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Anna-Lisa Paul

Although the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the physical closure of the University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus – and led to most events having to be cancelled or postponed and restructured in an alternative format – officials have moved to ensure current students, faculty members and past graduates can connect virtually as this is the new normal.

During the launch of the mobile application UWI Connect , Pro Vice Chancellor and Campus Principal, UWI St Augustine, Professor Brian Copeland said it was timely as the university continues to evolve.

Stating that more than 120,000 UWI graduates could be found scattered across the globe making strides in some of the most unlikely places, Copeland urged, “making solid connections with our alumni therefore, is important, if we are to truly create a community of friends and allies who are family, supporting each other, mentoring, networking and paying it forward.”

He said digital transformation has been a long standing objective of the university and that COVID-19 had accelerated this process.

Indicating this latest mobile application provided a safe and secure space for persons to gather online and exchange ideas, UWI’s Vice Chancellor, Sir Hilary Beckles said the organisation had been tasked with the remit to be the engine of transformation and development.

He said, “The Caribbean has developed as one of the world’s most important global villages.”

Beckles said while the future of the University was very bright, the Caribbean had been more impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic than some other parts of the world.

However, he was optimistic that, “in spite of economic challenges, this University has been able to manage to a vision and implement a strategy so that our reputation continues to soar” even when revenues declined through no fault of the UWI.

Executive Director, Institutional Advancement Division, UWI Regional Headquarters, Elizabeth Buchanan-Hind said this state of the art engagement programme would transform relationships among the alumni.

Revealing they had finalised the data protection policy which would guide how the St Augustine Campus manages alumni data which it is responsible for maintaining, Buchanan-Hind assured there would be transparency in the data collection process; the sources of data; and how the information would be used.

Student guild president of the St Augustine Campus Warren Anderson said networking was hard and this digital offering to connect the alumni during the continuing pandemic was “very exciting.”

He said the main advantage was being able to log in whilst at home and connect with past and present students and faculty members.

Anderson said while the gates of the campus are physically closed, UWI Connect offers a way for persons to “enter” campus and stay in touch, seek advice, offer mentorship, and ensure goals align within the ambit of the UWI family.

President of UWI Alumni Association, TT Chapter, Jerry Medford, said it is not uncommon to hear complaints from alumni regarding the lack of connectivity and feedback from their alma mater.

He said while this argument is usually forthcoming from graduates who have moved to foreign based institutions, it is usually a reminder from these persons of just how laxed their homegrown institution is.

Commending the UWI St Augustine Campus on the launch, he is hopeful that when the site is fully functional, the platform will not only be user-friendly and relevant but also functional and beneficial to all stakeholders.