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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, November 30, 2023


As is usually the case at its meetings, the University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees got good news and bad news about the school at its session Saturday on the St. Thomas campus.
In terms of capital development, the most recent news was dramatically positive. Fresh in the minds of some trustees was the groundbreaking a day earlier for the new Sports and Fitness Center on the St. Thomas campus. Board chair Auguste Rimpel was among those who had donned golden hard-hats and grasped gilded shovels to turn a symbolic bit of "dirt."
Foundation work on the 60,000-square-foot facility is under way and expected to take about three months, with work on the structural steel frame to follow. However, the steel-frame package had to be put out for re-bid because of "excessively high bidding," the Business and Financial Affairs Report to the trustees stated.
And on St. John, repairs to the dock of the V.I. Environmental Research Station have also been put out for re-bid because "the contractor previously selected is no longer operating," the report said. The research facility is owned but is not at present operated by UVI.
Meantime, a project to move electrical lines underground on the St. Thomas campus, using Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) hazard mitigation money, is moving forward. But its counterpart on the St. Croix campus has been held up because it was determined that "bids were non-responsive and exceeded the budget." The project was re-advertised and a bid award is planned for mid-March, the report said.
Other good news:
In addition to the existing three classrooms on each campus equipped now for videoconferencing, at least three more sets are to be in place by the end of September, using federal Title III education funds. The teleconference rooms are used primarily to enable a faculty member on one campus to teach a course simultaneously on both campuses. However, the systems have the capability to connect with any other similar set-ups in the world.
Meanwhile, the Academic Affairs Report noted that faculty and pilot course development is under way in the area of "asynchronous distance learning." The term refers to a concept that virtually all educators in the region consider the wave of the future for the Caribbean — accessibility for students to take courses via computer without physically being at an institution.
And at UVI itself, a major revamping of the general education curriculum — those courses required of all undergraduate students, regardless of major — is proceeding. "Six new courses have come on line this academic year," the Academic Affairs Report states, in the disciplines of communication, algebra, natural science, health, French and Spanish.
Development is proceeding for new courses in these areas as well as world literature, social sciences, critical thinking, information management, and leadership/team skills. Computer equipment to support the new foreign language courses is on the way for both campuses.
In a collaborative arrangement with H. Lavity Stoutt Community College on Tortola, UVI began providing the faculty for upper division teacher training last fall. Two courses are offered on the Tortola campus each semester, with 23 students enrolled in the program.
In terms of enrollment, the message was mixed. From last fall to this spring, graduate enrollment is up 9 percent and on the St. Croix campus undergraduate enrollment is up 4 percent. But on the St. Thomas campus, which has about twice as many students as St. Croix, the undergrad numbers are down 8 percent.
Dormitory occupancy is disappointing on both campuses. This is the first semester that students have been able to live on campus on St. Croix, but the new residence complex, with a capacity for 102 students, attracted just 15, according to the Student Affairs Report.
And on the St. Thomas campus, the number of students living in dorms dropped to 173 from 192 last fall. "As a result, the Housing Supervisor closed one male residence hall," the report stated.
Drops in both enrollment and on-campus residence translate into drops in the projected revenues for the period.
The trustees got good financial news in the Institutional Advancement Report: Giving to UVI is up this year over last, with total response to 1998 fund-raising appeals at $554,324, compared with $416,224 a year earlier. And donations for scholarships for this semester total $63,990, up from $50,000 a year ago.
Grants awarded for specific projects since last September total $375,862. The largest by far is one for $342,967 from Johns Hopkins University for UVI to conduct an assessment of health needs in the territory. The others consist of $5,000 from the V.I. Council on the Arts (VICA) to the Reichhold Center for the Arts for seasonal support; $3,000 from VICA to the Reichhold's Digital Video Institute; $3,000 from VICA to the Music Area for a jazz clinic and show; and $2,000 from VICA to the Reichhold Youth Theatre for production touring.

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