1.1 Institution’s Mission, Historical Context, and Unique Characteristics
The vision of the University of the Virgin Islands, developed with broad institutional support and responsive to its dynamic environment, is to become an exceptional institution of higher education in the Caribbean dedicated to student success, committed to excellence, and pledged to enhancing the social economic transformation of the US Virgin Islands.
Its mission is to dedicate itself to the success of its students and to commit to the enhancement of the lives of the people of the US Virgin Islands and the wider Caribbean through excellent teaching, innovative research, and responsive community service. Its ten core values encompass students first, learning and scholarship, excellence, teamwork, collegiality and shared governance, inclusiveness of ideas, principled leadership, support to community, effective use of technology and an equitable reward system.
The University of the Virgin Islands, the only university in the territory, is a public liberal arts – based Masters II institution, a Historically Black College and University, and a Land-Grant University with an Agricultural Experiment Station, a Cooperative Extension Service, and the Virgin Islands Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (VI-EPSCOR). The institution is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, with its most recent accreditation being 2008.
The University of the Virgin Islands was chartered on March 16, 1962, as the College of the Virgin Islands by an act of the Fourth Legislature of the US Virgin Islands. According to that law, UVI’s cornerstone objective is to provide for … “stimulation and utilization of the intellectual resources of the people of the Virgin Islands and the development of a center of higher learning whereby and wherefrom the benefits of culture and education may be extended throughout the Virgin Islands.” The first campus opened on St. Thomas in July 1963, on 175 acres donated by the federal government. In 1964, the college founded a second campus on St. Croix on 130 acres also donated by the federal government. In 1967, the college added its first baccalaureate program and awarded its first degrees in 1970. Its first master’s degree which was in the School of Education was awarded in 1976. The institution now offers forty academic degree programs of which thirty four are at the undergraduate level and six at the graduate level. Undergraduate programs include twenty five bachelor’s degrees and nine associate degrees. Graduate programs include an Education Specialist Degree in School Psychology, Master of Business Administration, Master of Arts in Education, Master of Arts in Mathematics for Secondary Teachers, Master of Marine and Environmental Sciences and Master of Public Administration.
Similar to the evolutionary path of many institutions of higher learning across the nation, the College of the Virgin Islands was renamed the University of the Virgin Islands in 1986. This change reflected the institution’s growth and diversification of its academic curricula, community and regional services and research programs. In that same year, the US Congress designated the university as one of America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), being the only HBCU outside the mainland US and the first to offer a degree program in Marine Biology. The institution holds membership in many higher education associations including Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. The university also holds active membership in the Commission on Higher Education of State Colleges and Universities, the American Association of University Women, the American Council on Education, the Association of Caribbean Information Systems and the Association of Caribbean Universities and Research Institutes.
Over the years, however, the university has had many cooperative agreements with leading universities, making it possible for students to receive degrees not offered on University of the Virgin Islands campuses. One such agreement is with Boston University School of Medicine. Other cooperative agreements established with the British Virgin Islands and St. Martin (French/Dutch West Indies) encourage students to enroll in cohort programs resulting in Bachelors and Master Degrees at the University of the Virgin Islands. Less formal agreements exist in fields such as pre-engineering, pre-pharmacy and pre-medical technology. Today, the university enrolls approximately 2,600 full-time and part-time students on its two campuses.
Since its inception, the University of the Virgin Islands has had four presidents, the most current being Dr. David Hall, a native son of Savannah Georgia, Harvard Law School graduate and professional basketball player. Dr. Hall has replaced, Dr. LaVerne Ragster who became the first female president of the University of the Virgin Islands in 2002. Since being appointed President in 2009, Dr. Hall has been instrumental in developing a university-wide retention effort and has endeavored to ensure that shared governance become a reality at this institution. His passion for male students has motivated him to begin a ‘Male Initiative’ at the university whose primary purpose is to increase the number of men entering and earning degrees from the University of the Virgin Islands.
1.2 Vision and Mission of the Unit
The vision of the School of Education, closely aligned to the institution’s vision, is to promote standards of excellence in education for the students and the societies that it serves and to which it is committed. Its graduates are expected to demonstrate high levels of professionalism, academic achievement, and technological competence in a diverse, complex, and ever-changing world. The unit advocates learner-centered education and faculty-scholars that utilize research to inform practice. To achieve this vision, the unit promises to ensure
that: a) its candidates and graduates are highly qualified professionals and competent; b) its teacher candidates and other school professionals will engage in active learning experiences appropriate to the requisites of undergraduate and graduate programs; c) the unit utilizes technologies which reflect best practices in education; d) the unit collaborates with other units within the University to better prepare school professionals; e) the unit develops collaborations with the Caribbean and the world and partners with the Department of Education, the Board of Education, other non-public school agencies as well as other stakeholders in the community; f) the unit engages in best instructional practices that are student-centered and informed by scholarly research; and g) its faculty engage in practices that would attract and retain qualified candidates in the unit.
The Mission of the School of Education is to dedicate itself to the success of all students through its excellent teaching and to prepare competent and effective P – 12 teachers and other school professionals, including school administrators and school counselors, to function in highly complex and diverse settings and to promote academic excellence and student success in order to build a better future for individuals in the territory, the wider Caribbean and the World.
I.3 Programs Offered
The School of Education is one of four academic areas at the University of the Virgin Islands. The primary authority and responsibility of the unit is to prepare high quality teachers, school administrators and counselors at the undergraduate level and the graduate level. Teacher preparation programs at the undergraduate level include majors in Elementary Education, Inclusive Early Childhood Education and secondary preparation in concentration areas of Mathematics, Science, Social Sciences, English and Spanish. The Inclusive Early Childhood Education major is consistent with the University’s liberal arts focus and provides teachers of young children from birth to age eight, with the knowledge, skills and competencies to function in early care and education settings and in public schools. The program for elementary education majors is designed to provide broad preparation in the liberal arts, concentrated study in one selected content area, and professional preparation. Candidates enrolled in this program are prepared to become highly effective and successful professionals in a complex and ever changing society. An undergraduate program in Music Education has existed outside the unit and in the College of Liberal Arts, for many decades. The objective of this major is “to train students for professional careers as teachers and performers, prepare students for graduate studies in the discipline, provide opportunities for students in other academic areas to study music for cultural and professional values, and enrich the music experience of the University and community.” Having been a part of what was formerly known as the Humanities Division from the inception of the university, this program is looked at as a permanent fixture in that unit. In an attempt to adhere to NCATE requirements, both units are in dialog with regards to the future of this program.
Secondary preparation, unlike preparation in elementary education, requires that candidates satisfy general education requirements for the Bachelor of Arts concentration along with a focus on a discipline of choice.
At the graduate level, the School of Education currently offers a Master of Arts Degree in Education with concentrations in Educational Leadership, Counseling and Guidance, and Teaching.
A graduate program in Mathematics for Secondary Teachers, developed for a cohort of secondary mathematics teachers in the territory, by request of the Department of Education, is currently housed and managed in the College of Science and Mathematics. The School of Education and the College of Science and Mathematics are in dialog to ensure that this program meets the requirements of NCATE and has oversight in the School of Education.
A distinguishing feature of the School of Education has been its collaborations with Universities in neighboring Caribbean islands like the British Virgin Islands and French St. Martin. In both of these countries the School of Education has offered degrees at both the undergraduate and graduate level.
The profile of a School of Education student at the University of the Virgin Islands includes the following characteristics: one who is reflective and thus evaluates choices, actions, and decisions in the learning process; one who is an active learner who engages in critical thinking; one who uses his in depth understanding of content knowledge, professional and pedagogical knowledge to enable student learning; one who initiates and leads relationships with school colleagues, parents and the community to stimulate student growth and student development.
1.4 Basic Tenets of the Conceptual Framework
The purpose of the unit is to prepare professionals who are leaders that are reflective and active learners and that are committed to the enabling of students’ academic development and success. Specifically, the unit, through its identified goals, commits itself to prepare candidates that are:
- reflective and are capable of evaluating their choices, actions and decisions in the learning process and that engage in opportunities for professional growth.
- equipped to assume the role of enabler of student learning, by they themselves having an in depth understanding of specific content matter as well as professional and pedagogical content knowledge and skills that can be applied to student learning.
- active learners and that engage in critical thinking and that demonstrate an awareness of research and that use research-based best practices to inform teaching and learning.
4. leaders that are capable of initiating relationships with school colleagues, parents, and the community to support student learning.
Following are the themes and student competencies outlined in the unit’s conceptual framework.
Theme 1: The Professional as Reflective
- The candidate engages in opportunities for professional growth. (S)
- The candidate uses his strength and weaknesses as learning tools to modify and make appropriate adjustments to instruction. (S)
- The candidate is willing to give and accept constructive criticism. (D)
- The candidate evaluates the effects of choices and decisions on students and others. (S)
Theme 2: The Professional as an Enabler of Student Learning
1. The candidate respects and values all learners (D)
2. The candidate plans and organizes student activities and experiences for full participation of all learners. (S)
3. The candidate selects and uses teaching strategies that respond to student individual needs and learning styles. (S)
4. The candidate has an in depth understanding of subject matter content, pedagogical content knowledge as well as professional knowledge and skills. (K)
5. The candidate constructs learning environments that are learner centered, and that encourage positive social interaction, collaborative engagement and self-motivation. (S)
6. The candidate demonstrates sensitivity for diversity. (D)
7. The candidate understands how children learn and develop. (K)
8. The candidate uses knowledge of how children learn to plan for instruction and assessment. (S)
9. The candidate selects, develops, and uses formal and informal assessment strategies to evaluate student learning, strengthen instruction and decision making. (S)
Theme 3: The Professional as an Active Learner
1. The candidate engages students in critical thinking and problem solving opportunities. (S)
2. The candidate demonstrates an awareness of research and research-based best practices and uses this to inform instruction and adjust teaching to fit (S)
3. The candidate appreciates context and relevance of teaching and learning experiences and the needs of all children. (D)
4. The candidate uses knowledge of effective verbal, non-verbal and media communication strategies to promote learning. (K)
Theme 4: The Professional as a Leader
1. The candidate shows initiative and self-motivation in leadership. (D)
2. The candidate establishes cooperative partnerships with school colleagues, parents, and the community to support student learning. (S)
3. The candidate demonstrates caring dispositions toward all students. (D)