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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, July 14, 2024


March 28, 2002 – At Hovensa headquarters on Thursday morning, the company's chief executive and the top officials of the University of the Virgin Islands signed a three-year agreement committing both organizations to establishing an associate degree in applied science in process technology at UVI.
The new degree program, oriented to the oil refinery's technology needs, will begin next fall on St. Croix. Hovensa will pay the salary of the professor for the first two years, provide technical personnel for the curriculum, and make its training center classrooms, laboratories and equipment available for the courses.
The program is aimed at attracting students to pursue careers in refinery operations and will provide industry-specific entry-level skills. The curriculum will cover not only training but a basic knowledge of how to apply scientific principles in the work environment.
After the first class graduates in the spring of 2004, Hovensa's entry requirements for employment in the field of process operations will change to include an associate degree in applied science in process technology.
Hovensa's president and CEO, Rene L. Sagebien set out a vision for providing high school graduates with an opportunity to acquire career training coupled with a college degree so they can meet entry-level requirements for the industry. The new program is the "culmination of a lot of good work between UVI and our company," he said. "This will provide a lot of opportunity for a lot of youngsters."
A team of UVI faculty, curriculum advisers from other universities, and Hovensa personnel developed the curriculum to meet the current needs of the refining industry.
Hovensa chemical engineer Yeisan Matthew, a 1984 graduate of Central High School, has been named senior course developer at the refinery. She has designed the curricula for two courses: Basic Electricity and Process Troubleshooting. The new program is "an opportunity to introduce the community to refining applications," she said.
The curriculum will include basic education course requirements in areas such as communications, algebra and chemistry, along with technical areas such as process technology, instrumentation and basic electricity. Part of the program is an internship in the fourth semester.
Admission requirements include SAT scores of at least 500 in verbal skills and 490 in math. The university offers skill-level courses in math and English.
Valdemar Hill Jr., the new program's manager of training and development, applauded UVI faculty member Alan Lewitt, professor of computer science and mathematics on the St. Croix campus, for his role in making Sagebien's vision a reality. "This is a really momentous opportunity for us," Hill said.
Hovensa will provide five $3,000 scholarships annually for V.I. residents who can provide evidence of financial need. To be considered, candidates must be enrolled in the process technology degree program, have at least a 3.0 grade-point average from high school, submit an essay expressing their interest in the program, and be interview before a panel.
As Sagebien signed the memorandum of agreement and passed it on to the UVI's retiring president, Dr. Orville Kean, and thence on to the incoming president, Dr. LaVerne Ragster, all were in smiles at the culmination of more than two years of cooperative planning. "This is really a milestone for UVI," said Kean, who indicated it was the first time a corporation had agreed to underwrite the cost of a program at the university.
Kean mentioned that a Hovensa employee had stopped him outside the administration building Thursday morning and asked if UVI would offer short certificate programs in computer technology. Kean said that plans are in place to offer more work-force development programs. "The university's vision is to contribute to the social and economic development of the V.I.," he said.
Sagebien recently received national recognition for his commitment to excellence in refinery operations and to fostering community outreach and growth. At a fuel conference in San Antonio, Texas, he was named Refinery Executive of the Year 2002 by World Refining Magazine.
"Knowledge alone won't do," he said Thursday. "It's the ability to work together to accomplish." He told the audience at the ceremonial signing of the memorandum of understanding that he plans to participate in the program. He said he hopes the students who enroll will strive for excellence and learn teamwork.

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