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UWI officials, alumni embark on scholarly cruise

BY RENAE DIXON Observer staff reporter dixonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, April 14, 2014    

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OCHO RIOS, St Ann — Officials at the University of the West Indies (UWI) have embarked on the regional institution's second scholarly cruise aimed at strengthening and mobilising its alumni as well as establishing relationships with its counterparts in Central and South America.

"The university itself wants to expand its relationship with Central and South America so there is another side to this cruise," Vice Chancellor Professor E Nigel Harris told the Jamaica Observer shortly after disembarking the vessel for a brief stop in Ocho Rios last Tuesday.

Harris further explained that he and other officials were expected to make calls to some of these universities in Central and South America during the 10-day voyage which runs from April 6 to 17.

The trip aboard the cruise ship Coral Princess was organised by UWI Open Campus primarily to mobilise the thousands of graduates, many of whom hail from some of the islands where the vessel will be making stops over the next few days.

"Importantly, we are using it as a way to mobilise our alumni," he explained, adding that the cruise was a multi-purpose one as several members of the alumni were also on-board.

According to Harris, the group was not only enjoying a cruise of the Panama Canal which is celebrating 100 years since its construction, but was also participating in the lectures being given on some of the places where the ship will be calling.

"This trip is both educational and fun. We are having a series of lectures as we go along on varying people who have lived over the ages in these various islands," Harris said.

The cruise, he said, also offered the perfect opportunity to interact with the alumni.

"It's good to be getting together with a number of alumni whom I have never met. I have met some, but most I have never met," Harris said.

Meanwhile, Professor Hazel Simmons McDonald, pro-vice chancellor and principal of the UWI Open Campus, and the mastermind behind the cruise, said the trip was important for many Caribbean nationals.

"Many of our West Indian people worked on that canal so it just happens to be a wonderful coincidence that we are going through there," she told the Observer.

"We have two lecturers who are providing the lectures on-board. We have a lecture on-board before we dock and another one wherever we go," Simmons McDonald said, adding, "We learn a lot and it is very interesting."

This is the second such learning cruise organised by the university with another expected in the next two years. The first cruise done by the university was a tour of the eastern Caribbean while this year's focus is geared towards the northern Caribbean, according to Marketing and Communications Manager Suzette Wolf.

"The idea was from our principal Professor Hazel Simmons McDonald who thought that the educational cruise as an alumni building activity would be a wonderful event for the Caribbean because we are all linked by the Caribbean Sea," Wolf said.

She further explained that the cruise is deliberately planned for every two years so as to give persons more time to prepare for it.

The cruise is organised under the patronage of the UWI Chancellor, Sir George Alleyne and Lady Alleyne, and Vice Chancellor Harris and Dr Yvette Harris.

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