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Spirituality Symposium Offers Approaches to Nurturing the Whole Person

The University of the Virgin Islands launched a new Center for the Study of Spirituality and Professionalism on Monday, April 18, 2011, with a daylong symposium centered around the theme, "Spirituality and Professionalism: Nurturing the Whole Person."

Special guest speakers for the symposium were Gwen Sherwood, Ph.D., professor and associate dean for Academic Affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing, and Gosnell L. Yorke, Ph.D., dean of the School of Graduate Studies at Northern Caribbean University in Jamaica.

In her remarks, Dr. Sherwood described spirituality as "the quieting of inner tensions," and said there is a human need to find meaning in life, based on values and relationships experienced through religion or other means. The workplace can hinder interpersonal relationships, she said, causing disconnection and a lack of engagement. Spiritual wellbeing determines how people cope and solve problems and can help individuals transcend illness and move toward healing.

In order to become engaged in the workplace, Dr. Sherwood said workers must be clear about their purpose - their mission. "Living by your own mission ensures professional artistry," she said, emphasizing that whatever is done should be done with passion.

Speaking on the topic of race and gender in sacred texts, Dr. Yorke said that historically, scholarly biblical interpretations have been conducted by male Caucasians influenced by European cultural presuppositions. Assumptions about the role of women in the church and negative racial interpretations are being called into question and exposed.

"The Bible, in any language, has to be properly translated so that the tarnish of racism does not touch it," Yorke said. "Bible interpretation and translation has not been neutral."

The UVI Center for the Study of Spirituality and Professionalism represents one of the initiatives for greatness instituted by UVI President David Hall. President Hall, a noted legal scholar, is the author of a book on the intersection of law and spirituality, entitled "The Spiritual Revitalization of the Legal Profession: A Search for Sacred Rivers." He lectures nationally on topics of social justice, leadership, diversity and spiritual values in professional life.

Asked what connection the legal profession has to spirituality, Dr. Hall said many lawyers find themselves dissatisfied - unsure of their purpose. "The work that lawyers are called to do is sacred work," he said. "You try to bring some type of healing. If we focus on that purpose, we see our work as something that has meaning."

The symposium was held in the St. Thomas campus Administration and Conference Center first floor conference room, and was teleconferenced to the Great Hall in the Northwest Wing of the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix and to the University's new Academic Learning Center located at the Marketplace on St. John.

The Center for the Study of Spirituality and Professionalism is a non-profit entity, the aim of which is to promote UVI's management values and emphasize the pivotal role of spirituality and professionalism in leadership success and societal wellbeing.