Caribbean Graduate School of Theology gets first female president


Caribbean Graduate School of Theology gets first female president

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

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SHORTLY after she assumed responsibility as campus registrar at the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology (CGST), Dr Viviene Kerr was identified as the best person to take the institution to the next level as its new president.

She was recently officially appointed as the first female president of CGST, taking over from Dr David Corbin who had been at the helm of the St Andrew institution since 2017.

Kerr, an educator, counselling psychologist, librarian, and life coach, explained that while she was content as the school's registrar and was set on using her skills to grow the institution in that area, she was not surprised by the appointment to the top job.

“What surprised me was the initial discussion I had with the former president, shortly after he advised members of his executive team that he would not be seeking a contract renewal. I actually laughed and told him that he must be joking. I thought myself incapable of assuming such an illustrious position,” said Kerr.

The new president added that she had no desire to get involved in the education sector initially, but her drive to solve problems and aid individuals in achieving excellence opened many doors for her.

“My entrance into librarianship paved the way for entry in the [education] sector, and I thoroughly enjoyed it,” shared Kerr.

“I got more involved after I completed the masters in counselling psychology and visited schools to make presentations. I guess the passion really began there, as I was able to teach others life skills that would positively affect their lives and destinies,” Kerr continued.

The Westmoreland native, said her journey was not without challenges, as she contemplated quitting her doctoral studies at the Nova Southeastern University during her final year due to financial constraints.

Her marriage also crumbled very early. She was separated from her husband two weeks before their son was born.

“I will not go into details [about the break-up] because I have to be mindful of my children, especially my son. But I have no challenges saying to persons that my marriage ended because I was being abused and I couldn't live with it,” said Kerr.

She is convinced that the challenges she has overcome, have equipped her to efficiently cater to the needs of her students, staff, and other stakeholders.

Most importantly, she believes that her faith in God will guide her as she seeks to elevate the level of the Christian institution.

Among the many objectives that she is working towards is for CGST to be the “school of choice”, not just for Jamaicans but for students from the rest of the Caribbean and other parts of the world.

Kerr also wants CGST to offer more short-term courses, to cater to individuals who might not necessarily want to study for a long period of time.

“If you want to do graduate work in theology or psychology and you are a Christian, CGST should be your first choice. My strategy is to focus on our core programmes, due to our competitive advantage,” said the CGST graduate.

According to Kerr, the quality of its programmes, lecturers, and its reputation have been the formidable ingredients for CGST success over the years.

Kerr said another key factor of the school's capacity to stay afloat is the ability to focus on its core programmes, which are a Master of Arts degree in Counselling Psychology and a Master of Arts degree in Theology.

“As an institution, we have the best counselling psychology programme in Jamaica, and, possibly, the Caribbean. Our graduates have excelled in their fields of study. Many are known public figures who have contributed and are contributing to national and regional development,” argued Kerr.

Reflecting on its role as a Christian institution in enhancing the growth and development of Jamaica and the region, Kerr added that the leadership of CGST has to remain focused on equipping its students to be strategic in reaching those who are hurting.

She also asserted that this cannot be achieved without a strong biblical foundation.

“We offer programmes steeped with professional rigour and a strong biblical foundation. Based on our experience, we recognise that there is no good health without mental health and a healthy population is needed to ensure that Jamaica achieves developed country status by 2030,” she said.

“When our people are mentally and spiritually healthy they are more productive, this will lead to economic growth and prosperity and less reports of corruption,” declared Kerr.

The president said that she, and her team, are excited about the future of the institution and are continuously working to ensure that it remains relevant and biblically sound.

“We are presently collaborating with the Ministry of Health [and Wellness] to provide free counselling services to persons affected by COVID-19 and we are far advanced in developing a course for pastors and lay leaders to be trained as first responders to victims of trauma,” said Kerr.

Other programmes currently being worked on include a continuous education scheme for graduates from the counselling psychology programme and a course to help pastors and other church members navigate the online space.

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