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RAGSTER SEES CHALLENGES BUT GROWTH FOR UVI

Aug. 22, 2002 – Speaking before Rotary Club of St. Thomas on Thursday, University of the Virgin Islands President LaVerne Ragster shared a positive vision of growth and change for the next five years on both UVI campuses.
"I don't intend to sleep or let anybody else at the university sleep" for those five years, she said, acknowledging challenges that lie ahead and affirming her commitment to meet them. The goals she outlined at the luncheon meeting at Marriott's Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort included reaching out to the local community and building a better relationship between UVI and the territory's residents.
"We understand that what happens to the community happens to us, and that what happens to us also happens to the community," Ragster, who became UVI's fourth president at the start of this month, said.
She also addressed a current hot topic — the Research and Technology Park to be developed on St. Croix. Despite controversy over funding and fears of local farmers that agricultural lands will be co-opted for the park, she said she is hopeful of a swift resolution to the conflicts.
"The university has designed a holistic and very exciting concept," she said, but the challenge lies in trying to resolve difficulties with people whose agendas may not mesh with UVI's. "It takes time," she said.
There is a framework for building the technology park and making it operational, she said. "The framework doesn't say take the land from the farmers," she pointed out. "It says take appropriate land."
Ragster said the board of trustees will be addressing the controversies. For her part, she said, she is promoting initiatives to complement the park, such as increasing UVI's technology course offerings on St. Croix and developing a Technology and Education Center that will serve the territory's residents as well as students on both campuses.
So far, she said, partners in the technology park include software developers, Web-based businesses and some technology-based customer service programs.
"We're looking for knowledge-based industries," she said.
As discussions on the park continue, Ragster said, she is trying to meet some of the other challenges she faces in her new role as UVI president. One of them is that "I need to make sure that people understand the value of the University of the Virgin Islands to this community," she said.

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