The University of the Virgin Islands celebrated its founding with a Charter Day ceremony and panel discussion held on March 15. The Charter Day theme was “Our Journey to Greatness.” The panelists, four UVI alumni, shared their memories, triumphs and recommendations.
The Charter Day ceremony and panel discussion were video conferenced from the first-floor conference room of the Administration and Conference Center on UVI’s St. Thomas campus and the North West Wing of UVI’s Great Hall on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix.
The panelists were Arthur Richards Junior High School Principal Kurt Vialet (‘87, ‘92) and UVI Data Specialist Aimee Sanchez (‘10), who spoke from St. Croix, and Attorney and UVI Rhodes Scholar Quincy Quinlan (’84) and Deputy U.S. Marshall Kwesi Howard (’01), who spoke from St. Thomas.
In animated anecdotes, the panelists shared their experiences at UVI and how those experiences helped to shape their lives.
“This place is a tremendous place,” said Quinlan. “It allowed me to spread my wings in a way that I did not think was possible.” He said it was UVI that helped him learn to achieve sustained excellence. “One of the things I learned at UVI is that opportunity strikes when you least expect it, and you have to be prepared in advance,” Quinlan said.
Originally from St. Kitts, Quinlan was exposed to people from the Caribbean and the mainland for the first time and soon learned he had much to do to raise his level of excellence. “I learned if you’re going to be great you have to strive for greatness,” he said. “From this place anything is possible.”
Howard was uncertain of what he wanted to do with his future as a UVI freshman. While at UVI he met people that helped him to mold his life. Howard recalled that he was not a perfect student, but was able to buckle down and make the dean’s list. Howard said he loves UVI because it is smaller and allows students to have a personal relationship with professors.
Vialet, a St. Croix native, reminisced about his college days. “My UVI days were perhaps some of my most exciting days in my life,” he said.
Vialet said he recalled thinking that he would breeze through UVI as he had high school, but found that UVI had extremely high academic standards. There was a large population of students from other, Caribbean islands including St. Kitts, Anguilla, St. Marten and Tortola, that were very intelligent. “Those guys were on top of their game,” said Vialet, who attended UVI on the St. Thomas campus. “We realized quickly that we also had to be on top of our game.”
Vialet said UVI professors were adamant that he focus on his education and UVI helped to improve his character. “The most important thing that UVI taught me was discipline,” said Vialet.
Sanchez’s memoires of UVI caused her to breakout in tears as she recalled the caring professors at UVI.
“The professors genuinely care about you as a student and you don’t see that other places,” she said. “It is a community that you feel comfortable in and that helps you grow stronger. UVI can build you up to do great things. Whatever your goal is I am confident that UVI can build you.”
Sanchez participated in UVI’s dual degree engineering program that allowed her to spend three years at UVI and two years at Columbia University - earning degrees from both institutions.
Sanchez encouraged UVI students to take advantage of all the services that UVI has to offer, including going to tutoring services and the office hours offered by UVI faculty.
“Charter Day exists not just so we can remember the legal act of the creation of the university, but it exists also for us to be able to reflect upon and to embrace the spirit of the founders of the University,” said UVI President Dr. David Hall. “If we embrace and understand their spirit and their determination to go forward despite naysayers and doubters, we should be able to harness that same spirit for the challenges that we face today.”
“Charter Day is really a time to revive the spirit of the institution and to know that we are moving forward regardless of what obstacles stand before us,” said Dr. Hall. “Challenges come to make us better. Helping us to move further down the pathway to greatness and understanding the journey even more.”