November 2018

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“No amount of box drains or watercourses could have dealt with the volume of rain that fell last week,” said Robert Bermudez, UWI Chancellor, referring to recent devastating floods in T&T and highlighting the reality of climate change issues for the region and for the almost 4,000 new graduates seeking a place in this new world. He was speaking at the first of six graduation ceremonies at UWI St Augustine Campus on Thursday, October 25. He painted a picture of serious challenges as well as great opportunities, especially the potential of technological changes which are transforming the ways we do business and the ways we live.

On the floods, Bermudez expressed the nation’s shock at the terrible impacts, with some people losing homes and most possessions: “We looked on in horror as our fellow citizens were sitting on rooftops waiting for relief and others were being rescued from their homes by boat. We also saw an outpouring of generosity and goodwill that is a hallmark of our country.”

He made a rousing call for a shift to renewable energy projects that would reduce emissions from sources such as electricity generation and automobiles. And he urged citizens to reduce and recycle plastic waste that is destroying our watercourses. “Between oil spills and plastic waste, we are destroying the marine environment and the food source that it supports. We must preserve our environment as it is this environment that supports us… We cannot say how much we love T&T and at the same time, destroy its environment.”

On a more upbeat note, the Chancellor spoke of the impacts of evolving technologies: “Technology is changing the world. What is impossible today will be easy tomorrow.” He said the age of technology was opening doors to people today that did not exist in the past. The egalitarian nature of technology, he said, means anyone can access it, regardless of age, race or religion, making the world population of six billion people an increasingly shared community: “We must embrace becoming global citizens.”

Bermudez urged new graduates to embrace life and to be ready to recognize and take hold of any opportunities that might come their way. Proud parents, family members and friends listened carefully to his words as they packed the tiered seating at the Sports and Education Centre at The UWI to support their loved ones.

Graduates came out in style. While most young men wore spiffy dark conservative suits, the women made fashion statements from the demure to the audacious, sporting swirling saris, risqué miniskirts, elegant pants suits, floating Muslim wear, modern sheath dresses, stately gowns and lacy white concoctions. A feeling of relaxed excitement filled the air as the graduates respectfully listened to their elders and received their hard-earned credentials.

The total number of graduates at UWI St Augustine this year numbers 3,805, coming from all the faculties – Engineering, Food & Agriculture, Humanities & Education, Gender & Development Studies, Law, Medical Sciences, Science & Technology, and Social Sciences. This is according to October 26 data from the Campus Office of Planning & Institutional Research (COPIR). The term “graduate” here refers to successful completion of varied levels of study – including certificates, diplomas, first degrees, graduate diplomas, master’s degrees and doctorates.

Of the almost 4,000 graduates this year, 2,537 received undergraduate credentials and 1,268 received graduate credentials. Men accounted for 1,278 of all graduates, while women graduates numbered 2,525.

For undergraduate studies, Social Sciences was the largest of all the faculties, producing 749 graduates, followed by Medical Sciences (458), Science & Technology (408), Humanities & Education (342), Engineering (285), Food & Agriculture (211), and Law (84).

Outside of degrees, 209 people achieved certificates or diplomas in a range of subjects from coaching to music to public sector management.

The six graduation ceremonies took place from Thursday, October 25 to Saturday, October 27, with two ceremonies a day, and different cultural performances at each one. On Thursday, the rich baritone voice of UWI Theatre Arts student Rondell Mungal lit up the sports centre with a soulful rendition of the song “Make Them Hear You”, from the Broadway musical Ragtime composed by Stephen Flaherty.

Performers at other ceremonies included music student Keishaun Julien who played “Praeludium and Allegro” by Fritz Kreisler, adapted for tenor pan; Vidia Nancoo-Harroo who sang Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Climb Every Mountain”; and Aniya Carty who sang Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are”.

Saturday morning’s ceremony was tinged with both sadness and celebration as people remembered the much-loved calypsonian Winston “Shadow” Bailey, who was supposed to have been at the ceremony to accept an Honorary Doctor of Letters award from The UWI. Shadow’s sudden death on October 23 left many to mourn the passing of a quirky, very creative and generous-spirited singer whose song lyrics were often a form of astute, heartfelt social commentary on issues including social injustice and poverty. In tribute to his memory, UWI music graduate KV Charles sang a moving medley of a few Shadow songs, including Dingolay, which had some graduates rising from their chairs to dance. Sharlan Bailey, Shadow’s son, then performed a song he said his father had been looking forward to singing at the ceremony – the composition One Love, a gentle, simple ballad expressing Shadow’s dream for “peacefulness, happiness and togetherness.”

[For the full speech of Chancellor Robert Bermudez, click here.]