Sunday, September 16, 2012

Velma Tyson – 1980, 1983

Velma Tyson
This account of the positive impact that UVI has had on my life and on the lives of its students is shared as an encouragement to others to appreciate and take advantage of the great benefits of this outstanding institution of higher learning.

“Mother of three young children, wife, full-time employee with a yearning to return to the classroom, this time as a mathematics teacher,” briefly describes Velma Tyson in the mid 70’s. The major obstacle to this quest was the required bachelor’s degree in mathematics, but my personal commitments made this seem like “mission impossible.” After careful reflection, I embraced the blessing of CVI and in 1976 enrolled as a full-time student, embarking on a journey that forever changed my life. The convenience of the St. Croix campus and strong family support allowed me to complete the first two years while holding a full-time job.

The last two years were spent on the St. Thomas campus in a friendly and intellectually stimulating environment in which a group of seven mathematics majors worked as a collaborative team, often challenging ourselves in problem solving sessions. During this time I also served as the resident assistant (RA) for Harvey Dorm, which was strategically placed above the cafeteria. This was best appreciated on weekends when we managed to slip in for breakfast seconds before the door was locked while many of our friends from the other dorms missed this opportunity. Harvey was the oldest dorm for girls and was the only one on that particular location on campus so we missed a great deal of fun but there were many benefits. I remember the pride and joy among the residents when Harvey placed first in academics and sports. Two of the dorm mates who stand out in my memory were Ingrid Richardson, our volleyball star and Peggy Hughes, who was always very lady-like, pleasant and soft-spoken.

I also became a member of the President’s Club, a distinction of academic excellence. Club members were presented with navy blue custom-tailored blazers with CVI’s logo in gold thread on the pocket and the student’s name embroidered in gold on the inside lining with an additional permanently stamped tag. My blazer, dated February 16, 1979 is a treasure and is still in excellent condition. The most treasured highlight of my early CVI experiences relates to the annual trips which were taken during spring break. The person who stands out most is Guy Hewlett, now M.D., very intelligent and humble and equally humorous person. He often had the group laughing non-stop, and he said the funniest things at times when we were expected to be on our best behavior.

Velma Tyson photo taken in 1979
In May 1980, following graduation, I moved back to St. Croix. My mission was accomplished as I then experienced the joy of teaching mathematics at the secondary level. Once again, I took advantage of the benefits of CVI and in 1983 graduated with a Masters in School Management and Supervision (Education).

My employment as a mathematics instructor at UVI began in 1990, having travelled to Washington DC in 1989 to receive an award for excellence in mathematics teaching at the secondary level. My strong CVI preparation allowed me to successfully complete a Ph.D. in Mathematics Education at the University of Iowa (1992-1995), taking along my fourth child at the age of seven. In 2001 Chancellor Jennifer Jackson nominated me for a Millennium Award for excellence in mathematics teaching at U.S. universities and colleges and UVI was hence among the few proud universities to have faculty receive this award.

As a proud alumna, I serve as chair of the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Beyond God and family, I have no greater pride and joy than to experience the continued success of the students educated at UVI. As an Emerging Caribbean Scholars coordinator I am continually thrilled as year after year I witness our scholars step on stage to accept awards when competing with students from over 700 universities. UVI is so small, yet so powerful.
In this jubilee year there is much to celebrate and the excellence will no doubt continue into the future.

Dr. Velma Tyson is a Professor of Mathematics at UVI.

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