News Releases

Metamorphosis… the beginning of something new

For Release Upon Receipt - January 17, 2022

St. Augustine

The following address is issued by Professor Brian Copeland, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Campus Principal at The University of the West Indies (The UWI) St. Augustine Campus via video message to the Campus Community on the occasion of the start of teaching for semester 2 of the academic year 2021/2022. 

Here we are again, beginning yet another semester amid a global pandemic. But, more than two years later in this scenario, we are not who we used to be when it all began. To quote from poet and activist Amanda Gorman’s most recent creation entitled “New Day’s Lyrics”, read just before the end of 2021:

“Tethered by this year of yearning,

We are learning that though we weren’t ready for this,

We have been readied by it.

We steadily vow that no matter

How we are weighed down,

We must always pave a way forward.”


In short, our experience has readied us for a new metamorphosis.


Pain and loss have transformed us. But our common history, which forged an innate resilience and ability to seize opportunities, has rallied our survival instinct to respond in the face of the most challenging circumstances this generation has ever faced.  

This is our metamorphosis; we must own it as it will define us from here on. Think about it…

Biology teaches us that metamorphosis is a process by which animals undergo extreme, rapid physical changes at some time after birth. A change to the organism’s entire body plan – for example, in the number of legs or its means of eating or breathing – may be the result.

In Geology metamorphosis is a broad term used to indicate a change from one type of rock to another, a transformation brought about through exposure to very high heat, and pressure, and chemical reaction with a mineral-rich fluid. In the broader scope of transformation, those intense natural forces can transform the structure of lowly carbon to a priceless diamond. 

Metaphorically speaking, then, in the face of a raging pandemic as well as social, economic, and ecological uncertainty, we are experiencing the kind of mental, physical, and spiritual pressures that can transform us into living diamonds. It is incumbent on us to recognise these forces for change for what they are, to persevere and plan to navigate out of these challenges … and on to the next.

A documentary film, Metamorphosis, captures the scale of our global environmental crisis: Communities consumed by forest fires, vanished species, entire ecosystems collapsed.

But the producers saw this crisis as an opportunity for transformation – ‘Change is loss’, they say. ‘Change is the beginning of something new”.

Interestingly, too, and very relevant to our ongoing situation, in our own human existence, viruses provided genetic foundations for many of the physical traits that define us today. So, when you think about it, viruses are really metamorphic agents.

This is a reassuring thought at a time when we are awash in forced change and the unavoidable requirement to reshape and rethink our lives, careers, priorities, and assumptions. Our ancestors, ack to the earliest of times, went through this, perhaps even worse. We are here because they persevered.

Let us take a moment to review some highlights of our metamorphosis in the challenge that was 2021…

It has been a year again dominated by the pandemic and our national response: our students were forced to adapt to a new learning environment and new methods of assessment; many of our faculty members had to transform their teaching practices and find new ways to encourage their students to succeed. At the same time, the Campus supported students in need through our scholarship and bursary programme.

Following the commencement of the genome sequencing project led by Professor Christine Carrington in December 2020, the work of our St. Augustine Medical Sciences team has been instrumental in tracking variants of concern, such as Delta and Omicron, in Trinidad and Tobago. 

Campus’ public education efforts have been important in combatting misinformation e.g., through our COVID-19 Vaccine Truths and Untruths Panel. While our Vaccination Drive administered vaccines and boosters to the Campus community as well as the public.

We recognise the importance of art and creative expression, especially in the midst of a pandemic. Our virtual symposium on Carnival last February and DCFA students’ virtual exhibition Visions: Looking at a Post-Pandemic World paid homage to this fact.

Hundreds of 2020 and 2021 graduates were ceremoniously inducted into the ranks of UWI St. Augustine Alumni with successful virtual graduation ceremonies.

In continuing our entrepreneurial pursuits, the past year has the past year has been notable, in terms of its achievements, in the areas of patents, licence agreements, collaboration agreements, spin-off companies and securing key grants. We launched UWI Seal-It Ltd. from the Department of Chemistry. Another fingerprint technology- based company (BITREM) is in formation and The UWI Chocolate Company will come on stream soon under the Cocoa Research Centre.

We also marked the centennial legacy of the Faculty of Food and Agriculture. Its legacy is more than brick and mortar. This legacy lies in FFA’s intellectual curiosity which is harnessed for the benefit of society. It is in FFA’s commitment to honing human potential, particularly within our region. FFA’s legacy is in the generations of faculty, staff, and students who worked to realise its mission over its 100-year history.

The pandemic has shown that the Caribbean needs this faculty more than ever. We should honour this legacy by continuing the high calibre work to ensure that its next 100 years bear even more fruit for our region.

UWI experts superbly supported Caribbean governments, making invaluable scientific and policy contributions at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) from October 31 to November 12.

As we mourned the passing of too many victims of gender-based violence in our country and recognise the larger systemic social and institutional failures that cost these women their lives, we will further intensify our labours in the public space.

Our university story is ever ongoing, ever changing, ever evolving… 

COVID-19, climate change, economic slowdowns, social ills – whatever the challenge, Caribbean people can find and can implement the solution. The University of the West Indies is built upon this very belief.

As we reflect on 2021, let us take courage from our faith in our capabilities, dedication to the well-being and prosperity of Caribbean society, and our innate ability to transform to improve lives and livelihoods.

Amanda Gorman sums it up nicely, so powerfully reflecting the power of the spoken word, when she says:

“This hope is our door, our portal.

Even if we never get back to normal,

Someday we can venture beyond it,

To leave the known and take the first steps.

So let us not return to what was normal,

But reach toward what is next.”

Let’s take 2022; it holds so much promise.