Wednesday, October 18, 2017

CSS Hump Day White T-Shirt Event Welcomes Students Back to Campus

The Center or Student Success held it’s “Hump Day White T-shirt Wednesday “on Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. outside the CSS Learning Center at the CAB Building. There were games, prizes, giveaways, music, and refreshment. Students had the opportunity to interact with their Deans/representatives and various UVI departments to ask academic-related questions. Students were also encouraged to share their personal experience from the hurricanes and wrote motivational and empowering words on white t-shirts and posters.  We are overcoming this hurdle together…we are #UVIstrong Irma and Maria survivors!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Weathering the Storms; Life Lessons Taught by Hurricanes Irma & Maria

UVI Bent, But Not Broken

Nigencia James, a junior communications major, stood on stage in the Sports and Fitness Center looking out at hundreds of new freshmen ready to launch their collegiate careers in August 2017 at the University of the Virgin Islands’ Student Convocation. Fresh faced freshman and transfer students were gathered to be officially welcomed into the UVI Family.

No one could have guessed that just a few weeks later and 12 days apart; both of the University’s campuses would be damaged by two category five hurricanes.

East Residence Hall

James, a St. Kitts native, was one of 150 students that sheltered in the East Residence Hall. Built in 1991. This residence hall was specifically designed to protect students during weather events.

James, a new resident assistant for Middle C, D and E, worked with other RA’s and Director of Residence Life and Student Housing Jennifer Palmer Crawford to set up room arrangements and kept cool while placing residence into the hall. Kaunda Williams and Jiame Berry were a part of the team that moved more than 50 mattresses to the shelter.

Nigencia James
“We tried our best to make sure we were prepared as possible,” says Williams, a senior majoring in business administration. “That was a major thing of course. I could see that students were a little anxious, but the RA team was prepared mentally. We were reaching out to each other in our group chat.”

James was not too worried about the storm. “I was concerned, but I also had a kind of positive attitude. I was more thinking that UVI has to ensure that I am okay,” she says.

Berry, a Business administration major and RA, advised Ms. Palmer Crawford to prepare for the worst. “The worst is going to happen to us,” he predicted at the time.

Hurricane Irma struck during the day. Winds upward of 185 mph ravaged the St. Thomas Campus. James sheltered in East 201 with other RA’s. Other students hunkered down with friends and classmates. Palmer Crawford and her family took shelter in East Hall as well.

Kaunda Williams
During the storm, Berry sheltered on the males’ side of East Hall with nine students, most of whom had fallen asleep. “This big white thing was coming towards the building. We heard a loud crashing thundering noise – boom.” The men jumped out of their sleep. Berry says they thought the shelter was compromised, but the building held. The roof of GeoCAS, formerly the accounting building was the culprit. The roof spilt on either side of the hall. “It was sort of frightening, to see a whole roof coming toward the building – hitting the building – but yet the shelter wasn’t compromised, which was a blessing.”

Others had a similar experience. “There was one point when we were all sleeping and we just heard a loud noise like something hit the building,” James says. “We all jumped out of our sleep—hearts racing. We were trying to figure out what’s going on.” Then something else hit the window. “That was the turning point,” she says. “We realized this is serious. This is really happening. We started putting on our shoes. I don’t know where we were going, but we were packing our bags just in case. God forbid we had to evacuate. That is when it really hit me. This is a category five hurricane. We are at the mercy of mother nature at this point in time.”

“Seeing outside, it was very different. I don’t think I have ever been so deep into a fog,” says Williams. “Looking out the window I could not see a good 10 meters in front of me.” Water started to push through the bathroom and he grabbed a mop to clean up the water as Hurricane Irma forced it into the dorm.

“That was definitely the most stressful part—constant mopping to make sure that the water did not get into the lobby,” says Williams, who battled the incoming water for about five hours. “The last thing I wanted was for water to get there and for the mattresses to get wet.”

MacLean Marine Science Center

Hurricanes Irma’s winds left East Residence Hall without major damage. There was, however, damage to multiple buildings on campus. The School of Business Building, Maclean Marine Science Building and the Reichhold Center for the Arts sustained major damage. West Residence Hall, which housed 104 students, was no longer habitable.

After the Storm

Students emerged from the East Residence Hall stunned. “I did not expect the campus to look half as bad as it did,” James says. “It was just overwhelming. The hurricane actually did this.

She continued, “These are things that we take for granted. Oh, I am going to the Business Building for class today,” she says lightly. “You would not actually think that a storm might just come and decide the business building is no more.”

Business Administration Office
James was relieved that the majority of the other residence halls were okay, especially Middle Dorms which she is responsible for. She was relieved that the personal belongings of students were saved. “You don’t want to lose everything in a place that you feel is your safe haven at this point in time,” she says.

“The ‘Caf’ was exceptional,” James noted of the UVI Cafe. “I don’t know what is was, but the hurricane food was the best I have ever had from the cafeteria. They were on par. I think they did an amazing job. They went above and beyond for us.”

UVI Café’s staff stayed on Campus to meet student needs. Six Café employees weathered the storm in the UVI Café, now located in the building in the middle of north, east, middle and south dorms. “Most of the cafeteria staff have family that they could have gone home to, and they decided to stay here to ensure that we had something to eat and we did not hear them complain or anything. They cooked the food. They brought it down. We shared and they repeated this cycle over and over without a frown,” James says.

“The Cafeteria staff took excellent care of us,” Williams says noting that they were better off than the rest of the island. “They were going through so much and we were here eating three meals a day.”

Physical plant staff also stayed on campus and were able to fix the generator to East Hall quickly.

Recovery Mode

Business Administration Building
“After the storm, people who wouldn’t even be talking, are actually talking,” says Berry. “Everybody was put in a situation that none of us were ready for, but we had to make the best of it. What you thought about back then or had an imagination of is no longer existing.” He continued, “Certain simply things that you would even take for granted, like a cold shower – not even hot – you’re going to appreciate that even more.” The day when Physical Plant got the water back up, the relief when people actually got to take a shower – the sigh of relief.” Students used collected water for personal hygiene while the Physical Plant employees worked to repair the generators.

To keep students entertained after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, St. Thomas Campus Dean Verna Rivers, Palmer Crawford and UVI Basketball Coach Jeff Jones came up with activities for students. Hand tennis, yoga, and a day time quiet party were just a few of the activities. For the quiet party, the UVI Cafe windows were covered to give a night-time effect and students donned head phones and partied to the sounds of DJ Keg.

“This experience has been a learning one – definitely,” says James. “I think that if we weren’t strong before, after this we will definitely not be easily broken.” There is a saying that says ‘we may be bent, but we are not broken.’ I feel like that is where UVI and students, faculty and staff are at this point.”

“I feel that hurricane season really teaches us about community and unity,” Williams says. “It’s like you hear stories about what is happening across the island – people who don’t speak to each other. If your neighbor’s house is gone you’re not going to just watch them—you are going to open up your doors and say come inside.”

Lessons from the Storms

“I am very grateful for life,” Williams says. “I am super grateful for UVI. Because the conditions that people living in right now on the island is still in my mind unbearable.” He continues, “I am at UVI still eating three meals a day; still having running water; still have a bed to rest my head and a roof over my head. A lot of people don’t have those luxuries right now. I am definitely 110 percent more grateful than I was before hurricane season came around.” Williams plans to participate in the Thurgood Marshal College Fund’s Leadership Institute in October 2017. He would like to interview to do marketing with fortune 500 companies that he hopes to connect with at the conference.

“Now I appreciate everything so much more,” James says. “I really try hard not to complain because I would complain there is no Wi-Fi and there are persons with no roof, no clothes.” After completing her undergraduate degree at UVI, James will pursue a master's in international relations or enroll in law school.

Student Activities Building
Berry, who plans to become an entrepreneur after college, says the storms left the community and the wider Caribbean community with more humility and this brings forth their humanity. “You have to respect people, understand people and also care for people,” he says. “I lot of that does not happen anymore, but after these series of unfortunate events that’s happening right now. People are more human again towards one another.” Berry will pursue a master degree after he completes his undergraduate degree at UVI.

UVI Classes started on Monday, Oct. 9 on both the St. Thomas Campus and the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix.

UVI has started a UVI Rise Relief Fund to solicit donations to help UVI’s students, faculty and staff. Text 2017IRMA to 71777 to support this effort or use this link UVI Rise Relief Fund.

UVI Cafe Providing the Best, When Times are the Roughest

Chef Ashley Allen

UVI Café, an Oasis in Times of Hurricane Recovery

The UVI Café never stopped serving warm, flavor-filled healthy food to students at the University of the Virgin Islands. The hundred and fifty students that sheltered in East Residence Hall on the St. Thomas Campus, never had to worry about food when Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the Virgin Islands.

A category five storm, Hurricane Irma struck on Sept. 6. Twelve days later, Hurricane Maria, also a category five storm, ravaged the territory. Both left heavy damage to UVI’s structures.

Fortunately, the UVI Café on the St. Thomas Campus survived the storm. “The pressure was on,” says Ashely Allen, UVI Café chef and Elite Hospitality Management president, of Hurricane Irma at its worst. “It felt like you were 30 thousand feet in the air, how your ears were popping. You could tell the building was shifting. I give it to who ever built this building, it is built strong.”

On the day that Hurricane Irma struck the territory, UVI students received three square meals. Breakfast was delivered before the storm, but the lunch delivery had to be dropped off quickly as Hurricane Irma arrived earlier than forecasted. At five p.m. after the storm passed, with no generator and limited lights, the UVI Café staff prepared dinner for the residents. Security assisted with the delivery of the food. When they emerged after the storm they noticed that several of the staff’s personal vehicles were damaged.

“It was a challenge, but we had a good crew,” says Chef Allen, who managed the best they could with after hurricane challenges, light, power, water and effective waste removal. The University’s physical plant employees and security were able to help with most of these challenges. “The crew, UVI staff as well, did an awesome job,” he says. “We all worked well together.”

Some members of the UVI Cafe team

Menu items included, juicy barbecue chicken, grilled pork loin, savory fish or veggie options, pesto pasta, soups and cookies. “It was a high end menu. The students didn’t feel anything as far as when it comes to the dining side,” says Allen. “They were eating as if they were eating on a regular basis.” They also prepared grilled sandwiches, but made sure the items were not bland. “We made sure that the flavor was on point and that we were on time,” he said. In addition to having dinner they ensured that the students had snacks as well.

“Our main goal was making sure that whoever was on the property was taken care,” says Allen, who catered to security and physical plant personnel as well. He made sure to especially take care of the students who were away from home with parents worrying about their welfare.

Chef Allen says that he had fun preparing and delivering the meals.

“The ‘Caf’ was exceptional,” Nigencia James, a junior communications major, who stayed on Campus for both hurricanes. “I don’t know what is was, but the hurricane food was the best ever I have ever had from the cafeteria. They were on par. I think they did an amazing job. They went above and beyond for us.”

“Most of the cafeteria staff have family that they could have gone home to, and they decided to stay here to ensure that we had something to eat and we did not hear them complain or anything,” James says. “They cooked the food. They brought it down, we shared and they repeated this cycle over and over without a frown.

“The Cafeteria staff took excellent care of us,” says Kaunda Williams, a business administration major at UVI, noting that they were better off than the rest of the island. “They were going through so much and we were here eating three meals a day.”

After the storms had passed the UVI Café became a favorite for UVI faculty and staff, providing hot meals and cold ice when many other establishments were still trying to clean up and get back to business. On Sept. 26, the UVI Café announced that it was open to the public.

“When they walk in it is like an oasis. They go from frustrated down to relaxed,” he said of the customers. “They don’t expect to see this – lights on, hot food, and fresh bread. It is like a home away from home for a lot of people.” The UVI Café served 600 people on Sept. 26, and the wait was about an hour and a half on that day. “The food was excellent,” Allen says. “That was the best part cause if you wait long you want to make sure the food is good.”

UVI Cafe dinning area
Allen is a senior Hospitality and Tourism Management major. He expects to graduate in Spring 2018 with high honors with other classmates who plan to become the leaders in the field in the Virgin Islands.

 UVI CafeThe UVI Café is open from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. for breakfast, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. for dinner. Customers can have breakfast, lunch and dinner for $30. Persons can have their desserts, salads, entrée, and a drink for $10 for lunch or dinner, he said. Chef Allen prides himself on having healthy menu options that are savory for the palate.

See this link to the UVI Cafe video.

UVI has started a UVI Rise Relief Fund to solicit donations to help UVI’s students, faculty and staff. Text 2017IRMA to 71777 to support this effort or use this link UVI Rise Relief Fund.

UVI Rise Hurricane Relief Fundraiser Held in Boston

University of the Virgin Islands President, Dr. David Hall, attended a hurricane relief fundraiser on Saturday, Dec. 16, at the Northeast...