August 2017

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Professor Rhoda Reddock demits the post of Deputy Principal of The UWI St. Augustine Campus in July 2017, after nine years. When she retires in 2018, she will have concluded 33 years – a lifetime – teaching, researching and supervising at the university that she considers home. This period has seen her honing and flexing her vision of an ethical and exemplary Caribbean community. Professor Reddock has so shaped the social and intellectual environment for students at St. Augustine that even if each takes one idea back to their professional or home communities the changes could be profound.

For Reddock, the challenge has always been how to affect the quality of life of the individual at the personal level, while working at the macro level. But it is a challenge that her curious human nature has eminently qualified her to accomplish. From her first attempt as a high school student to enter the Port of Spain prison, to her studies of institutional life in Jamaica, and eventual qualification at the Institute of Social Studies at the Hague, and the doctorate in applied sociology at the University of Amsterdam; to the return to the UWI as a research fellow at the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER); the establishment of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies (IGDS); to her spearheading the Division of Student Services and Development (DSSD), Reddock’s trajectory has been straight to the heart of individual empowerment to awaken the potential to lead.

By the time the average student reaches the UWI, (s)he has already spent more than 12 years in classrooms. The university student is now focused on refining a craft, or acquiring requisite knowledge to earn a living. Their graduation recognizes their having achieved a level of proficiency in their fields.

Reddock insists that the privilege to acquire degrees confers the responsibility to become leaders in their social and professional communities. Reddock’s mission has been to ensure they graduate as worthwhile human beings, capable citizens to leaven the still emerging Caribbean society.

She holds dear the tenet of “a distinctive UWI graduate for the 21st Century – one who has a regional frame for reference and exemplifies the following attributes: a critical and creative thinker; a problem solver; an effective communicator; knowledgeable and informed; competent; a leader; a team player; skilled and information literate; socially and culturally responsive; ethical; innovative and entrepreneurial; and a lifelong, self-motivated learner.”

Love for lifelong learning and leadership is not always acquired in the classroom. Reddock recognises that living and studying environments are also arenas for learning. With this in mind, she has piloted infrastructure at The UWI to engender integrity; intellectual freedom; excellence; social and civic responsibility; diversity and equity. In establishing the DSSD, she has worked to effect a social ethos that supports student ambitions while shaping principles and values to prepare worthy citizens.

This major initiative during her tenure as Deputy Principal (2008-2017), seeks to improve all aspects of student life, from living quarters to advisory and mentorship programmes; to the acquisition of meaningful skills through volunteerism, community engagement, civic activities and practical courses like defensive driving. It has also led to the development of a scholarship of Student Services.

As Deputy Principal, she also had a responsibility for academic quality, and chaired the Academic Quality Assurance Committee (AQAC). This Committee adjudicated quality in academic programmes, and established the Mathematics Committee after realising that a significant reason for failure in courses was qualitative or mathematics related. A Mathematics Help Desk was set up in the Faculty of Science and Technology; and the School of Education was prompted to work with national and regional stakeholders in the improvement of mathematics education.

She is particularly proud of “the work that The UWI has done in the area of Gender Studies where the IGDS is now … a global centre of excellence and has maintained its commitment to scholarship as well as to social change and social justice.”

The University recently approved a Gender Policy which she expects to be rolled out to the benefit of all. “I see this UWI Gender Policy as an example of leadership to the rest of the region.”

Like teacher-philosophers through time, she continually ponders, Who am I? What am I here for? A practical thinker, Reddock also asks: How can I make it better? She wishes that students would not only find academic keys to successful careers. She hopes that they also require a social conscience and humanity to be worthy citizens in the creation of caring and just communities.

As a graduate and research institution, there remains an area of limitation at The UWI. She points out that philosophy underpins all academic disciplines, from the arts to the sciences. It engages the most fundamental questions: What is being? What is knowledge? What is truth? What is a meaningful and worthwhile life? At most institutions of higher learning around the world, courses in critical thinking are the responsibility of philosophy departments. She believes it should be a priority of all systems of education, and should be much more widely taught in the humanities, the social sciences as well as in the natural and applied sciences.

Reddock is the first to recognise that her years at The UWI have expanded her own philosophy and personal development.

“In my opinion the UWI’s greatest contribution to Caribbean society is our graduates. We should be measured (not by numbers) by the quality of our graduates, both in relation to competence and knowledge; in their service to community and society; and their commitment to the Caribbean region. Through leadership through research, activism, teaching, and publications, this institution should provide the information and analysis that raise critical questions and generate informed debate to guide policy in all areas.”

To be sure, Reddock will continue to be an engaged scholar and collaborate with like-minded leaders and to speak out on the issues.

Pat Ganase is a writer and editor with experience in newspapers, publishing and corporate social responsibility.