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Academic Leaders Convene at AASCU National Meeting

The Virgin Islands is the venue for the 2010 Winter Meeting of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), Wednesday, February 4 through Friday, February 6 at the Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort on St. Thomas. The meeting, which is co-hosted by the University of the Virgin Islands and supported by the local government, brings together about 200 academic leaders to deliberate on the future of education in the 21st. century. Each winter AASCU holds a professional development meeting for its academic affairs leaders, with a focus on preparing future university presidents, and improving higher education and its stakeholders. The meeting will be officially opened by Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. on Thursday at 4 p.m.

One of the features of the AASCU Winter Meeting this year is a track specifically addressing Community Engagement, which will generate ideas for planning for the 21st century university. "We are privileged that AASCU has selected UVI to serve as a model for this unique undertaking," said UVI President Dr. David Hall.

Working in collaboration with UVI, AASCU has established five areas of focus that address various aspects of higher education's community engagement. They include economic development and tourism, community issues such as health and crime, K-12 schools, internationalization, and student engagement. Subsequently, five Community Engagement Focus Groups were formed. Each focus group is made up of individuals from UVI, the local government and the business sector, plus academic leaders from universities across the 50 states.

"Members of some 100 universities represented at the meeting are working with UVI leaders, faculty, and students plus local government personnel, and leaders in the private sector to generate ideas and strategies that will assist UVI in its strategic planning to become a greater institution", said UVI Professor of Business and Management Dr. Solomon Kabuka, who is the coordinator of local involvement in this unique experiment.

Over a two-day period, the focus groups will brainstorm to determine how the university can best work with the community to address the five areas of focus, Kabuka said. He explained that the idea is to generate a list of ideas and possibilities for UVI to consider in its strategic planning process. "The focus groups will discuss what role might the University have; what roles are there for faculty; for staff; and for students. Where possible, the groups will capture a specific idea and expand it by designing possible approaches, program strategies and possible next steps."

Dr. Kabuka said that the focus groups will create "a rich repository of ideas and possible programs which will be presented to UVI for possible consideration".

The focus group deliberations will culminate with a public forum, scheduled for Friday, February 5, at the Reichhold Center for the Arts. The forum is scheduled for 3:15 - 4:30 p.m. The format of the forum will be the presentation of a report to the University by AASCU representatives. The report will represent a summarization of the most salient ideas generated from the Community Engagement Focus Group sessions. The public is invited to attend the Public Forum.

For additional information, please contact Dr. Solomon Kabuka, coordinator of the UVI-AASCU Community Engagement Focus Group, at skabuka@uvi.edu or 340-626-7588.