There was cause for celebration at the University of the Virgin Islands' Chase Auditorium Wednesday, June 1, as the 17th Annual Summer Institute for Future Global Leaders produced yet another batch of quality student graduates from the Caribbean and around the world.
During the graduation ceremony, attended by UVI President David Hall and Vice Provost Henry Smith, 29 students received Global Leadership certificates and three hours of college or graduate school credit after having completed the summer program's intensive two-week leadership course. (Click on the image to see a larger photo.)
Dr. Tanginika Simone Cuascud, one of the earlier graduates of the Summer Institute, gave the commencement speech. Now a renowned writer, businesswoman and women's advocate, Dr. Cuascud shared how her Summer Institute experience influenced her own career path and life choices.
The brainchild of former UVI President Dr. Orville Kean, the first Summer Institute was launched in the summer of 1995 under the leadership of UVI business professor Dr. Solomon Kabuka. Now on its 17th year, the multi-discipline program continues to equip students with knowledge and skills needed for future leadership roles in an ever-changing global environment.
The focus this year was on global leadership in times of diminishing resources. In two challenging weeks, the participants were exposed to a variety of lectures and workshops, including crash courses in diplomacy, international business, conflict resolution, intercultural communication and decoding skills on some six major world languages.
"The workshops forced us to think from different perspectives," said Hershelle Gaffney, a business administration senior at Bennett College, who was the class speaker. "We could no longer be selfish; we had to listen to our team members facing some of the very issues we were asked to explore."
While the Institute normally receives students from about 50 participating colleges and universities in the U.S. and Caribbean, this year's participant profile was even more diverse, with students from Portugal, India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, as well as the continental U.S. and the Caribbean chain.
"The diversity of cultures and language led to communication challenges, even disagreement," said Gaffney. "But it is the spirit of uniqueness and individuality that makes this institute what it is."
The participants' fields of study were equally wide-ranging, with college and graduate students majoring in business administration, medical science and fashion merchandising. Some participants are already veteran professionals who believed they can still learn about leadership through the Summer Institute.
"I learned that no matter what our age, we still have something to contribute," said 43-year-old Yvette Williams-Barr, an international business major who spent many years as a financial consultant in the real estate industry. "It helped me change tremendously, as a person and as a woman," Barr said of the Summer Institute.
A major project for participants of the Summer Institute is the leadership prospectus, a written instrument designed to keep students on track as they move toward their leadership goals. The prospectus contains each student's mission and vision statements, which required them to think of reasons why they exist, and the future leadership roles they seek to play. It also includes an assessment of assets and weaknesses and a comprehensive set of strategies to address them, with a corresponding timeline.
"Putting together the prospectus called for a lot of preparation and planning," said recent UVI graduate Alyssa Ryan, who sees herself as a dedicated family lawyer in the next 25 years. "I have always had a long-term goal for my life, but this is my first written plan."
While each participant is urged to set achievable goals and doable strategies in developing their leadership prospectus, they are also encouraged to believe in their potential and to aim high.
When asked what leadership position she sees herself in, Hershelle Gaffney confidently responded: "President of the United States."
Felix Miga, a recent UVI business graduate and "future CEO of a major corporation" sums up his two-weeks at the Summer Institute: "This experience has changed the way I perceive the world, and I now feel better equipped to take on its challenges."
Dr. Kabuka and Summer Institute co-founders Dr. Ronald E. Harrigan and Dr. Gilbert Sprauve invites aspiring leaders to experience the Future Global Leaders program in the future. For more information about the Summer Institute for Future Global Leaders, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Summer Institute section of the UVI website - www.uvi.edu - or this direct website link: /import/sites/uvi/Pages/Future_Global_Leaders-Home.aspx.