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UVI Appoints New Academic and Administrative Staff

Mitchell Neaves,vice president for Institutional Advancement, Verna Rivers, dean of students on the St. Thomas Campus and Dr. Sandra L. Romano, dean for the College of Science and Mathematics.

The University of the Virgin Islands has tapped three long-time employees to take on new roles in top positions at the University. Mitchell Neaves has been appointed UVI Vice President for Institutional Advancement, UVI Alumna Verna Rivers (‘88) has been appointed to serve as dean of students on the St. Thomas Campus and Dr. Sandra L. Romano has been appointed Dean for the College of Science and Mathematics.

Vice President for Institutional Advancement

For more than a decade, Neaves has served the University as director of annual giving and director of major gifts. He served as interim vice president for institutional advancement for 11 months before being appointed to the position.

“Mr Neaves has guided our development efforts and all of the other critical functions in the Institutional Advancement Component in a thoughtful and collaborative manner,” said UVI President David Hall. “I believe he brings the experience, dedication and knowledge of the institution that will allow us to continue the success we have experienced in the past.”

A 1989 graduate of the Charlotte Amalie High School on St. Thomas, Neaves holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from Michigan State University and a master's degree in Sports Administration and Facility Management from Ohio University. He also earned a certificate in Fundraising Management from The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. 

“Embracing a culture of philanthropy, meaningful alumni engagement and strategic partnerships remain among our priorities as an institution,” said Neaves of the University. “UVI is among the best Universities in the Caribbean and we will continue to excel and advance with every opportunity we are afforded. I will continue working with University leadership and stakeholders to enhance the work we do for our community and our partners in education.” 

Dean of Students – St. Thomas Campus

For two decades Rivers has served at UVI in various roles, including as an administrator in the Division of Student Affairs, as a training and benefits supervisor in the Department of Human Resources, and as the counseling supervisor for the St. Thomas Student Affairs Division. 

“Ms. Rivers has worked to initiate and instituted co-curricular programs and services for students,” said Dr. Camille McKayle, UVI provost. “We look forward to working with her to enhance student life and student engagement, especially for the St. Thomas Campus.” In recent years, Rivers addressed the needs of students with disabilities, and worked with faculty to raise awareness about accommodating the needs of UVI students, she said.

 “I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as the dean of students,” said Rivers. “I will use my experience, solid knowledge of student development theory and student services to advance the creation of a student-centered learning environment that empowers students to further their social, academic and career goals.”

Rivers has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from UVI, and a Master of Arts in Psychology, with a concentration in counseling from Texas Southern University. She took her new post in April 2015. 

Dean for the College of Science and Mathematics

Dr. Sandra L. Romano, associate professor of Marine Biology, has been serving in the role of interim dean for College of Science and Mathematics (CSM) since 2012.

Dr. Romano, who joined the faculty at UVI in 2000 as a professor of marine biology, has worked with undergraduate and graduate students on her research on the molecular systematics of corals, for which she received funding from the National Science Foundation.

 She has served as the Pre-Health Professions Advisor, the coordinator for the National Institutes of Health’s Minority Biomedical Research Support – Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (NIH MBRS-RISE) program on the St. Thomas Campus. She has also served as the director of the Masters in Marine and Environmental Science Program and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences. She currently leads the Workforce Development and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education research portion of the Virgin Islands Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (VI - EPSCoR) project. She also provides leadership for the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Partnership for International Research and Education, a collaborative grant project that UVI has with the University of South Florida.

“We look forward to Dr. Romano's continued leadership for the College of Science and Mathematics,” said UVI Provost Dr. Camille McKayle.

“I am very excited to be able to continue to lead the College,” said Dr. Romano. “We have a lot of exciting opportunities for growth - recent funding from National Aeronautics and Space Administration to support the growth of our Physics Program, from the Department of Energy for studies in cybersecurity, from NSF through VI-EPSCoR to improve STEM education in the territory, as well as the development of the School of Medicine, to name just a few. I look forward to working with faculty and staff to grow our programs and provide excellent STEM training and experience for our students.”

Dr. Romano’s interest in marine biology and coral reefs developed during her teenage years on St. Croix where she graduated from The Good Hope School and then later attended the West Indies Lab. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Aquatic Biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara and went on to earn her masters and Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Hawaii, Manoa. She was awarded a yearlong postdoctoral fellowship by the Smithsonian Institution at the National Museum of Natural History and the Laboratory for Molecular Systematics. She spent another four years as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Guam Marine Laboratory.

In 2012, Dr. Romano was selected as one of forty national Partnership for Undergraduate Life Science Education (PULSE) Leadership Fellows. PULSE is a collaborative effort developed and funded by NSF, NIH/National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute whose objective is to implement recommendations of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Vision and Change Report for transforming life sciences education at the Department level and above.