The University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees approved a bachelor of science degree program in physics with a concentration in astronomy during the regular session of its quarterly meeting Saturday on the St. Thomas campus. The new degree program will provide educational training and research opportunities for undergraduate students who wish to specialize in physics and/or astronomy and who may intend to pursue graduate studies, according to a statement from UVI.
According to UVI, David Morris, assistant professor of physics and director of the Etelman Observatory, said the degree program will allow UVI to retain students who would normally transfer to schools on the U.S. mainland to complete their degrees. Students currently enrolled at UVI will continue to follow the applied mathematics paradigm until their sophomore year and then begin taking specific courses in physics, which includes eight new courses and two seminars, toward the completion of their degrees at UVI.
“I wholeheartedly support this resolution and this move to complement and strengthen our science program,” Trustee Oran Bowry said.
Morris estimated the first group of students enrolled in the program could graduate in Spring 2018.
UVI President David Hall said in his report to the board that one of the top priorities for the institution this year is the reaffirmation for accreditation process by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Every 10 years the institution has to go through a reaccreditation process.
“We have been working really hard to prepare,” Hall said, adding that he is excited "because we have a lot to show and demonstrate in regard to progress the institution has made.”
Hall also said UVI is working with the Office of the Governor on climate change, both overseeing the governor’s initiatives and serving on an advisory climate task-force.
"UVI will play a key role in developing the territory’s climate change adaptation strategy and plan,” Hall said.
The Office of the Governor has been awarded a grant of $828,050 from the U.S. Department of Interior, Office of Insular Affairs’ Technical Assistance Program to fund the project.
The board also reelected trustees Yvonne Thraen and Alexander Moorhead and will each serve a five-year term. Moorhead was first elected to the Board of Trustees in 1996 and was reelected in 2001, 2006 and 2011. Moorhead served as board chairman from 2008 to 2014. He currently chairs the Buildings and Grounds committee and the Finance and Budget committee. He also serves on the Governance and Executive Committees.
Thraen was first elected to the board of trustees in 1996 and was reelected in 2001, 2006 and 2011. She currently chairs the Academic, Research, and Student Affairs Committee and serves on the Building and Grounds, Governance and Executive Committees.
The board also welcomed two new members at Saturday’s meeting: student representative Debbie Bermudez and faculty representative David Gould.
In other business, the board set the alumni giving goal for Fiscal Year 2017 to 25 percent of giving and the annual fundraising goal at $2.5 million.