“These years will be what you make of them. Stay focused and make sure that you leave here with the tools to own your future.”
Words of advice from alumnus Dr Stephen Boyce to the new students of the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies as they prepared to begin the new 2016-17 academic year.
In his address to the matriculation ceremony at the Roy Marshall Teaching Complex last Friday evening, the programme manager of the Delegation of the European Union to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean States called on the students to be clear on their goals for the next three years.
He advised them to ensure they prepare “a good plan and an even better back-up”, that they remain committed and are passionate about their objectives.
“One of your strengths should be passion for what you are studying and the profession you want to enter.
“Passion is that special thing that pervades all of your senses… Passion is what keeps you up at night. It is the impatience through which you realise that these three years are only stepping stones and not the end of the journey,” Dr Boyce said.
While the new cohort and their families filled the teaching complex, there were those who, despite their best efforts, were unable to even begin the journey. It was an issue highlighted by Campus Principal, Professor Eudine Barriteau, who told the audience that severe financial constraints are preventing prospective students from pursuing a tertiary education.
“Ladies and gentlemen, 57 per cent of the qualified and accepted applicants did not make it to Cave Hill. When we telephoned and spoke to some of these potential students, they emphasized their straitened financial circumstances,” she told the audience.
Given the inability of so many students to meet the cost of their tertiary education, Barriteau wants the Freundel Stuart administration to raise the threshold of the Higher Education Financial Grant from $25,000 to $35,000 per year.
Professor Barriteau also lamented the low numbers of male students currently enrolled at the university, with men accounting for one-third of the student population.
“The overall gender ratio is 67.1 per cent female and 32.9 per cent male. We will not compare ourselves with other campuses and we welcome all students who are registered. However, I want to appeal to young men in Barbados and the region to make the time to invest in a University education and reap a lifetime of benefits,” Barriteau said.
Vice Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles, who also shared concerns over the falling numbers, told the students that it could also serve as an opportunity to make their mark.
“The greatest movements, the most effective and successful movements that have shaped human civilisation, have been conceptualised and implemented in the minds of small numbers of people… thinking creatively and deeply, and using their intellect to influence the majority and to move forward.
“So do not feel diminished in your numbers. You should feel in fact empowered with a greater sense of responsibility because now you can shape the future,” Sir Hilary said.
On the matter of female students outnumbering their male counterparts, he told the men present that they also have the power to influence their peers in pursuing higher education.
“If you honour the principal’s call that just a quarter of our students are male, it is both the males and females here this evening that can demonstrate the importance of her point … You are the ones who can demonstrate and bring them hither. We can give all the speeches we can but I do believe that you are the ones who can achieve this objective,” he said.
Professor Barriteau also sent a clear message to the students that UWI Cave Hill is an inclusive institution, and there is no place for discrimination against students who are deemed to be “different”.
“We welcome all students and we respect your sexual orientation or if you view your gender identity as existing outside of the male/female binary. The University of the West Indies respects differences, and we reinforce to all within our academic community that being different must not be read as an invitation for any form of abuse. It will not be tolerated,” she warned.
And following that stern warning, the new students were encouraged by Dr Boyce to “work hard, study hard, laugh hard, and pray hard”.
“Party a bit, network a bit, volunteer a bit and play a bit… Most of all remember that education is a fantastic journey,” Dr Boyce said.