University of The Bahamas Eyes Strategic Priorities in New Norm
#Nassau, THE BAHAMAS – November 18, 2020 – The 2019-2020 academic year brought daunting challenges for University of The Bahamas (UB’s), but still senior administrators have touted some successes and set key priorities for the 2020-2021 academic year.
The Fall 2020 semester has been marked by an increase in full-time enrolment and Family Island enrolment, an expansion of land assets, while new graduate programmes will be rolled out and the University community in Grand Bahama remains focused on rebuilding, senior administrators reported during the Media P.A.S.S. (Plan for Achieving Strategic Success) virtual event held recently.
Chairman of the Board of Trustees Dr. K. Jonathan Rodgers noted that while UB has experienced a very tough period, it has shown that it is tough enough to handle any other challenges that may lie ahead. Dr. Rodgers said The Bahamas—particularly the northern islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco—had barely started to pick up the pieces from Hurricane Dorian when the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent economic recession struck.
Like many other organizations, exploring and capitalizing on potential revenue generating measures is among the priorities.
“We are contemplating a possible convocation center to be built on the Clarence Bain Building property,” said Dr. Rodgers. “We are also in talks with the government to create an economic zone around the university campus that will provide an income stream needed to support the future growth of the university.”
The Clarence A. Bain Building has been razed and the government recently gifted the land, on University Drive and Moss Road, to UB.
Among the senior administrators who reported on their respective portfolios were President Dr. Rodney D. Smith; Vice President of Administrative Services Dr. Marcella Elliott-Ferguson; Vice President of University of The Bahamas-North Dr. Ian G. Strachan; Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Maria Oriakhi; and Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Alumni Affairs Mr. Dino Hernandez. Each enumerated the progress made over the 2019-2020 academic year and identified their strategic imperatives for the 2020-2021 year.
President Smith attributed the achievement of recent milestones to a culture of collaboration and shared governance. He celebrated the contributions of faculty, staff, students and administrators as well as donors and other supporters of the University.
“During this pandemic, both academic freedom and shared governance have been essential in UB’s ability to pivot and remain a functioning tertiary level institution. Essential to all of our success is the faculty and staff at UB who took on so many other duties and responsibilities,” said President Smith. “I thank them for being innovative in the use of technology, and working so enthusiastically with students, making sure that the high quality education for which UB is renowned, is delivered timely and accurately.”
A five-year Strategic Plan is guiding UB’s trajectory and among the goals are increasing student enrolment and graduation. Factors like the lingering effect of Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted student enrolment.
Full-time enrolment has increased by 11.5 percent to 3,790 students; enrolment of Family Island students has increased; and the percentage of students pursuing undergraduate degree programmes rose by 2.8 percent for Fall 2020, according to VP of Administrative Services Dr. Marcella Elliott-Ferguson. UB’s current enrolment stands at 4,575 for New Providence and Grand Bahama.
“Normally we would report separately on the UB-North campus and the main campus here in New Providence,” said Dr. Elliott-Ferguson. “This time around though, that did not appear to be an adequate measure, because what we found is that due to the virtual environment there were students who were registering both for courses at UB-North and courses in New Providence, no matter where they were.”
VP of UB-North Dr. Ian Strachan also touted an increase in enrolment for Fall 2020 as a result of students being able to register and take classes online offered at either campus.
“This year we have a higher enrolment than we have had in a very long time, 686 students enrolled in UB-North classes and the students are not all resident in Grand Bahama. Even in the midst of this crisis our ability to respond creatively and quickly, to migrate our classes online has made it possible for us to grow,” said Dr. Strachan.
Eight months into kicking its remote education into high gear, some 90% of UB’s courses are being delivered as virtual content. A few practicum classes are being held on campus with strict health protocols, according to VP of Academic Affairs Dr. Maria Oriakhi. By the end of the current academic year, the institution expects to roll out new graduate degree programmes including the very first doctoral degree.
“Five graduate programmes were approved by the Academic Senate: MBA Accounting, MBA Events Management, MBA Hospitality Management, Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma in Public Administration, expected to begin Spring 2021. We also anticipate offering the Master and Doctorate by Research before the end of this academic year,” noted Dr. Oriakhi.
In line with the strategic goal of increasing and diversifying revenue and funding sources, VP Institutional Advancement and Alumni Affairs Dino Hernandez revealed the highlights of private giving to UB from both national and international donors. He noted that there was a 148 percent increase in cumulative gift activity for 2019-2020 over 2018-2019. Additionally, between 4th September, 2019 and 30th September, 2020 UB’s Hurricane Dorian Relief and Recovery Fund secured $461,461.44 in cash, pledges, and in-kind donations for the rebuilding of UB-North. UB also has been fundraising for its COVID-19 Relief Fund.
“We never stop accepting gifts. There is still a great level of need. In this global pandemic we realized that our students are in desperate need of technology, not just limited to access to a laptop, or a desktop but also access to the Internet. So I encourage folks to go to our COVID-19 Relief Fund and give,” he said.
Held under the theme “Accessing, Adapting and Advancing Higher Education in a New Norm”, the Media P.A.S.S. event is a platform to share UB’s achievements, and milestones for the 2019-2020 academic year and strategic priorities and projections for the current year.
FBI and Bahamas looking into woman’s death
#TheBahamas, March 17, 2023 – The FBI is investigating a woman’s ‘suspicious’ death on a Carnival Cruise ship in February. The unnamed woman and her husband boarded the Carnival Sunshine on February 27th, for a trip to the Bahamas, but she was dead before they arrived in the port in The Bahamas.
The FBI said Carnival’s team had administered life saving measures when the woman was reported unresponsive, but they were unsuccessful. The body and the woman’s husband were released to the Bahamian authorities when the cruise arrived in the country.
In a statement shared with US media houses, Carnival Cruises claimed the death has been a natural one. The Nassau Guardian said a source told them the police findings had concurred with that assessment saying it was a “normal sudden death of a tourist who wasn’t feeling well.”
The FBI was waiting for the cruise and when it got back to South Carolina on March 4th, they immediately boarded and began to investigate the room based on ‘evidence of a crime.’ The FBI also searched the couple’s car.
No updates have been shared to contradict the currently established cause of death.
Why Sargassum Matters
#TheBahamas, March 17, 2023 – “If you don’t like it, go to another beach!” Is what Aaron John, an Education Officer from The Bahamas National Trust jokingly tells our news team about sargassum blooms; his quip, motivated by the necessity of nature when pit against the notion that there is a real threat when the stinky seaweed makes its annual appearance.
John can admit, he says, that Sargassum isn’t very pretty but life isn’t all about aesthetics and in this instance that ugly patch serves a purpose.
“We love our sandy beaches, but in order to keep them we need Sargassum. When storms come, they wash away all the sand off the beach but sargassum acts as a mulch to protect the sand from water erosion. It doesn’t look good, it doesn’t feel good but we need it.”
He said it also provides a habitat for small crustaceans, crabs, and insects that are all necessary to our ecosystem and islanders have found use for the weed.
“Historically, (in The Bahamas) we have been using sargassum as fertilizer, especially in the family Islands as far back as I know,” he said. “Birds don’t go on the beach unless there is Sargassum and what do they do? they feed – it’s beautiful.”
He encouraged residents to just leave it be if they came across it.
Sargassum isn’t harmful to humans, except for people with respiratory issues who may find the rotten egg smell triggers asthma. Despite this, it’s not advisable to walk through the weeds which may hide sharp rocks and bottles or vulnerable animals.
Experts say Sargassum blooms began to increase in size around 2011 and have continued to get bigger and bigger since. This year‘s bloom is around 5000 miles long and 300 miles wide and visible from space.
“I know it’s not a general outlook, but I would like to change the perspective on sargassum,” John said, pointing out The Bahamas National Trust is actively working to decrease alarm over the less worrisome events like sargassum as it raises the profile on the environmentally devastating.
Lease agreement approved for diaspora office
#TurksandCaicos, March 17, 2023 – The Turks and Caicos’ Bahamas Diaspora Office is moving closer and closer to opening day, following the Cabinet’s approval for the signing of a lease agreement.
The lease will be signed with FINCEN ltd in the Bahamas. Several weeks ago, Arlington Musgrove, Minister of Immigration confirmed to our news team that the location had been found and was being finalized; now a lease is approved at the Cabinet level.
The interest in the TCI from TC Bahamians was evident in the diaspora meetings held in early February. The two meetings held in Nassau and Grand Bahama were completely full and over-subscribed by hundreds.
It’s interest which the Government hopes will translate to real life population growth, bolstering the local population before the native population ‘goes extinct’.
The Opposition PDM is on the record with what it feels is a far more viable solution to a dwindling native population; seek out the country’s own citizens and bring them back home.
Cabinet did not state when the office will open.
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