May 9, 2005 The University of the Virgin Islands won't be the same UVI in 2012, said university president LaVerne E. Ragster at a town hall meeting Monday at the Legislature building on St. John.
"We have to become extremely adaptive and agile," she said.
The university is now asking what people want instead of telling them what they're going to get, she said. The meeting, the first of three across the territory, was called to discuss the university's strategic plan to run from 2005 to 2012. The university turns 50 in 2012.
The days when the majority of the students attend full-time are fading. Today, 51 percent of the university's 2,565 students are part-time, with 49 percent attending full-time.
"And 80 percent work full- or part-time," said Deborah Fontaine, the special assistant to Ragster.
The university already offers a wide range of classes that award certificates under its Community Engagement and Lifelong Learning program, usually referred to as CELL, Ragster said.
Getting to UVI was the most urgent issue for several of the handful of people who attended the meeting. "Getting from one end of the island to the other is difficult. And you can't depend on public transportation," Loren Abramson said. She has attended UVI, and her daughter goes there now, she added.
Ragster said there had been a transportation system in place, but it turned out that students didn't use it. "It sounds like we need to have the head of the campus sit down with the students and find out what works," she said.
In response to a question about holding classes on St. John, chancellor John Leipzig said that classes offered on St. John were canceled because there wasn't enough interest.
Ragster also said the university would have to address the scheduling problems faced by part-time students who often find the class they need is given when they have to work.
She said that once the Harvey Center renovation is completed in 2006, administrative offices can move out of classroom areas. This means classes can be clustered together so students won't have to hike up and down the St. Thomas campus hills so often.
"But it's always going to be a challenge on the St. Thomas campus," she said. The university was open to the idea of an entrepreneur starting a taxi service, for example, to move students about, she said.
Ragster told the Source before the meeting that the university has plans to open a community center to give students somewhere to go between classes. Often students have a 9 a.m. and a 6 p.m. class, with a long day in between. "We now have lockers so they have some place to put their stuff," she said.
The Strategic Planning Town Hall meetings continue Tuesday at the Palms Court Harborview Hotel on St. Thomas and May 18 at the St. Croix Botanical Gardens. Both are at 5:30 p.m.
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