USM presents PSN project at 25th Anniversary Celebration

POSTED: 12/2/14 12:45 AM

St. Maarten – During the University of St. Martin’s (USM) 25th Anniversary celebration ceremony, which took place on Friday, November 28, USM Foundation President Valerie Giterson-Pantophlet and USM Foundation Vice President Wycliffe Smith gave a presentation of the university’s new project, called Project Serving our Nation (PSN), which aims to improve the quality of life in every household in St. Maarten.

“The project is based on the ethic of care,” said Smith. “The University of St. Martin cares about the people of St. Maarten.” The university plans to hire what is called a “community developer,” who will go into the eight different districts to meet with families, discuss the problems these families face and come up with possible solutions to these problems. In this way, the community developer will build lines of communication between district families and USM.

“Our hope is that at least one person in each family on the island will achieve a degree, whether it’s an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree,” said Giterson-Pantophlet. The project is expected to run for 4.5 to 5 years. Through this project, people within the 8 different districts will identify and resolve the issues that plague their communities. The project will be funded by the people of St. Maarten, meaning community members will come together, pooling resources, to raise sufficient funds to find the solutions to their problems, and thereby bettering their lives, their communities and the island of St. Maarten. “This is the University of St. Martin’s goal for the next 4-5 years – to transform these districts and transform the Country of St. Maarten,” said Giterson-Pantophlet.

The ceremony started with an open house event, where attendees could visit different classrooms to find out about the different programs and degrees the university offers. “We have to educate our students and do it in a different way… one of the problems we are faced with is that students are taught by professors who have been trained in the past to address and solve problems in the future,” said Erwin Wolthuis, Division Head of Business and Hospitality at USM. He went on to say that to prepare USM students for the future, there is still great emphasis on the 3 Rs: reading, writing and arithmetic. However, within the 3 Rs, USM focuses on what they call the 7 Cs, which are critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, computing, career and learning and cross cultural understanding.

“We are here to celebrate progress,” said MC and USM Alumnus Lenworth Wilson at the opening ceremony, before handing the mike over to USM instructor of 23 years Danny Flemming, who led the invocation. During his invocation, Fleming expressed the importance of education in a society, saying, “The lack of education in our society breeds ignorance… without education the prisons will fill. Where there is no vision, the people will perish. Have faith that within the next 25 years, we can say that USM has reached its goal.” He went on to say that it has been a pleasure working an as instructor at USM for the past 23 years.

“You are here to celebrate yourself,” said USM Interim President and Dean of Academics Francio Guadeloupe in his welcome speech. In honoring the University of St. Martin and St. Maarten you are honoring yourself. It exists because of you, and how it grows will depend on you.” In his speech, Guadeloupe asked attendees to imagine a time when there was just the Great Salt Pond and the workers who reaped the salt from its pans. He asked attendees to imagine a grandmother among the salt reapers, smiling, and thinking of a better future. This grandmother toiled in the sun, saving every penny she earned, so that she could send her children and grandchildren abroad to better themselves. Some of these children and grandchildren returned to St. Maarten to make the University of St. Martin a reality. Guadeloupe ended his speech, saying, “We celebrate you and your contribution in making USM what it is today.”

Earlier in the night, during her address, USM Foundation President Giterson-Pantophlet alluded to the university’s PSN initiative, saying “We will be closing the old chapter and embarking on a new one.” In its history, the university has seen 5 different boards. Despite the change in boards over the years, each board never lost sight of the university’s mission and vision. “We can see what kind society we are living in, and we need to ask ourselves, ‘What kind of legacy do we want to leave behind?’” She went on to acknowledge 2 pillars of the university present in the crowd that night – Dr. Linda Richardson and Wycliffe Smith. Giterson-Pantophlet ended her speech, saying, “Our dream at the University of St. Martin is for every student to be able to achieve exactly what he or she would like to do in this society.”

The Charlotte Brookson Academy Choir wowed the audience with its rendition of Sam Smith’s hit “Stay With Me.” Following the choir’s performance, Guadeloupe presented the staff and faculty of USM with awards for their outstanding work, dedication and commitment to the institution. USM Foundation Vice President Smith then awarded the long-standing faculty and staff for their dedication to the university throughout the years. Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (Vromi) Maurice Lake was given an award at this time. Present at the celebration was University of Curacao’s Dr. Francis de Lanoy, who presented Guadeloupe with a token of appreciation, in honor of USM’s partnership with the University of Curacao. Representatives of the Anguilla Community College also presented Guadeloupe with a token of appreciation for USM’s long-standing partnership with the neighboring community. The event ended with a reception, wherein attendees converged to continue celebrating the university and its accomplishments over snacks and drinks.

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