One of the region's distinguished educators has urged the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (UCC) to continue embracing its role of addressing the challenges faced by Jamaica and the wider region.
Dr David Hall, president of the University of the Virgin Islands, issued the charge last Tuesday as Dr Haldane Davies was installed as UCC's third president at the institution's campus in New Kingston.
Drawing on the installation ceremony's theme — 'Igniting, discovering and impacting our world' — Dr Hall said it embodies a spiritual formula that is fundamental to the existence and progress of life.
"Everything we know, appreciate, and benefit from started with a spark of creativity, which led to some important discovery, which eventually impacted our lives," he said. "There can be no fire without a spark, there would be no Internet, renewable energy, or cures for diseases without a spark and a discovery."
The same, he said, is true for human beings.
"We will never reach our full potential unless we are ignited by some internal or external force that compels us to discover talents, values, and ideas buried inside of us and inside of others, and this process allows us to change ourselves and to change the world around us," Dr Hall argued.
Postulating that educational institutions exist to ignite, discover, and impact the world, Dr Hall stated that "this process and this path is not easy, nor is it always clear" as "colleges and universities are facing enormous challenges".
"Our institutions are expected to address and solve many of society's problems and challenges, and we must do so at the same time that higher education is facing its own internal and external challenges — economic underdevelopnent, crime, and political upheaval have been placed at our doorsteps to solve," he stated.
"Graduating more students is no longer the sole measuring factor of an institution of higher learning. Our research must save lives and the oceans around us.
"We must also address the perplexing problems that our governments face, yet at the same time the cost of college degrees continue to climb and the needs of our students for more cutting-edge facilities and technologies are skyrocketing. Therefore, we cannot settle for doing things as we always have done them or resting on our prior success and accomplishments," he told his audience.
"We must create laboratories of discovery and innovation in the minds, heart, and soul of our institutions. We must respect and embrace cherished traditions, but they must be reshaped to address the demands of the era in which we live and not serve as prions to bind us to the past," Dr Hall advised.
"The way universities ignite, discover, and impact may be different, but none of us have the luxury to ignore the challenges that exist all around us," he said, adding that UCC cannot solve or address all of the problems of the world, but it plays a critical role in addressing the challenges facing Jamaica and the region.
Those challenges, he said, include diversifying the economy, crime, high public debt, corruption, and educating the large unskilled labour force — factors that prevent Jamaica from reaching its full potential.
"UCC cannot address or reverse all of these challenges and forces, but a major part of your relevancy, a major part of your purpose is to identify the ones you can and effect and structure your goals and organisation in such a way that allows you to impact the world around you," Dr Hall said.
"If you ignite passion in your students, then they will be the creative energy for developing and leading solutions to these dilemmas. If your faculty and staff are truly committed to the spirit of discovery, and not just replicating what has always been done or what is easier to do, then this nation and this world will beat a path to UCC's doorsteps," he said, adding, "If your collective work is aimed at serving others, especially those in need and not just benefiting from the needs of others, then you will truly impact this world."