Sunday, December 30, 2012

David Hall

David Hall

My earliest and most significant memory of UVI was my first visit as a candidate for the Presidency of the University. My connecting flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico to St. Thomas was on Cape Air, and though some of the other passengers seemed very nervous, I was not. One person noticed how calm I was and said, “You must do this all the time.” These were clearly prophetic words. I arrived on a Friday in early December 2008 and took a taxi to the Emerald Beach Hotel. I saw the University of the Virgin Islands sign on the Sports and Fitness Center when I landed, but had no idea if that was the main St. Thomas campus.

As I walked along the beach at Lindberg Bay gazing at the nearby hillsides and reflecting on the interview with the Presidential Search Committee that would take place the next day, I began to feel at home. There was something special about this place that penetrated my spirit and gave me a feeling of peace and serenity. My wife Marilyn and I had visited St. Thomas for our honeymoon in 1990, but this was my first trip back since that glorious experience. I vaguely recall passing by the University during one of our tours of the island. I did not know at that time that 19 years later I would be interviewing for the presidency of this special university, nestled within the confines of one of the most beautiful places in the world.

The next day when I met with the search committee, made up of Board members, alumni, supporters, and a faculty and student representative, this spirit of peace and serenity remained with me. Though the group had numerous challenging questions, I felt as though I was having a conversation with kindred spirits who cared deeply about the same issues about which I cared. The session did not feel like a job interview but rather a probing exchange about higher education and the future of UVI.

I left that meeting with an even deeper appreciation for UVI and a genuine excitement about the prospects of being its next president. That excitement still remains today. My initial encounter was not an aberration but has defined my experience with members of the Board and the University. The last three and a half years have taught me many things about UVI, and we have achieved many goals during this time. However, the greatest achievement is the fact that what I observed during that first visit and meeting has not changed. There is a genuine and deep commitment to this University by so many of its stakeholder, students, faculty, staff and alumni. It is a joy working at a place that attracts so many authentic, dedicated and caring people.

I have had numerous significant moments during my journey at UVI, and I look forward to helping to create many more. The beauty of this University is not just its locations, but its people. That beauty has touched my heart, just as it has touched the hearts of so many individuals during the last 50 years. I am honored to be President of this special University during this historic moment in its existence.

Dr. David Hall became UVI’s fifth president in August 2009.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Noreen Michael – 1978

Noreen Michael
When I consider my connection to UVI, I am amazed to realize that this connection spans almost four decades. I joined the College of the Virgin Islands in August 1974 as a freshman, eager to continue my education. I recall being confident in the selection of a major, which I had decided would be English. I had plans to become the best English teacher that I could be. English, after all, had been my favorite subject in high school and I had done very well throughout my high school years.

Shortly after I started at CVI, there was talk on campus of dissatisfaction being communicated by employers in the community with respect to the writing skills of CVI graduates. I recall that this created some degree of concern for the administration and that a decision was made regarding an approach to ensuring that this complaint was addressed. What seems like shortly after first hearing about this concern, there was an announcement that before being able to graduate, all students would have to take the English Proficiency Exam, or the EPE.

To the best of my recollection, students started taking the EPE while I was a freshman. From the talk on campus, several students were unable to graduate because of failing the EPE. I started wondering how the exam was structured, since students who had completed four years at CVI were unable to pass this exam. There were no guidelines, no practice tests, and no sample questions. With the anxiety that seems to have taken hold of many students, I made a decision that I would take the EPE at the end of my sophomore year. After all, I planned to major in English, so I felt that I should be able to successfully complete the EPE before I started my major courses. I also made a decision that if I did not pass the EPE the first time, I would not major in English. As it turned out, I was successful. Therefore, I continued with my original plan to major in English. However, all students were not as successful and some students, because of the lack of success of many, deferred taking the EPE until their junior or senior year.

Noreen Michael as a
graduate student
During my junior year, dissatisfaction with the administration and scoring of the EPE escalated. After taking the EPE, students simply received word as to whether they had passed or failed. What was challenging was that students were not able to review their exams to determine the areas of weakness so as to improve performance. Because the EPE was such a high stakes exam, there was a desire to have a shift in the policy of not having students review their exams. Being a part of Student Government at the time, I was selected to approach the then Provost, the late Dr. Arthur Richards, to voice the students’ complaint and request an adjustment to the existing policy.

I remember vividly the meeting with Dr. Richards at which I shared the students’ concern with the EPE and how exam results were being communicated. I was able to request, on behalf of the students, an adjustment to the practice of not affording students who failed the EPE the opportunity to review their results. This was an important consideration and it was very gratifying that the request of the students was given consideration and the practice was adjusted.

As I end this reflection I realize that now, as when I was a student, UVI continues to be committed to being responsive to its students as well as to the wider community. I am truly proud to be an alumna of UVI.

Dr. Noreen Michael, formerly the Commissioner of Education for the USVI, is now Chief of Staff at UVI.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Rita J. (Josiah) Howard – 1973

Rita J. Howard
My relationship with CVI/UVI spans some 43 years. As a freshman in 1969-1970, I was crowned Miss College of the Virgin Islands within months of being on campus. I still see that massive crowd in what was then, the gym. It was one of the biggest community events at that time. I fondly remember accompanying the then Acting President Dr. Arthur Richards (R.I.P.) to St. Croix Central High School (my alma mater) to recruit students for the college. Later, I represented CVI in the inaugural parade for the first elected Governor of the Virgin Islands, Dr. Melvin H. Evans (R.I.P.). Naturally, I was in the carnival parade as well and was called on to participate in other activities throughout my reign.

I recall with fondest memories how, as students, we would don our finest to attend dinner with faculty on that one special Sunday every month in the cafeteria. It was an indescribable feeling. Even now when I go the Administration and Conference Center, then the Harvey Student Center, I feel a sense of nostalgia because I lived on the third floor overlooking the beach and the President's residence throughout my years at CVI. I also remember when Dr. Orville Kean, now a UVI president emeritus, was a brand new professor and taught me math for elementary teachers in CA 101.

I remember most vividly, the high expectations, the drive for excellence and the academic rigor that pervaded this academic community. It was endemic to the culture. Faculty cared, but they made you responsible for producing quality work. When you didn't, you got the grade you earned. You had to earn your way. Ideas and Issues was an event that you had to attend. The debates and discussions were often times riveting. I was always proud to say, and willing to volunteer that "I am a graduate of the College of the Virgin Islands."
Rita Howard - Crowned Miss CVI 1969-1970

Those positive experiences and memories are permanently etched in my mind. As I joined the faculty in 1984, I enjoyed a similar fulfilling experience contributing to the building of this institution. I was fortunate to be mentored by Pearl Varlack, Maxine Nunez, Simon Jones-Hendrickson and Frank Mills, to name a few. UVI, for me, was not a place of employment; it was so much more. I will always love UVI. If you ever sit next to me at commencement, you will hear me singing lustily our Alma Mater with a deep sense of conviction, joy and appreciation.

May God steer our beloved UVI in the right path moving on to another 50 years.

Dr. Rita J. Howard is a Professor of Education at the University of the Virgin Islands.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Roberta Q. Knowles

Roberta Knowles
If you’re lucky enough to work at the same place for a long time, you’re bound to remember several defining moments, those special times when an impression becomes a realization. My first defining moment at the then CVI was completely unexpected, for even way back then – in 1972 when I started teaching full-time on St. Thomas – I had already worked at CVI on both campuses off and on since 1967. I had even had lunch at the Beachcomber before. So what made this lunch on a sunny beach in September so special? The food was good, the weather was glorious, and the view was divine. But they all paled in comparison to my brilliant colleagues. There they were cosmopolitan and charming, enthusiastic and sophisticated! Among them, Rosary Harper, Carmen Padgett and Vladimir Barac made me feel so welcomed I instantly thought, “I’m going to love teaching here!”

Fast forward to another September day, twenty-three years later – September 15, 1995. The scene is far from peaceful and idyllic. At the time the university was in the process of completing the first draft of a comprehensive self-study report in order to maintain its accreditation – a process that had started back in 1994. Hurricane Marilyn brought that process to a halt and extended it by a full year. As the editor of the report, I remember sadly shaking my head and thinking, “This is impossible. We’ll never finish in time!” But once again I discovered colleagues who were extraordinarily dedicated and resourceful. The steadfast support and cooperation of team members such as Frank Mills, Mary Savage and Juanita Woods helped us overcome every obstacle and complete the task successfully and on schedule.

Roberta Knowles as an assistant director - CVI 1972
Once again fast forward – this time to September 29, 2012. A retiree since 2001, I had the free time to spend the day in the Little Theatre on the now Albert A. Sheen Campus, attending a “Summit on Virgin Islands and Caribbean Cultural Issues.” As I listened to presentations by my former colleagues and students, among them Simon Jones-Hendrickson, David Edgecombe and Gerard Emanuel, accolades once again came to mind – inspiring, insightful, impressive – prompting me to think, “Wow! Here’s to UVI—50 years old and still going strong!”

Dr. Roberta Knowles is Professor Emerita of English. She currently resides on St. Croix.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Joycelyn Hewlett – 1986

Joycelyn Hewlett
I recall standing in the doorway with my mouth open, looking at the manual typewriters on the desks. Am I in the wrong place? Then Dr. William Dulaney gestured for me to enter. Walking briskly on the balls of his feet, Dr. Dulaney proudly displayed the new journalism classroom.

It was 1983, and we were in the bottom floor of the Humanities Building at the then-College of the Virgin Islands. Gannett Company, which owned The Virgin Islands Daily News, had given CVI a Gannett Foundation grant to start a journalism program. Dr. Dulaney, a visiting journalism professor from Penn State University School of Journalism, had come to the Virgin Islands to start the program. His enthusiasm was contagious. Cut and paste back then literally meant just that. We used scissors to cut the text and rearrange paragraphs as we edited our news stories, and we scotch taped the paragraphs into place.

Dr. Samuel Adams, Professor Emeritus of Journalism at the University of Kansas, who replaced Dr. Dulaney, was more modern. He insisted that we convert the CVI Post into a tabloid, which we did. I recall him cautioning me about the difference between a news reporter and an editor. He explained that the editor decides which stories are printed in the newspaper, where they are placed, and how they are displayed. The reporter’s name may appear above the story, but the editor has the power, he advised.

The first four CVI journalism students were Melvin Claxton, Alison Hector, Glenville Bart and me. While he was a senior, Melvin won a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for a series of articles he wrote for The Daily News on public housing. Melvin, the only one of us to stick with journalism, went on to win a Pulitzer Prize and other prestigious journalism awards.

To refresh my recollection of CVI, I went hunting for copies of the CVI Post. Photos of the amazing calypso shows we used to have jumped out at me. CVI entered some of the best calypsonians in the St. Thomas Carnival competition. Remember J.B. the Emperor (Jonathan Bass), Yemisi (Patricia Cottle), Smutty, Cllero (Claudette Hassell), Ras I, Fatman, and Changa the Radical (Wayne Adams)?

Joycelyn Hewlett at 1986 CVI graduation
The articles in the CVI Post also reminded me how much we complained about and reamed the administration. In an article entitled “Richards Blows a Spoil,” Melvin took Dr. Arthur Richards, CVI’s president, to task for a plan to place a red, non-drying stain on the balcony and walls of the Harvey Student Center to catch intruders. “Let’s put the ill-conceived red stain idea behind us and make a positive move to solve this urgent problem,” he wrote.

We also made fun of everything. In a letter to the editor titled “One Day in the Cafeteria,” an anonymous writer complained about the cafeteria worker’s sour countenance, the powdery mash potatoes and meatless meat loaf. He said that as he stood in the lunch line one day, he asked a cafeteria worker what would be served for dinner. The response: “food.” “I could hardly contain my elation,” he wrote. “I turned to the guy next in line to me. ‘They are actually going to serve food for dinner.’ His eyes widened visibly. ‘They must have changed the management!’” 

Joycelyn Hewlett worked as a news reporter and features editor for The Virgin Islands Daily News from 1985-89. She currently works as an attorney on St. Thomas.