (Cassandra) Glodowski, a NSE student from Wisconsin. “He didn’t just see us as a statistic, but rather as a student of UVI.”
After walking the stage and being bestowed the medal, I felt like an official member of the Buccaneer community. UVI is proud of each and every student, whether they are here for a semester or five years. The bond created here is unbreakable and each individual of this community will assist in navigating you towards the path of academic success.
Volunteers repaint the kiosk information center as part of Pride Week activities.
Olinger Augustin |
ST. CROIX – Students, faculty, and staff met on Monday, March 28 to provide a day of service on the Albert A. Sheen campus by sprucing up the kiosk information center.
As part of the university’s annual Pride Week, the UVI community gathered to provide community service on the campus itself.
Student Activities’ Hedda Finch-Simpson noted, “Often times we tend to go off campus to provide community service, but this time we decided to bring it to the actual campus to get students excited about school pride.” Continue reading UVI PRIDE DAY OF SERVICE→
ST. THOMAS, VI- Forecasting an imminent graduation season at the end of this semester, UVI students are proud to have weathered the storm.
From ensuring that they have undertaken all their required courses to working feverishly to ensure all passes, trailing their academic advisers to seek advice for a smooth transition from university life to their career path, seniors are experiencing a nerve-wracking yet thrilling semester.
In speaking with Tayla-Marie Manners, a senior accounting major, she said that upon the heels of graduation she feels quite accomplished.
“Through the multiplicity and variation in academic programs, I can say UVI has molded me into a well-rounded individual,” Manner said. She added that although she is an accounting major, given the opportunity to enroll in science and foreign language classes have helped to make her a very marketable graduate. Continue reading Graduating student satisfied with UVI experience→
Reigning Ms. UVI and contestants pose before having lunch
Photo by Markida Scotland
Olinger Augustin |
ST. CROIX – Traditionally, the Student Government Association’s Queens Committee hosts a weekend-long retreat for the Miss UVI Ambassadorial Competition’s participants. During the retreat, contestants follow a rigorous itinerary of public appearances, themed photoshoots, and are required to attend workshops on skills that may be beneficiary.
This year the SGA Queen’s committee made it a four-day weekend retreat, which gave the current contestants an idea of what their schedule would look like once selected to serve the prestigious title.
Like every other year, the current contenders’ first public community appearance was at the Annual St. Croix Agricultural Fair or Agrifest. Uniformed in white dresses with a touch of traditional madras, the seven gutsy young women paraded the fairgrounds with style and grace.
The seven contestants attending the opening day of the 45th Annual Agricultural Fair
Photo by Dale Morton
Contestant no. 2, Khadijah Lee, exclaimed, “I loved and admired the fact that the St. Croix Ag Fair involved the younger generation in each aspect of the fair, opening prayer done by a six-year-old and also a third grader leading the attendees in the National Anthem on piano.” Lee continued, “Not just a section, but a whole warehouse of art dedicated to agriculture, created by just about every school in St. Croix really sealed the deal for me!”
The Ag Fair appearance was just one of many activities the contenders experienced on St. Croix. Attending the Valentine’s Day Jump Up was a first for all of the contestants.
Aerial View of UVI St. Thomas Campus. Photo Credit: uvi.edu
ST. THOMAS — Students at the University of the Virgin Islands will have to brace themselves for a possible tuition increase in the upcoming academic year in light of the university’s continued fiscal challenges. As the university continues to tighten its belt amidst decreasing government appropriations, increasing tuition will likely be one of the new schemes to improve its financial situation.
In an email on Feb. 9, David Hall, president of the University of the Virgin Islands alerted the UVI community that there was a deficit in the 2016 fiscal year budget. Dr. Hall explained the three main factors that contributed to the deficit.
“This present challenge is a result of various factors, including (1) the drop in enrollment over the previous fiscal years from 2,700 students to 2,300 students which has lowered our revenues and unfortunately we have not made the appropriate adjustment in expenditures; (2) the drop in our government appropriations over the previous fiscal years has eliminated a lot of the flexibility in our operating budget; and (3) some of our accounting controls have not forced units to stay within their budgeted amounts,” the email read.
In an interview with the UVI Voice on Feb. 15, President Hall explained that the units were not maliciously overspending, but accumulated unpaid bills that rolled over from the end of the previous fiscal year.
In light of such, President Hall said the university is introducing new monitoring tools. These controls include denying authorization for purchases that exceed department budgets, closely monitoring department budgets towards the end of the fiscal year, and bringing forward the cut off point for orders and purchases.
“All of us have to be much more willing to stay within the budgets we are given and not exceed them, even when they are good reasons to do it,” Hall said.
In an effort to mitigate the impending deficit of $1.4 million, the president asked each unit of the university to reduce its budget by 4.8 percent for fiscal year 2016. In doing so, Dr. Hall asked each department to ensure that the reduction in budget does not affect employees’ jobs nor the quality of students’ education.
According to Hall, the fall in enrollment by some 400 students significantly affects the school’s operational budget, as the faculty size remained the same.
“We are also attempting to enhance our revenues through various new programs and especially through an increase in enrollment,” President Hall said. “The university is looking for ways to increase class sizes but not affect the quality of students’ education.”
Though the proposal is not final, Hall said a tuition increase is likely to be among the new measures to circumvent the deficit. The decision will only become final after the president proposes the tuition increase to the board and meets with the Student Government Associations and the student population.
Zoé Walker, vice president of the Student Government Association on St. Croix said the tuition increase is warranted in light of UVI’s fiscal challenges.
“I can understand why the students would find this proposed tuition increase frightening. But our students must remember that UVI currently has the most affordable tuition in the nation as an HBCU. In order for us to continue to receive a quality education in paradise, the university has to do certain things to achieve that, especially in light of a decrease in funds received from the government.”
Walker is also advocating for an improvement in the university’s payment option, stating that the options should be more flexible to accommodate students.
“I also believe that the university must observe that, although it is not a drastic increase, every student’s situation is different and (we) should make sure we have appropriate payment plans available,” Walker said.
Though the fiscal challenges are burdensome, President Hall is confident that UVI will overcome them as it has in the past.
“…I am still optimistic about UVI and where we are heading,” he said. “We have had fiscal challenges for the last four or five years. Students should not be fearful that this signals some major problem with the institution, but it is just unfortunately a part of doing business these days, where you have to tighten your belts and ensure you are generating more revenue. Besides a tuition increase, we are looking at new programs that can bring more revenue to the institution,” Hall said.
President Hall will present a revised fiscal year 2016 budget to the Finance and Budget Committee of the Board on Feb. 22 and approval is expected at its March 5 meeting.
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.”
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 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?’”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
“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.
“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.”