Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dr. Godfrey: Working to Feed the World through Scientific Research

Dr. Robert Godfrey, director of the University of the Virgin Island’s Agricultural Experiment Station (AES) and professor of animal science on UVI’s Albert A. Sheen Campus
Self-proclaimed Caribbean cowboy Dr. Robert Godfrey loves going riding. Equally, he can’t wait to don his scuba gear and dive in the vibrant waters of St. Croix on the weekends. But what really excites him is scientific animal research.

Dr. Godfrey, director of the University of the Virgin Island’s Agricultural Experiment Station (AES) and professor of animal science on UVI’s Albert A. Sheen Campus, is conducting research on how Caribbean hair sheep and Senepol cattle have been able to adapt to the warm humid climate in the Caribbean, while their mixed breed counterparts don’t fare as well.

In March, he was a guest lecturer at Kansas State University in the Department of Animal Science and Industry. His presentation was a part of the Advance Distinguish Lecture Series sponsored by the Kansas State Office for the Advancement of Women in Science and Engineering. Dr. Godfrey, who received a Bachelor of Science in animal science and industry from Kansas State in 1980, was nominated by Dr. Lindsey Hulbert, associate professor of physiology and behavior at Kansas State. Drs. Godfrey and Hulbert are collaborators on a USDA-NIFA W-2173 multistate research project titled “Impacts of Stress Factors on Performance, Health, and Well-Being of Farm Animals.” Dr. Godfrey was able to discuss his research with undergraduate and graduates students and faculty.
Senepol cattle

In an attempt to find out why Senepol cattle fare better than cross-bred cattle, Dr. Godfrey began measuring their body temperature by using thermal imaging, rectal thermometers, or indwelling temperature probes. He has also done some research with colleagues from Cornell University, the University of Arizona and the University of Hawaii on monitoring the sweating rate of cattle. Senepol cattle sweat and increase their respiration more than cross-bred cattle that are not as adjusted to the environment.

The St. Croix White Hair Sheep’s body temperatures are cooler than the cross bred hair sheep in the flock. The cross-bred members of the flock are from the Dorper breed found in South Africa – where it is hot and dry. They are not as adapted to the territory’s warm and humid climate. “Our sheep and our cattle are well adapted here,” he says. “We are getting a hand on what traits make them adapted and if there is a way we can select those traits and conduct cross breeding programs to pass on those traits to subsequent generations.”

St. Croix White Hair Sheep
Dr. Godfrey and a University of the Virgin Islands Research Specialist Whitney George presented their research at the Southern Section American Society of Animal Science meetings this year in February and presented poster presentations on UVI’s Research Day on April 10.

“We hope that we can look at and develop ways to help the farmers come up with more economic ways of producing their livestock,” he says, adding that based on his findings farmers may change the way they breed, feed, or select traits for their animals. Dr. Godfrey focuses his research on heat stress as well as the limitation of water. These areas are of much interest to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which provide most of the funding for his research.

He says that the heat stress research he is conducting is closely related to the climate change issue. “We are kind of like the canary in coal mine almost,” Dr. Godfrey says. “It’s already warm here.” He is looking at which farming practices can be developed and utilized that will increase high levels of production, whether it is livestock or crops, under these conditions. Animals and certain crops in the territory have adapted to our warm humid environment, he says. In fact, hair sheep in the territory have developed some resistance to parasites that devastate sheep on the mainland. Finding out how or why they are resistant will allow farmers to use less medicine to treat their sheep, thus providing a more wholesome food source.

Through consistent thorough research, Dr. Godfrey hopes to continue to find answers to agricultural mysteries. “I just get excited about the science,” he says. “I like asking questions and trying to find the answers.”

While on Facebook, one day, he found a quote that he feels best describes his role in the world. It said, “I didn’t need a plumber today, I didn’t need an architect, I didn’t need a cab driver, but I needed a farmer because I have to eat every day.”

“We feed people,” Dr. Godfrey says. “Our research helps produce food eventually. Everybody eats.” He continues, “We help produce what people eat. That’s always a nice feeling to know you’re helping in that respect. I’m not out there farming, producing stuff and selling it to the market directly, but hopefully people will use the tools and the things we develop to help enhance their productivity and feed the world. That’s one of our big goals.”

Monday, March 31, 2014

UVI Researchers ID Possible Cause of White Plague Coral Disease

UVI Researcher Dr. Marilyn E. Brandt inspects a colony of the large grooved brain coral (Colpophyllia natans) in the coral reef at Botany Bay at eight meters (26 feet) depth on Aug. 26, 2006. The coral was affected by a white plague disease, after the 2005 coral bleaching event. The darker brown-beige colors are living tissue and the gray areas are portions that were recently killed by the disease.
The Virgin Islands are known as a hot spot for tourism – snorkeling, diving, deep sea fishing, sailing and cruise ship visits. Unfortunately, say researchers at the University of the Virgin Islands, the territory is also a hotspot for coral disease. They have turned their attention to a specific threat to the territory’s coral reefs, known as white plague, which is one of the more abundant diseases killing coral here.

Recent investigations of the causes of severe coral diseases in Virgin Islands waters, led by Dr. Marilyn Brandt of UVI’s Center for Marine and Environmental Studies, have identified viruses as a potential coral pathogen. Collaborating with Dr. Brandt on the study were Dr. Tyler Smith of UVI, Dr. Rebecca Vega-Thurber of Oregon State University and Oregon State Ph.D. graduate student Nitzan Soffer.

“The research suggests that white plague disease is associated with and may be caused by viruses,” Dr. Brandt said. “This is the first study of its kind that has identified viruses as a potential coral pathogen.” The research also showed the disease was triggered by contact of living coral tissue with sand and sediment after Hurricane Earl on Aug. 30, 2010.

That, hopefully, is a step toward achieving Dr. Brandt’s overall goal, which is “to try to understand the disease so that we can better manage it or even prevent it.” She first encountered white plague on a dive trip to the Cayman Islands in 1999. “It’s been a topic of my primary research since my undergrad days,” she said. “It was devastating to watch your favorite dive site just being destroyed because of this disease that we didn’t know anything about.”

White plague disease is known to affect more than 30 species of coral and was responsible for killing large amounts of coral after a warming event hit the territory in 2005, according to Dr. Brandt. In the 1990s, the disease was originally thought to be associated with a bacterial pathogen, but Dr. Brandt says “conflicting results from more recent studies, like ours, suggest that the causal agent may be more complex than originally thought.”

Brandt’s study, detailed in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, noted that “colony fragmentation and contact with sediment played primary roles in the initial appearance of disease, but that the disease was capable of spreading among colonies, which suggests secondary transmission is possible through some other, unidentified mechanism.”

“Understanding what is occurring on a small scale in a location like Brewer’s Bay (where the study was conducted) has high relevance for researchers throughout the Caribbean,” Dr. Smith said. In addition to his UVI research, he serves as research coordinator for the V.I.’s Territorial Coral Reef Monitoring Program, which was established by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources and funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coral Reef Conservation Program.

Healthy coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse and economically valuable ecosystems on earth, according to the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program. They provide valuable and vital ecosystem services, serving as a source of food for millions, protecting coastlines from storms and erosion, and providing habitat, spawning and nursery grounds. Dr. Brandt thinks Virgin Islanders should be as concerned as she is about the plight of coral. “Corals provide the habitat. They are the ecosystem engineers for all the coral reefs which produce the things we like – like fish and conch and lobster. If the corals die and crumble away you don’t have that,” she said. “Without the corals which are the fundamental builders of that system we would lose much.”

The local research was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the NSF-supported Virgin Islands Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (VI-EPSCoR). Recent improvements in the marine science facilities at UVI helped to make these studies possible. Dr. Brandt and UVI were also awarded a grant from NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program to continue studies of this and other important coral diseases in the territory.

Brandt’s research has garnered international attention in papers based on the study published in 2013 in two scientific journals – PLOS ONE in February, and the International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal (ISME J) in September. It also drew national attention from the NBC News-Science website in October.

Journal entries based on Dr. Brandt’s study are available from the following websites:


Submitted late 2012 - Published Feb. 20, 2013 – The Ecology Piece - Disturbance Driven Colony Fragmentation as a Driver of a Coral Disease Outbreak

· International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal:


Potential Role of Viruses – Soffer – primary author of second study – analysis of lab data

Study results are also featured on the NBC News-Science website:

· http://www.nbcnews.com/science/virus-may-be-causing-deadly-coral-white-plague-epidemic-caribbean-8C11397317

UVI’s Center for Marine and Environmental Studies was established in 1999. It is a research and outreach arm of UVI's Marine Science Program. UVI’s College of Science and Mathematics offers degree programs in Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Marine Biology, Mathematics, Physics and Process Technology.

Monday, March 17, 2014

UVI STEM Graduates Excel Beyond National Average

UVI students conduct experiments on the University's Albert A. Sheen Campus.

Doctoral degrees are closer to reality for University of the Virgin Islands Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates than their national counterparts. Estimates are that nationally only 50 percent of students who start Ph.D. programs in the sciences complete their degrees. UVI data shows that 88 percent of the students in the Minority Access to Research Careers program that start working on a Ph.D. complete that degree. In 2013, five UVI STEM alumni have completed Ph.D.’s.
  • Bertrum Foster (‘03), mathematics major, earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from Howard University.
  • Shana Augustin (‘06), biology major, earned a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in neuroscience.· Jennifer (Greaux) Thomas (‘06), chemistry major, earned a Ph.D. in chemistry at Florida International University.
  • Kailah Davis (‘07), computer science major, earned a Ph.D. from the University of Utah in biomedical informatics.
  • Verleen McSween (‘07), biology major, earned a Ph.D. in vision science from the Indiana University and now has a postdoctoral position at the Indiana University School of Optometry.

Long term data shows that 14 percent of UVI’s Bachelor of Science graduates in the fields of biology and chemistry complete Ph.D. degrees. Approximately 13 percent of these graduates complete medical degrees. Others complete masters degrees, degrees in pharmacy, dentistry and other fields.

“It feels wonderful to have a high rate of alumni obtaining Ph.D. degrees from highly competitive doctoral programs,” said Dr. Teresa Turner, UVI marine biology professor. “The fact that UVI alumni can be so successful speaks to the high quality of the UVI undergraduate experience.”

Dr. Turner said that the curriculum at UVI is rigorous and the grading standards are high. The University’s faculty members involve students in research and UVI has partnerships with a large number of institutions where undergraduates can have summer research experiences, including Boston University, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Iowa, the University of Florida, and others. UVI alumni have also gone on to earn prestigious graduate fellowships.

“I am proud of UVI’s alumni,” said Dr. Turner. “They conduct research that has an impact on the territory, the nation, and the world. Many alumni are conducting research in areas including coral reefs, fisheries, HIV, stem cells, eye diseases, immunology, neuroscience and the use of computer science techniques to gain information from medical records.”

“UVI encourages its graduates to seek higher degrees,” she said. “Our goal is to prepare our students for leadership positions in the Virgin Islands, nationally, and internationally. We would love to have a higher percentage of the faculty at UVI be UVI graduates. These alumni provide role models for our students.”

So far at least two of UVI’s recent alumni have granted her wish. Dr. Yakini Brandy (‘07) earned a bachelor’s of science in chemistry from UVI. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry from Howard University in 2012 and is currently employed at UVI as a chemist. Dr. Bertrum Foster, assistant professor of mathematics, returned to UVI this spring as a faculty member.

In an effort to inspire undergraduate students to earn graduate degrees, alumni are urged to come back to the territory to share their research experience. Dr. Shana Augustin, a neurophysiologist, returned to the University as part of the Emerging Caribbean Scientist’s research seminar series in September of 2013. She shared the process, insights and results of the Parkinson’s disease research she is conducting at the University of Chicago. The title of Dr. Augustin’s seminar was “Cyclic AMP and Afferent Activity Govern Bidirectional Synaptic Plasticity in Striatopallidal Neurons.”

Dr. Turner said that earning a doctoral degree trains students to become leaders in research and policy. There are many advantages for students who earn Ph.D.’s:

· People with Ph.D. degrees earn higher salaries.

· People with Ph.D.’s have low unemployment rates.

· Ph.D. holders can work in government, in industry, in universities or become entrepreneurs.

· In the sciences, tuition is waived in doctoral programs and students are paid for the research they conduct.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Social Science Building Grand Opening - St. Thomas Campus

UVI’s Social Sciences Department hosted a grand opening ceremony of its newly remodeled building on the St. Thomas Campus on Thursday, Feb. 27. The ceremony included presentations by Dr. Simon B. Jones-Hendrickson, dean of UVI’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, President David Hall, and featured speaker former Governor and UVI Professor Emeritus Dr. Charles W. Turnbull. (Click photo to view larger image.)

From left, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Dean Dr.
Simon B. Jones-Hendrickson, UVI President Dr. David Hall, and
Interim Vice Provost for Research and Public Service Dr. Frank Mills.
Dr. Dion Phillips
Dr. Malik Sekou
Dr. Charles W. Turnbull

UVI students, from left, Elvaneice Huggins, Khaliesha Dias
and Verlyndeh Rogers pose before of a mural they
painted in the entry foyer of the newly remodeled
Social Sciences Building on UVI’s St. Thomas Campus.
Dr. Simon Jones-Hendrickson
with retired Associate Professor
of Social Work Adelle Belle-Barry.

VI Calypso King
Patrick “Soljah” Farrell 


The morning also included a musical presentation by the reigning VI Calypso Monarch Patrick “Soljah” Farrell, who is also a UVI student, a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours of the Social Sciences Building.  Along with Gov. Turnbull, numerous former Social Sciences faculty and staff attended the opening. Social Sciences Chair Dr. Dion Phillips and former Dean and Chair of Social Sciences Dr. Malik Sekou served as masters of ceremony.

The renovated Social Sciences building features a dean’s office,
11 faculty offices, a Psychology Lab shown here, and a conference
room that will feature videoconferencing.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Black History Month Challenge

SGA – from left, Kareme Thomas, Denikaa Harrigan, Jahbari Dessout and Denaesha Phipps.

The Student Activities Center on UVI’s St. Thomas Campus was abuzz with action on Thursday, Feb. 27, as the Student Government Association (SGA) hosted a Black History Month Expo and Presentation Competition. Various student groups choose remarkable individuals to honor at their informational tables. Chosen were: reigning Miss UVI Murchtricia Charles – by the Queen’s Committee, radio personality Addie Ottley – by the Rotaract Club, former and current UVI presidents, Drs. LaVerne Ragster and David Hall – by the SGA main table, Bob Marley – by the St. Kitts and Nevis Association, the late Nicholas “Daddy” Friday – by the Carnival Committee, and poet Maya Angelou – by the Alpha Kappa Sorority. (Click on photos for larger view.)

Carnival Committee – from left, Sher-Laura Rivera and Khalil Dias.
Alpha Kappa Sorority – from left, 
Samantha Daniel and Gemel Joseph.

Queen’s Committee – Shania Shervington. 
Rotaract Club – from left, Sephar Callwood, Naline
Ramnaraine and Ranisha Mascole.
St. Kitts and Nevis Association – from left, Shaun Seabrookes, Ralda Claxton, Andrea Wilson and Cashkim Bussue.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

UVI’s Kevin Dixon Named White House All-Star

Dedicated, innovative, resourceful and dependable are just a few words that spring to mind when persons are asked to describe University of the Virgin Islands Student Government Association (SGA) President Kevin Dixon. Earlier this month, it became apparent that people at UVI or in the Virgin Islands, for that matter, were not the only ones who know of his stellar leadership abilities. Dixon was named a 2014 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) All-Star in February. The All-Star selection is part of a White House Initiative that recognizes 75 undergraduate, graduate and professional students for their accomplishments in academics, leadership and civic engagement.  
Dixon was selected from 445 students currently enrolled at 62 HBCUs. Each student submitted completed applications that included a transcript, resume, essay, and recommendation.  
“I am humbled and honored to be selected as a White House Initiative on HBCUs 2014 All-Star student,” said Dixon, a senior majoring in business management and business administration with a concentration in marketing on UVI’s Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix. “This is an opportunity and a distinction that I am ecstatic to be a part of. I am privileged to be among students who continue to excel and make a positive impact at their respective universities and their broader communities.”
“Kevin Dixon is phenomenal,” said Janelle Royer, SGA outreach coordinator on the Albert A. Sheen Campus. “He is sincere, fair, and a dedicated worker. If he makes a commitment to do something be assured that he will do all he can to execute it well. Mr. Dixon is and I pray will continue to be, a valued asset to society now and in the future. I am proud of him for he deserves to be named a 2014 HBCU All-Star.”
“As the leader for the Student Government Association on St. Croix, Kevin ensures a professional interaction with all on behalf of the SGA. He works on behalf of the students in all that he does and he is an able, punctual and reliable representative on many university committees,” said UVI Interim Provost Dr. Camille Mckayle. “That others recognize what we have known for a long time is no surprise.  Kevin certainly is an ‘All-Star.’”
Over the course of the next year, the HBCU All-Stars will serve as ambassadors of the White House Initiative by providing outreach to and communication with their fellow students about the value of education and the initiative as a networking resource. Through social media and their relationships with community-based organizations, the All-Stars will share promising and proven practices that support opportunities for all young people to achieve their educational and career potential.
 In addition, the 45 female and 30 male All-Stars will participate in regional events and web chats with Ivory Toldson, deputy director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, other initiative staff and professionals from a wide range of disciplines. They will also have opportunities to engage with other scholars to showcase individual and collective talent across the HBCU community.
“One of my responsibilities as an ambassador is that, I am charged with promoting the value of education,” said Dixon. This role ties in directly with my role as the chairperson of the Shadow Our Students Committee.”  The Shadow Our Students Program brings over 200 high school students each year to the UVI campus to show them the importance of higher education. The students sample college life and are encouraged to start their own vision of college achievement.
 Dixon initiated the “Swagg” campaign - “Students with a Greater Goal” and the “Plant the Seed” initiative. Through this project, UVI students mentor fifth and sixth grade students in elementary schools on the importance of a higher education. It is an initiative of “The Shadow Our Students Program.” “I am truly excited to continue to promote the value of education,” Dixon said.
Dixon is a Virgin Islands Legislative Youth Advisory Council member, Thurgood Marshall College Fund student ambassador, Honorary Degree Committee student representative, Virgin Islands Youth Advocacy Coalition Board of Directors member, University Senate student representative and a St. Croix Presidential Advisory Council student representative.
 “Kevin takes his role as mentor and leader seriously; using his considerable talents to bring out the best in those around him; including his fellow UVI students and also our island’s younger students,” said Patricia Towal, interim dean of students on the Albert A. Sheen Campus. “Dixon, ever the gracious gentleman, brings enthusiasm, sparkling leadership and determined diligence to every project to which he turns his attention. We are thrilled to see his leadership recognized and rewarded by this honor.”
 “I know President Dixon to be a man of great integrity and uprightness. Because of this, his gifts will always take him to great places,” said Joshua Edwards, UVI Board of Trustees student representative. “He has the ability to stay on the top and make great changes. This accomplishment is just another step to the greatness that his character and leadership skills have afforded him.”

Sunday, February 9, 2014

UVI Communications Majors Make Big Splash in Territory, World

UVI graduate April Fale-Knight announces the launch of WUVI , while UVI communications Professor Dr. Alexander Randall (left) and UVI communications graduate Leslyn Tonge stand in the background.
The University of the Virgin Islands Communication program is making a resounding impact in the region and beyond. Many of UVI’s former majors are now positioned in the communications industry as they provide news and information to the public. Within the last three years alone, the University’s success rate has sky-rocketed and includes the following graduates and seniors.
  • April Rose Fale-Knight (‘11) is a news reporter with News 2 on CBS TV2, where she occasionally fills in as anchor, a reporter with VI Source, an online newspaper, and station manager of WUVI. She is based on St. Thomas. (St. Thomas Campus)
  • April Glasgow (‘09) is communications officer at the Ministry of Finance, British Virgin Islands. (St. Thomas Campus)
  •  Sana Hamed (‘09) works at GM Financial in Dallas, Texas and produces newsletters for this division. (Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix)
  • Jaedee Caines (‘10) editor of the Nevis Island Administration’s Department of Information and has just started graduate school with the University of Leicester, United Kingdom. (St. Thomas Campus)
  • Malkia Morton (‘11) completed a  master of arts in international public relations and global communications management at the Cardiff University, Wales, United Kingdom and is an intern with Development Counsellors International, a marketing firm in New York, that handles the United States Virgin Islands’ tourism account.  (Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix)
  • · Sean David (‘11) operates S Dot Films, a production company, in Los Angeles, California. (St. Thomas Campus)
UVI Communications Graduate Jaedee Caines
  •  Nesha David (‘11) was formally with ZIZ Broadcasting Corporation in St. Kitts, and is now communications and research officer for the Department of Constituency Empowerment for the Government of St. Kitts/ Nevis. (St. Thomas Campus)
  • Shauna Tucker (‘12) is a reporter at the Avis Newspaper, on St. Croix. (Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix)
  • Sheniqua Robinson (‘13) is a reporter with News 2 on CBS TV2 based on St. Croix. (Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix)
  • Wyndi Ambrose (‘13) is a freelance reporter for the Avis Newspaper on St. Croix. (Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix)
  • Jonathan Paul (‘13) is a reporter at the VI Source, an online newspaper. (Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix)
  • Leslyn Tonge (‘13) is an administrative specialist in the Provost’s Office at UVI. (St. Thomas Campus) 
  • Twanna Hodge (‘13) is pursuing a master’s degree in library science at the University of Washington. (St. Thomas Campus)
  • Rich Motta is a Communications Officer in the Office of Sen. Diane Capehart. (Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix)
“My time at the University of the Virgin Islands was well spent,” said Jaedee Caines. “The television, public speaking and radio courses were beneficial. I am now able to host my own weekly television program all because of the experience I gathered at UVI.” She continued, “Thank you UVI for preparing me for the world of work. I definitely believe that other students can benefit from opportunities at UVI.”

Nesha David said working with her fellow communications majors prepared her for her current post. “I was able to transition very smoothly for my part in the working world,” she said. “It was a seamless transition.”

“We are proud of the successes of UVI’s Communications Program,” said UVI Associate Professor of Journalism Dr. Gillian Royes. “Our goal is to continue to grow along with the world’s changing technology.” Currently, courses are video-conferenced between the St. Thomas Campus, the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix and the St. John Academic Center in journalism, public relations, broadcasting and internet media. UVI’s new radio station WUVI, on St. Thomas, which simulcasts from St. Croix, can be found at 1090 AM and online at http://wuvi.am. “Our graduates are achieving carrier success which proves the value of studying the public media at the university level,” said UVI Department of Music, Communication, Art and Theatre Chairperson Dr. Alexander Randall. “We expect to grow the program to reach our neighboring islands and raise the caliber of public media throughout the region.”

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Faley has “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” for UVI Entrepreneurship

UVI Distinguished Professor Dr. Tim Faley, UVI President David Hall and 13D Entrepreneurship Speaker Kiril Sokoloff  speak at round-table discussion

Working diligently at his desk at the University of the Virgin Islands’ St. Thomas Campus, Dr. Tim Faley has a panoramic view of Brewers Bay. The deep blue sea and swaying green tropical flora is much different than what he was used to.

Dr. Faley left the University of the Michigan after 13 years of building the Samuel Zell and Robert Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies into the top ranked entrepreneurship program in the country. He built the University of Michigan’s program after years of study, observation, trial, error and success. Now Dr. Faley is working to create a new entrepreneurship program at UVI.

“At the end of the day, I'm a builder,” he said. “I like to build new things and create things and see the impact of what I've built. I was able to do that for 10 years at the Zell Lurie Institute.” Dr. Faley plans to build a world-class undergraduate entrepreneurship center at UVI that will have a broad impact in the Virgin Islands.

He has already rebuilt UVI’s entrepreneurship minor program and plans to create a certificate program. The possibility of creating an entrepreneurship major is also in the works. UVI has an “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” course and Dr. Faley has revamped two accompanying courses that will cover discovering the business and operationalizing a business. The new courses are specialized, covering entrepreneurial marketing, entrepreneurial finance and growth strategy. He is also working on creating a class that will teach franchising and the legal aspects of new ventures. There are no prerequisites needed for the introductory classes. The School of Business Curriculum Committee has approved the changes to the curriculum and the proposal is waiting to go before the University Curriculum Committee.

Dr. Faley has studied successful serial entrepreneurs for years, observing how they quickly move through hundreds of business ideas that lead to creating successful businesses. “The reason that serial entrepreneurs have so much trouble describing this is that they do it very fast,” he said. “But the first time we put a student through this it is going to take them a while.” Dr. Faley plans to continue to accelerate the program as students advance. “The idea is that we leave students with a skill that they can do the rest of their lives,” he said. “To me, the goal is to create serial entrepreneurs, not coach somebody to the formation of a single business.” Dr. Faley said once students learn the fundamental principles of forming a business they can continue to create successful businesses and tailor the businesses’ needs accordingly. “It is like any sport,” he said. “If you are playing football and it is snowing you might run more and if it’s dry you might pass more, but fundamentally the game is the game.”

UVI’s certificate program will benefit a variety of people in the community, said Dr. Faley. Persons who are aspiring entrepreneurs, investors, business counselors or someone who has a business but wants to get better can take advantage of the certificate program, which can be completed with three courses.

Dr. Faley is pleased that the entrepreneurship courses will be available to students of any major. “Part of what makes entrepreneurship great is that everybody and anybody should get involved with it because at some point in your life it is going to touch you,” he said. This is one of the ideals that attracted him to UVI. “The minor, from the very beginning, was open to everybody,” he said. “UVI was forward thinking enough that they were thinking cross-campus from the beginning and that was great.”

“Not only was it setup to be across-campus, but Dr. Hall was very clear that this was not just an internally facing program, but an externally facing program,” Dr. Faley said. “You need to be thinking about the community and the territory in general.”

“That is music to my ears,” Dr. Faley said, adding that entrepreneurial education depends on an environment rich with mentors who can create an ecosystem for successful business. “It is all about the ecosystem and we need to build that ecosystem,” he said. “The University will be better entrepreneurship-wise, if the community is better entrepreneurship-wise.”

All of Dr. Faley’s time will not be spent at UVI. “There is so much to do in the community,” he said. “All the way from building a pipeline from the high schools, to helping community members start businesses and determining what role the University will play. This is a very entrepreneurial community.”

Dr. Faley’s goal is to create a global model for entrepreneurship in the territory. “There is no global example,” he said. “I would love the territory to be that. Can you imagine people from all over the globe flocking down here to see how we did it? That would be cool. That is my big hairy audacious goal.”

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Entrepreneurship Speaker Series Features UVI’s 13D Founder

13D Founder Kiril Sokoloff 
The University of the Virgin Islands 13D Entrepreneurship Speaker Series has brought many influential and successful business minded professionals to the University. On Dec. 5, investment strategist, entrepreneur and philanthropist Kiril Sokoloff shared his success story and imparted advice on UVI’s St. Thomas Campus. The event was teleconferenced to the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix.

 Sokoloff created the 13D Entrepreneurship student competition and the Kiril Sokoloff Distinguished Professorship in Entrepreneurship in the School of Business. In 2011, Sokoloff pledged to donate $5 million to UVI. He committed to donating $1 million to the University over a five year period.

On Friday, Dec. 5, Sokoloff shared the knowledge of his journey in life and as an entrepreneur. “Adversity is the best teacher,” said Sokoloff to a packed room of UVI students, staffers, and entrepreneurs. “To be an entrepreneur you have to understand adversity.”
UVI President David Hall and 13D Entrepreneurship Speaker Kiril Sokoloff  speak at round-table discussion
He said that his life has been defined by his deafness. Sokoloff currently uses a cochlear implant and is clinically deaf without it. Before he had the implant, he was faced with the choices of giving up or choosing to become stronger. “I pledged that I wasn’t going to give up,” he said. “I was going to fight to the end. I decided that nothing would keep me from living a normal life.” Sokoloff said even though he was deaf he participated in every meeting and every client call.

 “Deafness made me who I am,” he said. “Deafness threw me down below the waterline many times – molded me, toughened me, softened me, shaped my character and the way I look at life. I will never know what kind of person I would have been had I not lost my hearing, but I certainly would not be the person that I am today.”

Sokoloff founded 13D Research, Inc., an independent institutional global research firm, in 1983 with $25 and his office was in his attic. He kept the overhead for his business low with no obligations. Sokoloff said that he learned to push away destructive negative emotions and to hold a laser like positive vision for successful outcomes.

On Friday, he offered a few words of wisdom. He advised entrepreneurs to keep their fixed cost low and make sure that their customers are truly interested in their product. Sokoloff also suggested that entrepreneurs keep an eye on their cash flow, competitors and the market, and to think strategically.

13D Research, Inc. is currently based on St. Croix. Previous speakers in the series have included best-selling author Dr. Dennis Kimbro and business woman and philanthropist Loida Lewis.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Oson, VI Makes One of the Largest EDC Donations – $350K – to UVI

UVI Finance and Accounting students, from left, Laydene Bloice, Jeffine Niles and Laura Bedminister speak with Dale LeFebvre  after a check presentation ceremony.
As a child growing up in Beaumont, Texas, Dale LeFebvre didn’t consider going to college. That all changed after he earned a high PSAT score when he was in the 11th grade, which prompted Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) administrators to invite him to a summer program. The program opened a whole new world for LeFebvre. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering at MIT, a master’s in Business Administration from Harvard Business School and a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School.  He is now the founder and chairman of Oson VI, LLC, a management, consulting and investment advisory firm, based in St. Thomas V.I. “As a consequence of the PSAT I ended up at MIT,” said LeFebvre. “But for the PSAT test, I’d still probably be in Beaumont.”

On Dec. 3, LeFebvre presented a $250,000 check to the University of the Virgin Islands at a press conference on the St. Thomas Campus to establish the LeFebvre Endowed Student Fellowship Award and the Oson VI, LLC Endowed Fund for Recruitment and Retention. The gift also funds two SAT preparatory programs at UVI. It is the third largest endowed gift received by UVI during the past four years. In a surprise announcement, LeFebvre pledged an additional $100,000 donation to the University – for a total of $350,000.  

Twenty-five thousand dollars of his donation will be used for SAT Preparatory Programs administered by University Bound’s College and Career Readiness Initiative and UVI’s 2014 Community Engagement and Lifelong Learning Center (CELL) SAT Prep Summer Program. University Bound will receive $15,757.47 and UVI CELL’s 2014 SAT program will receive $9,242.53. Virgin Islands high school students will be afforded opportunities to participate in rigorous online SAT Prep Programs that aim to increase SAT test scores and stimulate interest in attending and excelling in post-secondary education. Program instruction will be delivered by credentialed instructors. The funds used by the SAT Programs will cover stipends, program costs and administrative cost.

“I’d like to work to have other EDC Companies match what we’re doing,” said LeFebvre. “This is my home.”  LeFebvre continued, “We stand as a witness to the tremendous growth and potential of the University. We discussed internally and with the University what their needs were and what kind of impact we could have.  We could not be more pleased with the outcome.”

 “Thank you for not just giving to a great university on a tremendous path, but really for what you represent to a lot of young people,” said Gov. deJongh. “Through ambition, tenacity and the willingness to get ahead and still give back to your community, it is all possible.”

“I want to thank you for your investment in the territory by investing in the University because we deeply believe that as UVI moves forward this territory moves forward,” said UVI President Dr. Hall. “Education is the transformative engine of society. Without higher education then we can’t address our economic, political and social issues. The investment that you’re making will touch every aspect of a student’s development and that is what we really need.” Dr. Hall said, “The true difference makers in an institution’s attempt to move from being good to great are individual donors who are willing to say this University is worth my resources because I believe in what they are doing.”

One Hundred thousand dollars of the donation was created with the LeFebvre Endowed Award, which will provide annual scholarship support and transportation stipends for a sophomore and junior accounting student each year they attend UVI. In an effort to promote real-world experience and career preparation, award recipients could qualify for employment opportunities at Oson VI, LLC or another financial services company operating in the territory. As the endowed fund grows, the award will incrementally provide scholarships and stipends for additional students within UVI’s accounting program. 

The other $100,000 created the Oson VI, LLC Endowed Fund for Recruitment and Retention, which will assist the University with its efforts to engage underserved and promising students throughout the territory. The endowment will fund key University programs that have proven successful in recruiting and retaining students such as the University Bound and the UVI Entrepreneur Business Institute. Both endowments were established at the Foundation for the University of the Virgin Islands.

The remaining $25,000 will be placed in a Temporary Reserve Fund at UVI. The account will hold this contribution until it is designated on or by Dec. 30. If the fund has not been allocated to a specific UVI program by the deadline, the funds will be directed to the LeFebvre Endowed Student Fellowship Award. 
 “Today is not just about a check,” said UVI Vice President for Institutional Advancement Dionne Jackson.  “It’s about the spirit and generosity of an individual who is taking time to help others get the education and substantive experiences that they themselves need to succeed. For this it is an honor and a privilege to count Dale as one of our newest partners and stakeholders.”

OSON, VI is a holding company that creates value for customers by building high-performing and inclusive businesses leveraging its own corporate partnerships, relationships with leaders, deep operating experience, and values based culture. The company partners with chief executive officers to grow businesses, improve performance and strengthen balance sheets. OSON is led by a team with over 75 years of aggregate experience in consulting, operations and finance; advises corporations and governments on key strategic and financing decisions and makes investments in select companies. The company invests in and strengthens suppliers of leading companies by enabling management, strengthening business process and systems, and supporting growth.