I will never forget the beginning of my UVI journey, in September 1995, when I reported for work on the St. Croix campus dressed in all white – my only appropriate working outfit at the time – and then unexpectedly tasked with packing up the office in preparation for Hurricane Marilyn. Needless to say, my white attire was not so white by the end of that particular day. After Hurricane Marilyn passed St. Croix, the next few days were spent on campus recovery – drying up flooded rooms, removing fallen trees and power lines, and clearing campus roads – all while striving to return the campus as best as we all could to “normal” so as to maintain UVI’s commitment to students. Remarkably, UVI’s employees turned up in large numbers and did everything possible to ensure the re-start of classes, even postponing the clean-up of their own homes to a later time. This initial experience was indeed trying for all, but it gave me the opportunity to realize early on that I was in the company of a special group of people within a special institution.
I soon began working in The Caribbean Writer’s office which was the beginning of an entirely new education for me. Not only was I learning book design and all aspects of producing an annual literary magazine, but I was also building relationships with individuals literally all over the world. From the Kittitian writer calling from Japan while serving in the U.S. Marines to the Trinidadian poet calling from the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean, many enthusiastic individuals reached out and expressed what The Caribbean Writer truly meant to them. I discovered that for some The Caribbean Writer provided much joy and identity and offered a connection to home – our culture, our heritage and our traditions, while for others, it provided a means of reflecting or speaking to an audience which understood and acknowledged their creative work.
Through my position, I was also afforded working relationships with Caribbean literary legends whose work I had studied while in school in Trinidad. To my unimaginable luck, I had the privilege of meeting a few of these legends – Kamau Brathwaite, George Lamming and Caryl Phillips – in October 1996 at The Caribbean Writer’s 10th Anniversary Literary Conference. Who would have thought that I would one day refer to these individuals as “friends”?
|Quilin B. Mars at The Caribbean Writer’s 10th|
Anniversary Literary Conference Reception (Oct. 1996)
But I was also educated in more traditional ways at UVI. Becoming a student shortly after my employment began gave me the opportunity to complete my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration which was an achievement I never thought was realistic when I migrated to St. Croix. After all, being a newlywed and having children had shifted my priorities a bit. At first, I was extremely intimidated to return to a classroom but because of the many non-traditional students not only from the Virgin Islands but also from various Caribbean islands, I easily connected with my classmates and professors. I stand very proud today – a UVI alumna.
I will treasure these memories and will take them with me on my life’s journey. Without a doubt I am honored to be associated with an institution that has been and will continue to make a difference to the people of the Virgin Islands and beyond. I salute UVI on its 50th Golden Jubilee milestone.
Quilin B. Mars is currently the Managing Editor of “The Caribbean Writer” – UVI’s literary journal.