MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Entrepreneur and former Jamaican ambassador to the United States Audrey Marks has called on Northern Caribbean University to foster a cultural shift towards innovation and scientific enquiry.
Those are the elements which will determine the kind of future the country enjoys, the ambassador said.
"To a large extent, Jamaica's future will be decided by the extent to which institutions like Northern Caribbean University establishes a tradition of innovation and scientific enquiry and encourages Jamaicans from all walks of life to correct the weak research and innovation culture which presently prevails," she said.
It could be argued that the university has already embarked on that mission for, in recent years, it has made waves in the world of information and communication technology with regional and global wins at Microsoft's Imagine Cup and the Digital Jam 2.0 project.
Marks, who was addressing graduands at the second of two commencement services at the university recently, also advised the former students to pursue entrepreneurial interests rather than queue up in the labour market which she described as "very challenging".
In spite of the challenges she said, NCU graduates had the advantage of having been inculcated with Christian values and of having been part of an institution with a tradition of making outstanding contributions at the community, national and international levels in a range of professional endeavours.
"This is the best of times" for entrepreneurial pursuits she said, adding that Jamaica competes in a global marketplace and functions in a knowledge-based economy.
Ambassador Marks is the founder of Paymaster Limited, a multi-transaction agency with locations islandwide from which all types of bills can be paid and remittances made.
Jamaica's seventh prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller, who addressed graduands at the morning service, also encouraged greatness.
"I believe that we have only scratched the surface of our greatness as a nation," Simpson-Miller said.
Linking the NCU graduation with Jamaica's 50th year as an independent nation and the 174 years since emancipation, Simpson Miller said: "What it means is that you are leading the next generation into the future. For the next 50 years you are the ones who will be our standard bearers. You are equipped with specialist knowledge and skills to build productive lives and serve your country and people.
Simpson Miller and Marks were both conferred with honorary degrees at the commencement which saw 908 students being awarded bachelors, masters and PhD degrees in both ceremonies.
University President Dr Trevor Gardner disclosed that this latest batch of graduates was the first to include persons holding Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Master of Science in Information Systems. Also, the first non-Seventh-day Adventist Minister — Pastor Wayan Wellington of the New Testament Church of God for Jamaica and Grand Cayman — graduated this year with a Master of Arts in Religion; and the Department of Graduate Education enrolled its first cohort of online students for postgraduate studies in education, Gardner said.
The president added that for the past academic year, 630 students benefited from a total of $87 million in the institution's work-study programme, and $50 million was used in direct community outreach services.
"We have actively pursued the good-to-great agenda. We are a good university, but we have the potential to be a great university," said Gardner.