Aug. 1, 2002 – On her first day as the fourth president of the University of the Virgin Islands, Dr. LaVerne Ragster struck an informative note.
At a press conference Thursday morning, she introduced her President's Cabinet, showed off a newly launched redesign of the UVI Web site, and described plans for two informational kiosks to be placed at the entrances of the St. Thomas and St. Croix campuses.
The cabinet functions as an advisory board to the UVI president. Members she introduced were Gwen-Marie Moolenaar, interim senior vice president and provost; John Leipzig, St. Thomas campus chancellor; Jennifer Jackson, St. Croix campus chancellor; Malcolm Kirwan, vice president for administration and finance; Henry H. Smith, vice provost for research and public service; and Susan A. Anderson, chief information officer.
Since the reorganization of the university's administrative structure three years ago, Ragster had held the No. 2 position, that of senior vice president and provost. Moolenaar has been vice president for institutional advancement and community development. Jackson, Kirwan and Smith have been in their current positions.
The position of chancellor for the St. Thomas campus was held until recently by Roy Watlington, a professor of physics, who stepped down on July 1 to return to full-time teaching and research in UVI's Marine Science Department. Leipzig, who officially took over on Thursday, came to UVI from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Anderson as chief information officer heads the Office of Information Technology, which has oversight for all computer and telecommunications operations.
UVI's public relations director, Patrice Johnson, talked about new information systems for the university, showcasing the redesigned Internet site. She said the new Web design is intended to function in a more "audience-driven" fashion, pointing visitors to easier paths to the information they seek.
One thing new about the site, which made its official debut on Thursday, is that it includes an online version of the UVI course catalog, Johnson said. Also available online is an extensive database of media releases and a section designed to enable staff and faculty to access university announcements easily. To visit the site, go to www.uvi.edu.
As for the kiosks, Ragster described them as an effort to jump-start her goal of fulfilling what she calls UVI's "enormous potential." The university and the territory as a whole should be "absolutely intertwined," she said, and the kiosks, designed to help the university community and visitors find their way around, are a part of her plan to make UVI more user-friendly.
Designed by St. Thomas architects Robert and Donna de Jongh, the kiosks will feature two information panels and a pedestal map. They will be placed near the entrances of the two campuses so that visitors can drive up and view the information. Robert de Jongh said the design is in keeping with the architecture of UVI and that the kiosks will help to define both campuses by creating obvious entry points for visitors.
Ragster said at some point in the future the kiosks might be made more technology oriented, but for now, given the potential for hurricane damage in the territory, the focus is on durability. They should be in place by mid-fall, she said.
In the 1980s, informational kiosks were installed on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix at strategic tourist areas such as airports and docks and downtown Charlotte Amalie by the old Commerce Department. They were eventually dismantled in the course of various renovation projects.
Ragster, a native of St. Thomas, has been with the University since the early 1980s. She holds a Ph.D. in biology from the University of California at San Diego and spent the first 10 years of her teaching career on the faculty of the then-College of the Virgin Islands and then UVI, eventually attaining a full professorship in the Marine Science Department. She was vice president for research and public service before being named senior vice president and provost.
Initial plans called for her to succeed Orville Kean as president upon his retirement in September, but the changeover was moved up to Aug. 1 to allow the new administration to be in place for the start of the new academic year.
Among her goals as president, Ragster said Thursday, is helping to prepare a more technologically skilled Virgin Islands work force. Part and parcel of that goal is a planned community technology center on St. Croix where students and others can develop computer skills, she said. "The idea is to create a place where people can move their skills from zero to some level that will allow them to move into the work force," she said.
Also on the horizon for St. Croix is UVI's recently approved research and technology park. "This is a major undertaking for the university," Ragster said, "and we are going to see it to the end."
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