Sun | Mar 18, 2018

Patricia E. Green | UTech's bright future

Published:Wednesday | December 28, 2016 | 12:00 AM

The new year will find the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) facing a brighter future with the appointment of accomplished Ambassador Professor Stephen Vasciannie as the new president with effect from January 2. This came as a surprise to many, and persons are heralding it as a pleasant one. In fact, we read in The Gleaner that two former ministers of education, Maxine Henry-Wilson and Ambassador Burchell Whiteman, welcome this appointment.

UTech advised that Ambassador Vasciannie will be principally responsible for implementing the council's policies, and will exercise such executive powers as necessary for the proper administration and operation of the university. He will be carrying out the functions of chief academic and administrative officer of the university, reporting directly to the university's council, which is the board of management through its Chairman Richard Powell as pro-chancellor. Mr Powell, a retired engineer and business leader with a distinguished career as a senior executive in the financial sector, was appointed as UTech's pro-chancellor on April 1, 2016.

Minister of Education Ruel Reid declared at his appointment that Mr Powell was an excellent choice. The university's chancellor, former Prime Minister Edward Seaga, nominated Mr Powell.




The university reported that Mr Powell, in announcing the appointment of the new president, stated that he was happy Ambassador Vasciannie had agreed to join the UTech family and that the university council was confident that he would make an invaluable contribution to the growth and development of the university.

"The leadership of this distinguished Jamaican will enhance the ability of UTech, Jamaica to fulfil its role as Jamaica's national university in supporting the achievements of the country's development goals."

Both of these appointments, Pro-Chancellor Powell and President-elect Ambassador Vasciannie, auger well for a brighter future in the new year for UTech.




Much attention was placed on recent Gleaner articles titled 'Fixing UTech'. As the new year approaches, I would argue that this is already in train, and wish to encourage Ambassador Vasciannie to ponder these ten points engineered from statements by Pro-Chancellor Powell, three former ministers of education, and the current minister, extracted from various Gleaner articles.

Ambassador Vasciannie:

1. Be confident - Minister Reid stated that the appointment period of Pro-chancellor Powell may prove to be challenging, but he had "every confidence" that he will successfully manage the task.

2. Build bridges - When coming into office, Pro-Chancellor Powell stated, "There are some pressing issues that need to be dealt with up front; we have to focus our attention on trying to build team effort, on building bridges and getting alignment among our stakeholders to fulfil our strategic mandate in the interest of the organisation."

3. Lead well - Former Minister of Education Henry-Wilson expressed the belief that UTech will benefit from your years of experience, and anticipates it could rebound with good leadership.

4. Do a good job - Former Minister of Education Ambassador Burchell Whiteman, who served as acting president of UTech from 2014 until 2015, said he was very positive about the development and thinks it is good for the university, also that you will do a very good job.

5. Dream large - Immediate past Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites carries the dream for UTech to become the 'MIT of the Caribbean', expressed after the installation ceremony of Pro-Chancellor Powell.

6. Negotiate wisely - Building on the dreams of former Minister Thwaites, Government should consider scholarships to qualified and needy students, with priority for studies in areas of greatest national need.

7. Enhance a positive institutional public face - Former Minister Thwaites continued to expound on his dream to remove from UTech "its poor-cousin crutch so grimly evident", and that the university is "far too crucial to remain in any 'swamp'", and, most immediately, has to be overhauled, highlighting that "Powell is the best man to lead the transformation".

8. Develop networks - Government and private enterprise should provide research grants for specific areas of national or enterprise and social needs, encouraged by former Minister Thwaites in articulating his dream.

9. Express optimism - Speaking at the installation ceremony of Mr Powell as UTech's pro-chancellor in November, the education minister expressed optimism that the challenges being faced by UTech can be remedied. He added that he would be working with his opposition counterpart and the university administration to turn around the institution.

10. Echo blessings - Significantly, at the installation ceremony of Pro-Chancellor Powell, Minister Reid pronounced repeatedly in a booming voice, "God bless UTech".

I still hear the sound of this blessing resonating in my ears, and on the strength of this blessing alone, I declare that the University of Technology, Jamaica has a brighter future for the new year 2017 and beyond.

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