Friday, April 10, 2015

RTPark – New Director, New Vision

Robotics, underwater fiber optics, and wind turbines are a technological puzzle to many people. That may not be the case for long in the Virgin Islands.

Dr. Gillian Marcelle, the newly appointed director of the University of the Virgin Islands Research and Technology Park (RTPark), says one of her main priorities is to demystify technology and get the community more involved in the activities at the RTPark.

“We want to answer the questions ‘What does it all mean?’, ‘How does it involve me as an individual?’” says Dr. Marcelle. “Technology is typically set aside and some people find it scary. It is an important role for us to be an agent of change in that regard.”

Dr. Marcelle took the helm of the RTPark in January 2015, after more than 20 years of global experience in technology and innovation. She was head of the Centre for Science Technology and Innovation Indicators in South Africa, where she lived for 16 years. She also held an appointment as a research scholar at the Tata Centre for Technology and Design at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This is coupled with years of experience working with the United Nations and World Bank.

In her short tenure at the RTPark, Dr. Marcelle is filled with ideas and energy on how to make the park more accessible to Virgin Islands residents.

“We are going to start something I call ‘Tech Fridays,’ where the public is invited to the park to see and hear firsthand the activities of the park’s businesses,” Dr. Marcelle says. “Any citizen of the Virgin Islands should feel that the activities of the RT Park touches his or her life,” Marcelle says. “We are modeling ourselves after many different parts of UVI where community engagement is taken seriously.”

Another key item on her agenda is increasing the number of businesses in the park.

“In 2012 there were probably 18 active clients. Now we are at 27. By the end of this calendar year, we expect to be close to 35 active clients,” she says.

Use of the term “clients,” as opposed to “tenants” is just one small change Marcelle has already brought to the job.

“I think the relationship between a tenant and a landlord is different than the relationship between partners. We want to see our clients as partners sharing knowledge and expertise,” she says.

In mid-March, Dr. Marcelle hosted a stakeholder reception on St. Thomas for government officials, UVI administration members and clients of the RTPark. There, she outlined her vision for the future of the park. The event gave RTPark clients a rare opportunity to meet each other and exchange ideas.

Other changes in store for the RT Park include becoming a resource for political leaders in the territory. “We want to be a go-to, trusted place where if you’re in the political decision-making capacity you can secure an independent view on technology trends and technological developments,” Dr. Marcelle says.

Additionally, Dr. Marcelle plans to build on the RTPark’s achievement in energy conservation. In August 2014, Building 64 West Center, located on the Albert A. Sheen Campus, was awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)® Silver Certification under the leadership of former park Director David Zumwalt.

Zumwalt said at that time, “The 64 West Center project has fostered collaboration and visionary leadership from the moment design got underway in 2006. It changes the way buildings will be built in the USVI, and is a landmark for St. Croix and for the future growth of the RTPark.”

Dr. Marcelle agrees. “LEED certification signals we have environmental concerns in everything we do. Many of our clients work in businesses related to energy. The certification gives assurances about our ability to undertake energy standards.”

Not only is Dr. Marcelle, adjusting to her new offices at 64 West, she is settling into the St. Croix community. As a native of Trinidad she finds the transition a smooth one.

“I’m familiar with the topography and the island lifestyle,” she says. “I love living in the Western end of St. Croix, you can go 10 minutes without seeing another car! It’s lovely.”

As for her tenure at UVI so far, Dr. Marcelle says, “ I’m pleased and delighted that the welcome has been tremendous. It feels gratifying and encouraging.”

Friday, February 20, 2015

First Annual UVI Hackfest A Resounding Success

UVI students brainstorm to create new technologies. 

An innovative new strategy has been formed against drunk driving and it’s all compliments of a group of tech savvy University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) students.

During the recent 2015 Hackfest held on the St. Thomas campus, a four-member team took home the award for “Best Hack”—and $500—for developing a telephone app titled “Cup Check.” The app features methods to monitor alcohol consumption with the goal of keeping drunk drivers off the roads. Members of the winning team were Sean R. Benjamin, Jr., Keturah Bethel, Shaquan Lewis, and Daricia Wilkinson.

The challenge was daunting. Under the theme “problem solved” students were asked to develop a technological solution to an everyday problem in the Virgin Islands.

Wilkinson, says the problem of drunk driving was paramount with her group. “It was a long process coming up with the idea,” Wilkinson says. “We kept thinking how could we be innovative? How could we make this stand out?”

Wilkinson is tightlipped about the specifics of the app, since it is currently in development. But, she offers, “Essentially, the app monitors how much you drink to prevent you from getting drunk. It can calculate your consumption and your blood alcohol level.”

“Cup Check” may soon be coming to a phone near you. Wilkinson says sponsoring company NEARiX LLC will help her team develop “Cup Check” into an actual telephone application. NEARiX is a St. Croix-based technology and software development company.

For 24 hours Feb 6 and 7, the UVI Library was transformed into a think tank as students worked in teams, huddled around computers brainstorming ideas. Coffee and energy drinks became a staple of the night as teams rushed to create a winning project during a tight deadline.

“The competition was great because we basically had six and a half hours to come up with an idea for an app that would be impactful. We used up about two of those hours deliberating on the idea itself,” Lewis says. “Then it was crunch time after lunch when we were busy putting the details together, finalizing the visual presentation and prepping for the oral presentation.” He adds, “It was wonderful to see how the thought process of my team was flowing, and the level of deep thinking we used in putting the features of the app in place.”

Bethel is Vice President of UVIDEA, the student club that organized Hackfest. “The competition itself was a game changer. I was extremely pleased that students were willing and excited to participate,” Bethel says. “It made me realize that the University of the Virgin Islands is no underdog. We are taking a step in the right direction and moving rapidly. It was a little nerve-wracking though, because no one wants to be that team that has nothing to show after seven hours!”

The most “Innovative Hack” was awarded to team members Jason Baron, Nichole Etienne, Denny Smith and Leon Wheeler for their “Plant-O-Gram” telephone app. The app uses photo recognition technology to identify plants and communicate their health value to the community.

Students Andy Breaton, Julisa Marcel, and Kailen King received “Most Impactful Hack” for their real-time crime reporting and mapping phone application.

The Hackathon will be an annual event for UVI with the next one being held on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix.

As for the $500 cash prize, Wilkinson said her team chose to donate the money back to the UVIDEA club as a way to support their ongoing work.

Bethel wholeheartedly supports that action. “As Vice President of UVIDEA, I am elated to be initiating change alongside my teammates. We as a student body have longed for an upgrade in technology and more experience. UVIDEA's goal is to create an environment of innovative and entrepreneurial minds. By first eliciting a change in our students, we are carving out a better future and building a stronger foundation for our territory.”

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

UVI Research Students Win Big at National Conference

 UVI ABRCMS winners (From left) Shelsa Marcel, Khalin Nisbett, Ayanna Fredericks, Krystal Winter, and Serena Joseph pose in front of the UVI Library on the St. Thomas Campus. 

More than anything, Khalin Nisbett wants to use chemistry to save lives. The idea of extracting the extraordinary from ordinary items in the Caribbean excites her. Nisbett, a University of the Virgin Islands science major, spent last summer researching the anti-cancer agents that may be found in lemon grass – a species of grass commonly used in the Caribbean to make tea.

Her efforts were rewarded when she became one of five UVI research students to bring home awards this fall from the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), the largest professional conference for minority students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the United States. Nisbett, Ayanna Fredericks, Serena Joseph, Shelsa Marcel and Krystal Wynter presented posters on their research alongside 1,700 students from 700 colleges and universities all over the country. Seventeen UVI STEM students presented their research at the conference.

“This is the most wins ever for UVI,” said UVI Marine Biology Professor Dr. Teresa Turner, who accompanied the UVI contingent of students along with Dr. Aletha Baumann, a member of the psychology faculty on St. Croix.

Nisbett said her experience at the conference changed her life. “It opened another window for me,” she said. “I can now see my future a little clearer and it feels like my only restraint is myself. I felt proud of myself, and the other four females of UVI who won.”

Nisbett plans to continue her investigation into anti-cancer agents in lemon grass. “This research is important to the community and myself,” she said. “If we can find and deliver an anti-cancer agent that's already popular enough as a breakfast beverage, it means that we would have found an economic and abundant alternative to traditional treatments. That excites me.” Nisbett conducted her research with Dr. Yakini Brandy, a UVI chemistry professor on the St. Thomas Campus.

Wynter, a senior psychology major, won a best poster award in neurosciences. She used the Optogenetics Approach to conduct her research at a neuroscience lab at the University of Iowa. Wynter’s goal was to answer questions about the body that could not have been answered before the method was developed. Optogenetics uses light to control neurons, which have been genetically sensitized to light. Light-responsive proteins allow scientists to turn neurons on or off selectively with precision. Introducing these proteins into cultured cells or the brains of live animals allows investigation of the structure and function of neural networks.

“Optogenetics is fairly new,” she said. “We are now able to answer more system level questions that we were not able to before. With further research and our findings, we may be able to help people with general anxiety disorders.” Wynter did research on drug addiction, memory and learning.

When presenting at the conference her goal was to educate, so she was caught off guard when she won. “It didn't really sink in until after a while,” said Wynter. “I was really excited when I heard them say University of the Virgin Islands, but I kept thinking it was another student who presented in my discipline.” She continued, “It wasn't until I was walking back to my seat that it hit me.”

“After receiving the award, my friend Ayanna, who also won an award, was standing with her arms open,” said Wynter. “She ran all the way from the back of the room to give me a hug and told me how proud she was. I almost cried.”

“I am just happy to have represented my school well and make my family, mentor, advisors and friends proud,” she said.

Serena Joseph won best poster in the category of microbiology. Joseph, a junior biology major, presented her research on parasites in hair sheep.

Her love for animal science began at the age of seven. She found an injured stray dog and assisted the veterinarian in wrapping the animal’s broken hind leg. The family adopted the dog and nursed it back to health. From that moment, she knew that her interest was in animal science. Joseph spent last summer conducting research with Dr. Robert Godfrey, director of the UVI Agriculture Experiment Station on St. Croix.

Dr. Godfrey was pleased and surprised that Joseph won. “The surprise was not because I doubted her as a scientist or a presenter,” he said. “I was surprised that she did so well with an agricultural science project at a conference that really does not have agriculture as a significant component. She was able to explain her project to non-agricultural people, which can be difficult sometimes, but it is one of her many skills.”

Joseph has worked with Dr. Godfrey and his staff on several projects over the past few years. “She is a very fast learner whether it is in the field or the lab,” said Dr. Godfrey. “She was very astute at understanding the statistical analysis and what it meant for her data, which is very impressive.”

Ayanna Fredericks, a senior psychology major, won best poster in social and behavioral sciences. She said that winning the award was validation for all of the hard work she has been doing to earn her undergraduate degree. Fredericks worked with Dr. Kimarie Engerman, UVI associate professor of psychology and Doris Battiste, dean of students on St. Thomas, on a project analyzing alcohol and drug use among UVI students. After graduating from UVI in the spring, Fredericks plans to go onto earn a Ph.D. in psychology. “My plans ultimately are to return to the U.S. Virgin Islands to work with at-risk youth in the system,” she said. “That is actually my passion.”

“The youth need more people in their corner,” said Fredericks. “There are so many things that are pulling them in more negative directions. I want to be able to make an impact on their lives.”

Shelsa Marcel, senior computer science major, won a best poster award in the category of molecular and computational biology. Marcel used computer science and genetics to create an algorithm to discover how proteins in the body blend to DNA. During the summer, Marcel worked with a mentor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on the research. “Presenting at a national conference opened my eyes to the possibilities that there are in research,” said Marcel. While at the conference she was able to interact with many people in different fields and was able to put herself on a global scale and see how many opportunities are open to her in science in general.

Marcel plans to pursue a Ph.D. in bioinformatics, an interdisciplinary field of science that combines computer science, statistics, mathematics, and engineering to study and process biological data. She plans to become a research scientist and open her own lab.

UVI and its students have participated in the ABRCMS for the past 17 years. Each student won $250.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Golden Key Honour Society Recognizes UVI’s St. Thomas Chapter

The St. Thomas Chapter of UVI’s Golden Key International Honour Society was recognized as the organization’s Region 3 “Spark A Change” Chapter of the Month in November. The chapter was also the second place winner in the “Spark A Change” campaign among Golden Key chapters worldwide.

Among the numerous activities the chapter carried out to earn the distinction were presentations at a recent Lockhart Elementary School mentorship program for sixth grade students. Current and alumni Golden Key male members made a “Boys to Men” presentation, while current and alumni female members appeared as a “Queen’s Court,” according to Chapter President Aquila Dorsey.

Shown, from left, are Aquila Dorsey - Miss UVI Homecoming Queen 2012; Elisa Thomas - Miss UVI and Miss NBCA 2014;
Khadijah Lee - Miss St. John 2013; and Shayla Solomon - Miss Virgin Islands America 2009.
Four members who are current and former queens used their training in pageantry and professional etiquette to make a presentation on self-worth and value in life to the students. This interactive session, with some 40 girls, included hands-on activities and role playing exercises. Subtopics included: Knowing Who You Are, Making the Right Choices, Giving and Receiving Respect, and Academic Excellence.

During the male session, current and alumni members – including two professional engineers and a special appearance by professional boxer, Julius “The Chef” Jackson – shared their personal success stories with approximately 40 boys in the program. They also discussed the relevance of self-empowerment in order to overcome bullying, peer pressure and other challenges in life.  

Friday, December 5, 2014

UVICELL Honors 18 for Completing Dialysis Technician and Medical Assistant Programs

The UVICELL Center on the St. Thomas Campus recognized the achievements of 18 students who successfully completed coursework to enter or enhance their skills in the healthcare industry on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. Fourteen students graduated from the Dialysis Technician program, and four from the Clinical Medical Assistants (CMA) program. These programs were developed to address the changing trends in the healthcare industry resulting in the dislocation of allied healthcare workers.  

“As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, we have to be ready to provide continuous training so that the territory can keep abreast of those changes, meet federal requirements and provide quality healthcare,” said Ilene Garner, Director of the UVICELL Center.  “We are extremely pleased that these graduates have taken this important first step in meeting the demand for skilled healthcare workers."

Graduates of UVICELL’s 2014 fall healthcare programs on St. Thomas pose with their instructors Rhonda Jackson (far left) and Lorna Todman (far right).

Graduates of the Dialysis Program are: Frances Abraham, Cyndella Baron-Abraham, Rahkiya Benjamin, Kwameka Brown, Joanna Daniel, Joleen Hendricks, Kelvin Howard, Jehenelle Joseph, Jahvanna Richardson, Donalda Rogers, Genevieve Sobers, Krystal Spencer, Julie St. John and Carmencita Thomas. 

Graduates of the CMA program are: Paulette Collins, Joanna Daniel, Annelie Gumbs and Barbara Prescott.

Editor’s Note: Eleven students completed the CMA program on St. Croix in November. Readmore.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Reichhold Center: Legends Perform Here

From Ray Charles to Common – from Michael Bolton to the Alvin Ailey American Theater - UVI’s Reichhold Center for the Arts has hosted legendary artists and performers for over three decades. This year the center takes it over the top. Grammy Award winning singer Natalie Cole, on her second visit, delighted the Reichhold Center audience with an encore on Nov. 1, after performing for two hours straight to a packed Reichhold Center audience. This is Cole’s second performance at the center. “The intimacy that we have, especially with artists like Natalie Cole, is unique to Reichhold,” says Denise Humphrey, interim director of the University of the Virgin Islands Reichhold Center for the Arts. “You don’t experience any other artist, anywhere else, at any other venue, like you would here at the Reichhold.”

Up next on the line-up of legends is Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. Babyface is a musical maverick who has ignited the hearts of music lovers for decades. A prolific song writer, hit-maker, superstar recording artist and record label owner and producer, Babyface has won 10 Grammy Awards. He has sold more than 500 million singles and albums, and has more than 100 chart topping R and B hits. He performs at 8 p.m. on Jan. 17.

“He will have everyone moving and grooving,” says Humphrey. “His performance is definitely going to be a nice kick-off for the New Year.”

Babyface’s cool, soulful love songs include hits like, “When Can I See You Again” released in 1994, “Every Time I Close My Eyes” in 1997, “Whip Appeal” in 2001, and “For the Cool in You” in 2001.

In 1989, Babyface co-founded LaFace Records. Three of the label's early artists were, TLC, Usher, and Toni Braxton. “You can expect a plethora of music,” says Reichhold Center Marketing and Sales Manager Ian Turnbull of Babyface’s performance. “He is a music icon. There are countless records that he has either written or produced songs for that resonate with millions. He is truly a hit maker.” This year, he released a duet album with Tony Braxton titled “Love, Marriage, and Divorce.”

“The performance that he is going to bring to the stage is going to appeal to the young and the young at heart,” says Turnbull. “His musical repertoire spans the last four decades.”

Babyface is just one of the award winning artists performing at the Reichhold Center this season. Nine-time Grammy Award winning gospel artist Kirk Franklin will perform at the Reichhold Center on Feb. 7. Franklin has bridged the gap between gospel and other musical genres for more than two decades. “His show, in my opinion, is going to be the most active performance,” says Turnbull. “He puts on a high energy show.” Franklin is known for leading urban contemporary choirs such as “The Family,” “God’s Property” and “One Nation Crew.” He is also the host and executive producer of the gospel talent show “Sunday Best,” the highest-rated gospel program in Black Entertainment Television network history.

This season, the Reichhold Center has added “The Sky Lounge,” which is nestled under the shaded perch above the upper uncovered seats. The Sky Lounge has a newly designed bar and lounge seating with an intimate setting. Patrons can be served drinks and light hors d’oeuvres, while they watch the show. “You have the best spot in the house,” says Humphrey. “You have space to dance and to really enjoy the performance.” Humphrey says that this season is designed for people to come out, relax, enjoy and be entertained.

The Reichhold Center and UVI’s Virgin Islands Tourism and Hospitality Program have partnered to run the center’s concessions for regular season shows. “They have turned that whole atmosphere of our Sky Lounge into something that is very unique, that people are loving,” says Humphrey. “The students are fantastic. I love their level of service and their interactions. They are very professional and it is a testament to the quality of service that is coming out of that program.”

The Reichhold Center, a 1,196 seat amphitheater, has had a great season so far. The Center’s 36th season opened with a sold out performances from Reggae Artists Tessane Chin, winner of the hit television show “The Voice,” and Virgin Islands own Pressure Buspipe. Chin received a standing ovation and treated her fans with an encore performance.

Other shows this season include performances by:

· “Spencers: Theatre of Illusion” on March 7 and 8 – during his visit in the Virgin Islands, Spencer will also visit schools and health service centers.

· The Dzul Dance Company on March 21 – this show-stopping company fuses contemporary dance with aerial arts, contortion and acrobatics to showcase indigenous Mexican Mayan culture.

· Jeffrey Osborne and Freddie Jackson on May 23 – Osborne will perform his hits “Stay With Me Tonight,” “She’s On The Left,” “You Should Be Mine,” and more. A former lead vocalist for the band L.T.D., Osborne’s solo career has earned him a total of five gold and platinum albums. Freddie Jackson earned legions of fans with the sultry songs “You Are My Lady” and “Rock Me Tonight.”

For more information on Reichhold Center shows visit or call the box office at (340) 693-1559. For advertising and sponsorship opportunities contact Ian M. Turnbull at (340) 693-1554 or via email The Reichhold Center’s 2014-2015 season is sponsored by Marriott Frenchman’s Reef, International Capital & Management Company, VI Lottery, Innovative and VI Council on the Arts.

Eleven Graduates Receive Clinical Medical Assistant Certificates from CELL

2014 Graduates of UVICELL’s Clinical Medical Assistant Program.
Eleven students who graduated from the recent Clinical Medical Assistant (CMA) program offered by the UVI’s Community Engagement and Lifelong Learning (UVICELL) Center received certification during a ceremony on Nov. 19, 2014, in Frederiksted, St. Croix. The six-month CMA program is designed to prepare students to perform a wide range of clinical tasks in a healthcare setting. It was created to address high unemployment rates on St. Croix and provide much needed skills to increase chances for employment in the healthcare sector.
Graduates of the program are trained to assist with the administration of medication, prepare patients for examination and treatment, record and take vital signs, and perform routine laboratory procedures. Graduates included: Alberta Benjamin, Shemona Cascen, Shermin Charles, Ana Cruz, Jewelise Fahie, Mary Francois, Bernadette King, Brenda La-Force, Sophia Lawrence-Brown, Shanice Liburd and Brizeida Rivera. Ten of the eleven students are already nationally certified.
“Our students have worked extremely hard to achieve this milestone,” said Ilene Garner, director of the UVICELL Center. “It is also fitting that we are able to train and certify individuals in the industry, especially when our healthcare system needs an infusion of trained and talented staff to support our local healthcare facilities,” she said. 
The course, taught in a blended-learning environment, combined online learning with traditional classroom methods. Theoretical aspects of the course were taught online with the assistance of an online instructor. Regular group and clinical hands-on sessions with an in-class instructor rounded out the comprehensive course, providing a rich and unique learning experience.  

For more information on the CMA program, contact the UVICELL Center at (340) 693-1100 or visit 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Training Sessions for Peer Educators Prepare Them for UVI, Community Outreach

From left, St. Thomas Campus Peer Educators Sean Benjamin, 
Lurenzo Scotland - a lead educator, Elvaneice Huggins and 
Kiah Muller - a lead educator, release balloons signifying the 
release of their weaknesses while focusing on their strengths 
during a training sessionClick on photos to see larger image
This year, when UVI celebrates Red Ribbon Week on St. Croix and St. Thomas, members of the University’s Peer Educators Program will play a key role in the activities. In addition to staffing pledge tables and participating in the planned marches, the Peer Educators – 16 on St. Croix and 19 on St. Thomas – will make presentations on campus and participate in outreach to the greater Virgin Islands community. (Note: Red Ribbon activities are set for both campuses from Oct. 27-30. Link to UVI Announcements)
Their goal is to share accurate information about the effects that drugs, alcohol and HIV have on their fellow students as well as other residents in the territory. Three formal training sessions held earlier this semester brought all the program’s students together to hear from experts in their respective fields, according to Program Coordinator Alyssa Ryan. The trainings, a mandatory aspect of the program, featured Dr. Peggy Glider from the University of Arizona; Vanessa Cooke, director of Bowie State University’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Prevention Center; and UVI alumna Japheth Auguste, who works as a professional counselor in Florida.

Some of the contingent of Peer Educators from the Albert A. Sheen 
Campus gather for a photo during a break from training. Shown, 
from left, are - back row - Tyquana Mewborn, Samuel Joseph, 
Akira Matthew, Briana Eleonora, Chyrise Eleonora, Shenequa 
Hector and Rokeyah Connor, and -  front row - Janalee Concepcion, 
Christopher Rosario - lead educator, Sophia Johnson, Kaila Mitchell 
and Ashley Baker.
Glider shared details of a program she runs that is designed to reduce high-risk drinking among college students and others ages 18 to 24 using campus-based media campaigns and other strategies to address misperceptions about alcohol. Cooke conducted a Certified Peer Educators Training session designed to improve listening skills, develop socially inclusive outreach efforts, and share techniques to successfully encourage individuals to take action steps for change. All Peer Educators work to achieve certification.

Auguste’s training focused on an in-depth look at the effects of alcohol and marijuana on different parts of the body, and how students can translate that information to their peers. She also discussed the possible legalization of marijuana in the Virgin Islands and how to handle situations where Peer Educators encounter students who strongly favor the legalization of medicinal and recreational marijuana.

The work of Peer Educators continues throughout the year. The program is part of UVI’s larger Substance Abuse and HIV Prevention Program, which is funded by a major grant by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration.

Peer Educators pose with presenter Dr. Peggy Glider, in red, from the University of Arizona during a training session in September.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Three St. Croix UVI Process Technology Students Receive Seven Seas Water Scholarships

Scholarship Recipients of the Seven Seas Water Scholarships are, from
left, Tyrone DeCosta, Alex G. Cintron and Kwame N. Garcia.
Three UVI Process Technology students on St. Croix have each been awarded $2,000 scholarships for the 2014-2015 academic school year from Seven Seas Water. The students are Tyrone DeCosta, Alex G. Cintron and Kwame N. Garcia. 

All three recipients are first-year students in the two-year Associate of Applied Science in Process Technology (AASPT) Degree Program which is offered on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix. This program has produced 110 graduates in the last decade. These graduates are now employed in industrial facilities locally, nationally and globally.

Seven Seas Water is based in Tampa, Fla, and operates reverse osmosis water desalination plants at the Virgin Islands Water Power Authority (VIWAPA) plant facilities on St. Thomas and St. Croix. Seven Seas Water has been partnering with and supporting the Process Technology Program by providing scholarships, internships and employment opportunities to UVI students since 2012. For more information contact Program Director Eric Douglas at (340) 690-9533 or send email to

UVI Alumna, Professor Named ‘Future of Nursing Scholar’

Future of Nursing Scholar Desiree Bertrand attends 7th Annual UVI CERC Health Disparities Institute on St. Thomas. 
Nursing is Desiree Bertrand’s calling. The need to help someone else is what drew her to the career, but it is understanding that research can lead to solutions, that drove her to seek a doctorate degree in nursing. Bertrand’s dedication to research has not gone unnoticed. 

Bertrand, a University of the Virgin Islands alumna, has been named a Future of Nursing Scholar by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This fall, she is part of the inaugural cohort of the foundation’s Future of Nursing Scholars (FNS) Program. This program is designed to dramatically increase the number of Ph.D.-prepared nurses in the United States.

The schools that are funded by the FNS program select the students who will receive scholarships and other support. Bertrand is enrolled in the Medical University of South Carolina and attends classes on-line. She was chosen from 15 other (MUSC) Ph.D. nursing students who were expected to begin classes in 2014.

Sixteen students from universities throughout the United States will join Bertrand in the program’s inaugural cohort. “I was very honored and humbled to receive such a scholarship,” says Bertrand. The FNS program is a three year program that provides financial support, mentoring, leadership development activities, and postdoctoral research funding to build the leadership capacity of nurse educators and researchers.
UVI Adjunct Nursing Professor Desiree Bertrand 

“My initial drive to get a Ph.D. is so that I can better understand the research process,” says Bertrand, who hopes to become a well-qualified nurse researcher. “With a Ph.D., I would be able to apply for grants and do my own research projects – which is my goal.”

For her doctoral research, Bertrand will focus on intimate partner violence. Her research interests include women's health, health disparities and domestic violence. She is co-principal investigator of a research study titled, “An Integrated Risk Reduction Intervention for African Caribbean Women Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence – The Empowered Sisters Project.”

“I think the fact that I am actively doing research and the depth of research over the last five years, was a major decision factor in getting this scholarship,” says Bertrand, who has been an assistant professor at UVI since 2003 and has been a research coordinator and community education and outreach director with the UVI Caribbean Exploratory Research Center (CERC) since 2009.

“The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Future of Nursing Scholars program was designed as a multi-funder initiative that will create a diverse group of Ph.D.-prepared nurses committed to long-term leadership careers, advancing science and discovery through research, strengthening nursing education, and furthering transformational change in nursing and health care,” says Heather J. Kelley-Thompson, FNS program deputy director. Bertrand joined the inaugural cohort of scholars attending a leadership boot camp in August 2014. “This two-day immersion allowed the scholars to connect as a cohort and develop skills that will serve them well as they begin their doctoral programs,” says Kelly-Thompson.

“Ms. Bertrand has been a major contributor to key research projects in which the center is involved, participating in data collection, analysis and manuscript development and publications,” says Dr. Gloria Callwood, UVI associate professor of nursing and director of CERC. “I am certain that her extraordinary accomplishments related to her research activities at CERC influenced the decision makers at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.”

Bertrand has participated in and provided oversight of research activity on St Croix, while leading territorial community activities to inform the public on health risk reduction and leading healthier life styles, says Dr. Callwood. Under her leadership, the Community Education and Outreach Core developed a “Health Education Toolkit,” which can be accessed at She has also presented research outcomes at national and international conferences.

There is little health research on Virgin Islanders or research done by Virgin Islanders, explains Bertrand. “The research that I am doing now and in the future will affect people in the Virgin Islands.” Currently research done on African Americans in the mainland, are used to represent the health needs of people in the territory. She hopes she will have the opportunity to collaborate with other researches to benefit the healthcare in the territory.
Desiree Bertrand (right) speaks with CERC Community Engagement and
Outreach Coordinator Dr. Angela Ford (center ) and CERC Regional
Coordinator Dr. Janis M. Valmond at the CERC Health Disparities Institute. 

Bertrand is an adjunct nursing professor at UVI. Students participating in the FNS program are strongly encouraged to cut their workload in half. The program provides financial support that allows them to work part-time as they pursue their doctoral degrees.

Bertrand earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from UVI in 1995 and a Master of Science in Nursing Education from Midwestern State University in 2002.

The other universities participating in the FNS program include Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, Villanova University, the University of California- Davis, the University of California - San Francisco, the University of California - Los Angeles, the University of San Diego, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Rhode Islands, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, and Duke University.