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.

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