Sunday, January 13, 2013

Doris Battiste – 1971

Doris Battiste
I practically grew up on the St. Thomas campus of the College of the Virgin Islands (CVI), first as a full-time student and then as a member of the Student Affairs staff living in Harvey Student Center, now the Administration and Conference Center. As a freshman, I lived in “Dorm D,” now Middle D, and our resident assistant, Magda Brown-Finch, was my roommate. Rooming with the resident assistant had many advantages and disadvantages. I had to adhere to all of the campus rules and regulations and therefore never got in trouble.

During my sophomore year, the associate dean Ms. Jane E. Tuitt approached me about going to the University of Connecticut on the Teacher Education program for my junior year. I wasn’t asked if I wanted to go. I was advised to talk to my mother about going, and off to UConn I went along with seven other CVI students. I wrote to Ms. Tuitt regularly and kept her abreast of what was happening at UConn. She loved hearing from us and always took time to write me and the others back with advice – she was never too busy. At UConn, my roommate was a CVI student who also was participating in the program. We knew each other but had never interacted. The UConn experience changed that, and we became very close friends. Today, forty years later, Yvette deLaubanque and I are still great friends.

I remember the relationship I developed with Dr. Herbert Hoover, who was a professor of Education and my advisor. He took an interest in bringing out the best in his students and was indeed a genuine educator. His love for education and people was evident by the manner in which he prepared me and other students for a teaching career.

Another individual who made a difference in my life as a student and a professional was Mrs. Vitalia Wallace, associate dean and director of Student Affairs. After I left CVI and completed graduate studies at Howard University, Mrs. Wallace encouraged me to apply for a position at CVI. I was hired by President Lawrence Wanlass to serve as the assistant to the director of Student Affairs for Women. This is how I began my career in higher education – thanks to Mrs. Wallace. During my first week, I remember distinctly Mrs. Wallace taking me around to just about every office on campus. I got to know faculty, staff and administrators and felt re-connected immediately to CVI. She also took me to the Administrative Council meetings which were chaired by the president and attended by top level administrators. This was indeed a great learning experience that was made possible by Mrs. Wallace, who was a beautiful person and great mentor.

Doris Battiste - CVI Yearbook 1971
After a few years of working in that position, I became interested in pursuing post-graduate studies and went to Dr. Arthur Richards, then president, to request “leave with pay.” Well, Dr. Richards said he “would be setting precedence and couldn’t approve it,” but he promised to grant me leave without pay and to assist me in finding resources, and he did. He kept his promise. After receiving my doctorate degree from George Washington University, I was grateful for the opportunities afforded me by Dr. Orville Kean as president and the support that I received from both him and Dr. Ron Harrigan, vice president for Student Affairs.

My experience at CVI /UVI has been professionally rewarding and enriching. I have had some of the best times and met so many wonderful people who have made a difference in my life. So many persons went the extra mile to help me in my journey at CVI/UVI, and I am truly thankful.

Congratulations UVI on making 50 and may you continue to shine.

Dr. Doris Battiste is currently Dean of Students at UVI.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Judith Vanterpool Rogers – 1976

Judith Vanterpool Rogers
I was employed as a library student assistant on the St. Croix campus of the College of the Virgin Islands in the 1970s. Today, I manage both campus libraries at the University of the Virgin Islands. In the 1970s, I was pursuing the secretarial program and had no idea where life would take me. However, the nurturing and supportive senior staff members at CVI were more than willing to offer me a taste of a wide variety of experiences that helped to shape the professional I am today. All these years later, it is still the exemplary integrity, hard work and positive outlook of CVI/UVI mentors that continue to inspire and impact my career.

I credit Melba Biggs for deciding early on that I had potential for teaching, hiring me as tutor in the Upward Bound Program that she directed – an early introduction to the educator role that I have today. As a young student worker, I assisted in numerous academic registration processes in a variety of roles: either as cashier with Glen Lukey (how times have changed I don’t believe student workers are given cashier roles anymore); or as registrars student assistant with Dr. Ronald Harrigan and Juanita Woods. (We had a manual system for tracking closed courses, and for monitoring student placement test results that rivals anything SunGard Banner can produce today).

Dr. Henry Chang and Marjorie Masters gave me my first introduction to libraries and the critical role of librarians in life-long learning. Paying attention to detail, ensuring organization and orderliness of collections and processes, encouraging faculty involvement in collection development to support academic programs, and providing high quality customer service were all modeled so well by the library administrators, I knew I could do no less when I became campus librarian on St. Croix.

Judith Rogers - CVI 1976 Yearbook
I was also shaped by the superior academic quality of the student body, such as Debra Franklin Maragh and upper-class student JAda Finch-Sheen, and the love of learning portrayed by faculty such as Erika (Smilowitz) Waters, and later, Dr. Arnold Highfield. The family fun days with donkey races and BBQs, and Ideas and Issues discussions with renowned authors and civic leaders like Bayard Rustin ensured a fun and stimulating learning environment. Thus, when I completed my two-year secretarial program, continuing my undergraduate education was the automatic next step. After re-locating to complete my BA in psychology, and MLIS in library and information science, I grasped the first opportunity available to return to UVI as a librarian.

I am very delighted to share in UVI’s Golden Jubilee celebration of growth and service to the USVI community. It is rewarding to note that the UVI libraries have embraced and led in the institution’s transformation. Reshaping UVI librarian roles from emphasis on locally-housed collections to the learning commons user-focus, with access to resources worldwide, brings my professional experience full circle. Happy 50th UVI!

Judith V. Rogers is now the manager of both libraries at UVI.

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.