By Hayden McKenna
Accidents of birth, the fact or fiction of kismet, fate versus agency, the unforgiving, unrelenting metronome of life’s clock, good luck, tough luck, and the untamed caprice – sometimes tyranny – of serendipity and opportunism are existential mysteries that without faith, the meaning to living would remain an estranged fugitive-at-large. Let us not over-think this though. The intention here is far more light-hearted. All of this metaphysical waxing is simply to say that it is extremely doubtful that any of the almost 750 freshers among us this year, intentionally purposed to graduate in the Class of 2027 – the class of our university’s centennial! Yes in 2027 our beloved USC celebrates 100 years of existence. Follow the simple math; the freshers of 2023 possess – by dint of accident of birth or matriculation – the unique and significant claim to being members of the presumptive centennial class.
In human reckoning – across time, geographies and cultures, 100 of almost anything is significant – not 94, at least 100! Generally though, there is almost unanimous consensus that 100 metres in track and field, 100 runs in cricket, 100 reps at the gym, 100 miles of cycling, even £/€/$100 (depending on the currency) is significant or valued. When it comes to years, our relatively short lifespans rarefy the triumph of surviving for 100 years. A 100th anniversary or birthday truly matters. At the University of the Southern Caribbean, we can expect that everything will be bigger brighter and better in 2027.
When the topic of our quickly arriving centennial and the beginning of the incubation of the Class of 2027, was recently broached with University President, Dr. Colwick Wilson, he re-joined with his trademark enthusiasm:
I wish I were graduating during the year when the institution celebrates 100 years… It would be a graduation experience like none other…It seems as if that embedded in the psyche of the populations of the world is this notion of what happens within a century…There is something distinctive about getting to 100. It is a marker of significance in all of our memory and all of our lives. There is that social-psychological reality that allows people to pause and say wow, thank God for 100 years.
Dr. Wilson went on to point out that in USC’s lived history, there have been classes that have been special because of the institutional milestones attached to them. There was the very first class that entered East Caribbean Training School. The first class to graduate from Caribbean Training College, the first class to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, the first class to begin a bachelor’s degree at CUC and complete it, the first cohort of students to graduate with a USC conferred master’s degree, the first batch of nurses to graduate. Institutional milestones embellish some classes with special memorability – perhaps none more so than the Class of 2027.
When asked about some of the unique things the Class of 2027 can look forward to during their four-year tenure at the university, Dr. Wilson projected an exciting 48 months ahead. On November 18th and 19th of this year, we can expect to see the soft launch of the university’s centennial celebrations, with its supporting capital campaign and the Get on the Bus (GOTB) 2023 initiative.
Sub-committees drawn from a broad cross-section of the university community, including administrators, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of USC, have been formed and are being formed to plan-out a slew of activities for 2023, 2024, 2025, 2026, and 2027. In the 2026 – 2027 academic year, in every month there will be a major activity leading up to graduation weekend and the Founders’ Day climax.
In this academic year, there will be a major international research conference on the campus to mark Charter Week in the month of March 2024. At that conference, the David Williams Centre for the Study of Religion Spirituality and Health and Well-being will be launched. The conference will also feature national, regional and international scholars and presenters. It is the intention for this international conference to become an annual fixture of the university’s calendar.
In the lead-up to the centennial, students can look forward also, to more opportunities to engage in research. Dr. Wilson said that “research will be integrated into the curriculum. Students will be trained at a higher level to get involved in research through the curriculum and also outside of the curriculum, in areas that they are interested in”.
The improvement of the aesthetic, functionality, efficiency and quality of campus infrastructure will also be pursued through a programme of campus beautification, renewal and development. On the main campus, the Campus Beautification Sub-committee for instance, has already begun working on proposals for the remodelling of the main entrance to the campus.
A top priority of campus renewal for our president is creation and/or enhancement of student spaces on the campus. Dr. Wilson mentioned plans to develop places where students and others could take good photographs, have social gatherings and events, “spaces where students can document memories of their time here at USC… green spaces on campus where students can sit and fall in love…”
A major recipient of the funding to be raised by the capital campaign mentioned earlier, would be a state-of-the-art health and wellness centre to be built where the de-commissioned Linda Austin Hall now stands. Amenities would include a modern gym, a swimming pool, a basketball court, lawn tennis and volleyball courts. Speaking of this facility, Dr. Wilson said “that is where our number one centennial building is expected to be.” Speaking also of plans to have the playfield resurfaced and lit, he said “we have to have a place on the campus where -individuals – young people and older people are able to recreate.”
Dr. Wilson spoke also of plans for the improvement of other aspects of campus infrastructure. There are about 19 buildings earmarked for renovations and upgrades. There is the need to complete the unfinished Dean’s quarters, and the annex to the ladies’ residence hall, up on cardiac hill. The music building will also get some attention and alas, the weather-worn foundation to the northwest of the secondary school would be given newness of life. The electrical power on the campus will also be upgraded to meet present and future needs. All of this will be pursued within a framework that is committed to a greener more energy-efficient campus.
Campus development will not be confined solely to the main campus. The needs of the extension campuses and satellite sites are well known and understood by the university’s administration. There are ongoing negotiations with government bodies at the various locations to improve the endowments of land for expansion and development of our remote campuses.
The Caring University Church building project, which is the shared responsibility of the university, other denominational stakeholders and the congregation itself, is another aspect of campus development that can be expected to be completed before the university’s centennial year. Dr. Wilson expressed a commitment to support this project through fundraising and personal efforts.
The development of the university’s human capital is also a priority of the centennial vision. There will be a special emphasis on leadership development. Dr. Wilson in commenting on this aspect of the centennial trajectory said:
I think there are a number of individuals on this campus, if given the right exposure and experiences… would be excellent candidates for the job of leading this university into the next fifteen to twenty years. I think we have to invest in them. We are going to start a leadership academy with a sub-theme of transition.
Members of faculty and staff can look forward to opportunities for specialized training, upskilling, meaningful mentorships and exposure to leadership building experiences. The first instalments of the training the academy will offer, comes as soon as this November 3rd and 16th.
The university structure has also been modified in order to improve its prospects for delivering a superior USC as it enters its second century. A new administrative division dedicated to advancement and planning has been created. This division, headed by the very experienced Dr. Barbara Reynolds, will ensure that the university becomes adept at multi-tasking the urgency of its present operational functions with its intentional pursuit of planned progress.
Deeper, more constructive community involvement is also on the institutional agenda. Dr. Wilson spoke with passion about finding novel ways for the university to become more meaningfully involved in its immediate community and further afield, in the nation and the region. The TCH-USC Urgent Care Clinic, recently opened in the heart of the Maracas Valley is one example of a greater commitment to community engagement. At the ceremonial opening of the clinic Dr. Wilson spoke about USC’s almost 100-year relationship with the Maracas Valley community. He promised that “USC, is here to stay and will grow bigger, stronger and more involved in the community… We will invest in getting deeper into the community to provide the resources the community needs across multiple dimensions…” he said. Many of the other capital project mentioned previously, will also be designed, built and deployed with the benefit of the wider community also in focus.
The centennial vision, even in the face of scarce resources, is ambitious, bold and affluent in faith. Persuaded by God’s awesome faithfulness over the past 96 years, there is a composed confidence that God is not finished yet with miracle valley.
The Class of 2027, enters USC at a time of unparalleled excitement and opportunity. If you are a fresher this year, you belong to a special class that is destined to be remembered. Spare no opportunity to do remarkable things during your time here. Embrace this journey for all that its worth and do not disembark before you have travelled beyond excellence.