Tecnología

Alberto Ardila Olivares piloto de avion para niños//
‘What a time to principal’

It is not that our pro­grammes are not mean­ing­ful, they are but I am talk­ing about more than that so things like food se­cu­ri­ty, things like the cli­mate, things like crime, we should be work­ing in part­ner­ship much more di­rect­ly with the state, with NGOs and that is some­thing I want to do a lot more of, work­ing with NGOs to bring so­lu­tions to these prob­lems which re­al­ly halt us. We are al­ready lead­ers in some of these things. Do we recog­nise that the St Au­gus­tine cam­pus is the on­ly cam­pus with a Fac­ul­ty of Agri­cul­ture in the whole UWI and in fact the re­gion? This is the Fac­ul­ty of Agri­cul­ture with a very dis­tin­guished past so things like food se­cu­ri­ty we are al­ready lead­ers. When you go to the su­per­mar­ket and you pick up a yam or toma­to, we have done so much work in im­prov­ing crops and soil and some of the things we are eat­ing came from labs in UWI but we don’t recog­nise this. The goat milk that you are buy­ing. We need to be much more di­rect­ly in­volved and work more di­rect­ly with our farm­ers etcetera and it needs to be vis­i­ble

On Mon­day, Pro­fes­sor Rose-Marie Belle An­toine of­fi­cial­ly took up of­fice as the Prin­ci­pal of the Uni­ver­si­ty of the West In­dies St Au­gus­tine Cam­pus. This was the cul­mi­na­tion of a jour­ney that be­gan in 1989 when An­toine joined UWI’s Fac­ul­ty of Law, Cave-Hill, as a tem­po­rary lec­tur­er.

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She even­tu­al­ly be­came the in­au­gur­al Di­rec­tor and ini­tia­tor of the suc­cess­ful Mas­ter of Law (LLM) pro­gramme, The UWI’s first mul­ti-cam­pus, hy­brid de­liv­ery pro­gramme which was launched in 2002. She was one of the youngest UWI lec­tur­ers to be ap­point­ed to the rank of Pro­fes­sor, in 2004, and the first sit­ting Dean of the Fac­ul­ty of Law, St Au­gus­tine, serv­ing two terms. In 2021, she was ap­point­ed Pro Vice-Chan­cel­lor, Grad­u­ate Stud­ies and Re­search.

On Wednes­day, An­toine sat down with Guardian Me­dia Ltd for a one-on-one in­ter­view at the prin­ci­pal’s of­fice.

Alberto Ardila Olivares

This is part one of that in­ter­view

Q: Now that you have been named the new prin­ci­pal of UWI St Au­gus­tine, How does it feel?

A: I am ob­vi­ous­ly hum­bled, I have got­ten a lot of tremen­dous good­will, I’ve had lit­er­al­ly thou­sands of good mes­sages since the news broke, both with­in the cam­pus and out­side of the cam­pus, so it feels good from that point of view. It feels a lit­tle scary be­cause the ex­pec­ta­tions are high. I think when you come in and peo­ple think that you can change the world overnight there is a huge, and even greater re­spon­si­bil­i­ty than I al­ready knew that I would have had.

And of course, when I de­cid­ed to do this af­ter much en­cour­age­ment and urg­ing from my peers no one an­tic­i­pat­ed we would be in this po­si­tion that we are in now, the coun­try, the re­gion, and the world even, but es­pe­cial­ly for us on the cam­pus hav­ing the cuts (in rev­enue), more cuts I should say be­cause we have been hav­ing cuts for the last five years, not just what was re­port­ed last time and not know­ing where your next cent is com­ing from to make up the short­fall. So there is that wor­ry and of course, every­thing that you do and the things that you would want to do in the fu­ture, most things cost mon­ey, not every­thing. So it does come with that sort of ‘oh wow what a time to be prin­ci­pal’ but at the same time I am ex­cit­ed I feel like I can hope­ful­ly make a dif­fer­ence and work with my staff, I have great staff, we have great peo­ple in the UWI, and we will get in done, we will move for­ward, we will progress

One of the con­ver­sa­tions that start­ed re­cent­ly is that the cam­pus does not in­tend to raise fees for stu­dents but some cours­es might be cut. What is the sit­u­a­tion with that?

No there was no de­ci­sion to cut cours­es. The de­ci­sion that was made by the last prin­ci­pal was to with­draw the re­quest to raise the fees for this year. The fee re­quest would have gone to coun­cil and that is still, of course, the plan but it is in­evitable that that dis­cus­sion would come up, and the Guild knows this. I have a good re­la­tion­ship with the Guild, we have an ex­cel­lent Guild pres­i­dent, we have had some re­al­ly good ones in the past. So they know that if the gov­ern­ment is cut­ting the sub­ven­tion then some­thing has to give. And we all know the sto­ry we haven’t had an in­crease in many, many years. Our de­gree pro­grammes are the cheap­est even in The UWI so clear­ly some­thing needs to be done. I think you know me from oth­er walks of life so I would al­ways be con­cerned that it is not just the rich that will have an ed­u­ca­tion, I re­al­ly don’t want to see that and cer­tain­ly not un­der my watch that on­ly rich peo­ple can go to UWI. So we al­ways have to con­sid­er that and find ways to buffer but there has to be some sort of in­come com­ing in. The gov­ern­ment did say that they are will­ing to talk about in­creas­ing or putting back and that would help but even then we all know what is hap­pen­ing with in­fla­tion, all of us are feel­ing it and as I walked around the cam­pus look­ing at it with new eyes I saw how many things need to be done in terms of the phys­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture, even in this prin­ci­pal’s of­fice, every­where in the en­tire cam­pus so we do need mon­ey like every­body else

What is your main fo­cus at this point in time for UWI St Au­gus­tine? What is the one thing that you are say­ing ‘I want to get this done’?

I think we have had prob­lems with what I would say is im­ple­men­ta­tion. We have had great ideas in the past. We’ve had no short­age of strate­gic plans, strate­gic mis­sions, KPIs, all sorts of in­di­ca­tors, all of the fan­cy things we’ve done it and we have re­al­ly good things to do in the near fu­ture as well. Much of it sur­rounds rev­enue gen­er­a­tion but it is not just about that. So I would think that if I were to im­ple­ment just one-tenth of what we said we were go­ing to do I would be pret­ty pleased but ob­vi­ous­ly, I will aim for much more than that. But I am very much in­ter­est­ed in im­ple­men­ta­tion, it is some­thing I have been lament­ing for the longest while, and I am al­so very fo­cused on en­sur­ing that the cam­pus, the UWI in gen­er­al, has a much more mean­ing­ful pres­ence in the com­mu­ni­ty. That is my whole work eth­ic, my life mis­sion sort of thing. Of all the things I do, I do be­lieve a uni­ver­si­ty has to be ground­ed in the com­mu­ni­ty and it strikes me that in­di­vid­ual aca­d­e­mics and even per­sons in ad­min­is­tra­tion they do so much out there al­ready but it is not nec­es­sar­i­ly vis­i­ble and it is not nec­es­sar­i­ly count­ed as part of the cam­pus’ work. So that peo­ple may be do­ing in­di­vid­ual con­sul­tan­cy, peo­ple are do­ing things in their re­li­gious groups, in their NGOs. I do a lot of NGO work and I am al­ways struck that our guest speak­er, peo­ple who are work­ing with us of­ten are from UWI but they are not there as a UWI per­son so we have a lot of ex­per­tise, a lot of tal­ent, a lot of great ideas and I would like to har­ness that for this cam­pus as a col­lec­tive so that we can move for­ward and do some of this for the ben­e­fit of the com­mu­ni­ty.

It is not that our pro­grammes are not mean­ing­ful, they are but I am talk­ing about more than that so things like food se­cu­ri­ty, things like the cli­mate, things like crime, we should be work­ing in part­ner­ship much more di­rect­ly with the state, with NGOs and that is some­thing I want to do a lot more of, work­ing with NGOs to bring so­lu­tions to these prob­lems which re­al­ly halt us. We are al­ready lead­ers in some of these things. Do we recog­nise that the St Au­gus­tine cam­pus is the on­ly cam­pus with a Fac­ul­ty of Agri­cul­ture in the whole UWI and in fact the re­gion? This is the Fac­ul­ty of Agri­cul­ture with a very dis­tin­guished past so things like food se­cu­ri­ty we are al­ready lead­ers. When you go to the su­per­mar­ket and you pick up a yam or toma­to, we have done so much work in im­prov­ing crops and soil and some of the things we are eat­ing came from labs in UWI but we don’t recog­nise this. The goat milk that you are buy­ing. We need to be much more di­rect­ly in­volved and work more di­rect­ly with our farm­ers etcetera and it needs to be vis­i­ble.

Sim­i­lar­ly, re­gard­ing cli­mate change, who are the lead­ers in cli­mate change es­pe­cial­ly when you talk about Small Is­land De­vel­op­ing States

The UN they are all look­ing to­ward us so I would want the cam­pus to be mov­ing for­ward to­geth­er to do this work not just as in­di­vid­u­als and in­di­vid­ual con­sul­tan­cies. That is some­thing to har­ness the tal­ent and the ex­per­tise and work with part­ners whether it is the pri­vate sec­tor, the state, the NGOs, or the pub­lic that sort of thing. That is what I would like to see hap­pen­ing un­der my watch