May 15, 2007 — Amid cheers and applause from family and friends, the University of the Virgin Islands conferred degrees upon 159 St. Thomas graduates during a commencement ceremony Monday night at the UVI Sport and Fitness center.
UVI President Laverne Ragster congratulated the diverse, resilient and driven class (a phrase revisited by several speakers throughout the ceremony) and commended them for a variety of achievements.
In particular, Ragster praised students' participation in the 2007 Senatorial and Gubernatorial forums, and the initiation of the Shadow Our Students Program, where high school seniors visit the UVI campus.
An individual has not started living fully until they can rise above the narrow confines of individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of humanity…. Life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others? Ragster quoted from Dr. Martin Luther King.
Ragster cited two major highlights of this past academic year: the launching of Internet2, a network that will allow UVI to connect to the Internet at substantially higher speeds; and UVI's reaccredidation visit from Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. The university will receive official word from Middle States in October.
Reaccreditation is imperative because it guarantees federal financial aid and scholarships and that UVI credits are accepted at other universities, as stated on the UVI re-accreditation website.
The keynote speaker during the ceremony was Thelma B. Thompson, president of the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore. According to its website, the Maryland school is a land-grant, historically black college and university — as is UVI.
Thompson began as a teacher in her home country of Jamaica, before relocating to Washington D.C., where she received several degrees from Howard University. She has been honored both nationally and internationally, including being selected as one of Marylands Top 100 Women for 2004.
This institution is where your soul has evolved. UVI will be a part of your life forever, so be kind to it, she told the graduates.
The fact that you attended here will be recorded all your life, she said. Thompson encouraged the graduates to utilize her four Ps: planning, presentation, performance and professionalism.
Continue to attune your acquired professional skills, student speaker Casandra Scotland-Brooks told her fellow graduates.
She reached out to high school students in the audience by telling them, Remember, this can one day be you. Dont be discouraged by those who say it is not worth the time or effort.
Also in attendance were Gov. John deJongh Jr., Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis, Delegate Donna Christensen, V.I. senators and dignitaries from other universities.
Christensen shared words of encouragement and praise for the graduates. You must live and give every day to continue to deserve it, she said.
In all, the university awarded 131 bachelor's degrees (105 Bachelor of Arts and 26 Bachelor of Science) and 33 master's degrees (15 in Arts Education, 11 MBAs and 7 in Public Administration). Also, an Associate of Science degree was awarded to one student, and 37 students received Associate of Arts degrees.
Six students graduated summa cum laude, 14 magna cum laude and 20 students cum laude.
UVI's commencement ceremony for the St. Croix campus will he held Tuesday night on the campus grounds.
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