The University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees has unanimously approved four new degree programs: an Associate of Applied Science degree program in Renewable Energy Technology and Bachelor of Science degree programs in Agroecology, Agricultural Business, and Animal Science.
The move came during the regular session of the board’s quarterly meeting on Saturday, held via Zoom.
The Associate of Applied Science degree program in Renewable Energy Technology will support needed workforce development in the territory and will provide UVI students with further opportunities for professional careers after graduation, according to a press release announcing the new degrees.
The program is designed to educate students and future professionals in basic electrical concepts, various renewable energy technologies, and installing and repairing photovoltaic systems, the release stated. The program will generate an educated labor force that can assist the territory, the Caribbean region, and the United States in accelerating the transition to renewable energy, it said.
The Bachelor of Science degree programs offered in Agriculture are also designed to aid successful graduates in launching thriving careers. The Agroecology degree program will prepare students for careers in sustainable agriculture, sustainable development, natural resource management, and food policy, according to the release.
The Agribusiness program will prepare graduates for various career opportunities and provide a solid foundation in agriculture, finance, management, and economics, it said. Students will be able to make informed business decisions utilizing applied mathematics and statistics to examine prices and markets.
Graduates in the Animal Science Degree Program will be prepared to work in livestock operations, feed/pharmaceutical sales, barn/ranch management, livestock procurement, food processing, meat inspection/grading, and quality control throughout the agriculture production sector, the release stated. The curriculum consists of courses in animal science, animal nutrition, anatomy and physiology, breeding and genetics, animal behavior and welfare, and animal health and disease.
The Bachelor of Science degree programs in Agroecology, Agricultural Business and Animal Science, housed in the University’s School of Agriculture, are the final three degrees planned for development following the previously approved degree programs in Aquaponics and Horticulture, according to the release.
“Employment in the agricultural sector makes up about 10 percent of U.S. employment, not all requiring bachelor’s degrees, but many do require them,” said Camille McKayle, UVI provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “We are seeking to prepare students for agricultural employment that requires bachelor’s degree programs. We also have as a complement certificate programs that will prepare students for the workforce.”
Board Trustee Dr. John Quelch confirmed that the addition of these degree programs concludes the build-out of the program architecture for the initiative. The university will now focus on attracting qualified students from around the Caribbean and beyond to pursue these fields of study, he said.
McKayle added that the university will be working on solidifying memorandums of understanding with partner institutions in the Caribbean that have two-year programs in agriculture to allow their students to earn a bachelor’s degree at UVI.
As is customary during the President’s Report, David Hall, president of UVI, presented the Presidential Award to an individual or unit within the institution that has shown outstanding achievement within the past quarter. At the meeting, Hall presented the award to Leslyn Tonge, interim dean of Student Affairs, for her leadership of the UVI Passport to the World program, according to the release.
The program, designed to provide students, faculty, retirees and alumni with international travel opportunities, organizes annual educational trips to extend learning far beyond the classroom. Having recently coordinated a successful 10-day trip to Egypt with 77 participants — the largest group ever — Hall said, “I want to recognize the leadership of Dr. Leslyn Tonge for managing all the logistics with such calm professionalism.” He also recognized McKayle for her oversight, stating, “We are just very proud of this program that is essential to our learning.”
Accepting the award, Tonge said, “There is an entire army to make sure these programs are a success,” thanking UVI leadership, including Vice President for Institutional Advancement Mitchell Neaves, and others for raising funds for student participation, McKayle for her trust and support, and Hall for the value the program brings to the entire university.
Throughout the president’s report, Hall emphasized the availability of global learning opportunities that allow students to travel and participate in academic programs. Students in the School of Education and School of Nursing recently participated in a trip to Costa Rica. The university’s SOE students focused on teaching English as a second language and STEM.
UVI’s nursing students participated in guest lectures, engaged nurses and doctors in a full day of rotations at community-based clinics to gain hands-on learning, toured public hospitals and shock trauma centers and participated in a food drive.
The trip follows a similar program led by the School of Nursing to Costa Rica in 2021. “This is the beginning of a more consistent way of getting students international exposure,” stated Hall. “When I hear students say, ‘I really want to see the world,’ I say, you can come to UVI and still see the world.”
Recent UVI graduate and communication student, Michael Bell, was another beneficiary of a UVI program that afforded him a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the White House in May and meet with Vice President Kamala Harris and White House communications staff. Similarly, three UVI students represented the university at an international sea turtle symposium in Cartagena, Columbia, in March, where they presented their research and won several international awards.
At Saturday’s meeting, the board re-elected Henry Smock to serve as chairman and Oran Roebuck as vice chair. “I thank the trustees for their vote of confidence,” said Smock. “It’s a stressful job, but it is extremely satisfying.”
UVI Board of Trustees Vice Chair Oran Roebuck also thanked Board members, noting that her work on the board is challenging but that she is committed. “I am dedicated to UVI and the board, and I thank you for your continued trust and support,” Roebuck said.
Smock reported that while in Executive Session, the board approved and received reports and updates on the following:
Approved Executive Session minutes
Approved tenure for faculty members
Approved UVINEXT recommendations
Update on personnel matters
Update on legal matters
Additionally, the board provided authorization for the administration to borrow funds to construct a new facility for the School of Nursing, according to the release.
It also approved an amendment to eliminate the COVID-19 policy for students living in the residence halls. Based on a study of the university’s peer institutions nationally, it was clear that they are moving away from vaccination requirements in residence halls. Additionally, the territory has had a very low incidence of COVID-19 and there have been no reports of students in the general population testing positive, the release stated. The board accepted the request of the administration, and students enrolling in summer programs will no longer be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
The next scheduled meeting of the Board of Trustees will be held in October.
For more information, contact the University’s Public Relations Office.