Ambitious programme for new UCCI president

Roy Bodden chosen for helm

On his first day on the job, the new president of the University College of the Cayman Islands, Roy Bodden, laid out an ambitious programme of changes for UCCI including seeking international accreditation for its degrees and qualifications and improving security on the campus.

Mr. Bodden is spending his first few days as president meeting with faculty members, department heads and administrators and is scheduled to meet with students next Wednesday.

Mr. Bodden admits one of his biggest challenges in his new role as president is ‘restoring the credibility and confidence in the institution and guiding it to academic accreditation where degrees are widely accepted and respected regionally and internationally.’

UCCI was dealt a heavy reputational blow in May last year when its president Hassan Syed resigned, citing ill health. Shortly afterwards an Auditor General’s report revealed financial irregularities relating to the former president’s spending.

The whereabouts of Mr. Syed, whose academic qualifications turned out to be false, remain unknown and he continues to be subject to a police investigation.

Brian Chapell has been the acting president of the university since Mr. Syed’s departure.

A former minister for education, Mr. Bodden was recommended as president of the university by the government in July.

Despite the government’s early endorsement, according to Berna Murphy-Cummins, the chairman of the UCCI Board of Governors, Mr. Bodden was among 130 candidates from whom an interview/selection panel of five members chose a shortlist of three – two Caymanians and one permanent resident.

Mr. Bodden said he hopes to push ahead with developing technical and vocational education at the university and to ensure UCCI’s degrees and qualifications are accredited and recognised by overseas universities.

Improving lighting and the physical structure of the campus is also on the cards in an effort to provide better security for students, he said. In a violent episode last month, a student was arrested for chasing two people with a machete.

On Monday, his first day in his new role, he presented a Powerpoint presentation to the university faculty, the same presentation he made during his interview for the post.

‘I’m seeking feedback from the faculty regarding what I mean to do… This is a team effort. I am the public face of the university, I have to have a shared vision of leadership,’ he said.

Among the immediate steps he plans to take is to improve the university’s notoriously user-unfriendly registration system, which led to widespread criticism from students in the last school year.

He also said he plans to extend the university’s reach to other parts of Grand Cayman, including East End, Bodden Town and North Side through ‘e-links’.

‘It is critical the university is at the service of the community, in all aspects of the community,’ he said.

Other new developments he wants to see include a nurses training programme and marine biology courses.

Extra-curricular

He also plans to introduce more extra-curricular activities, he said, including a dance club and debating society as well as mentoring and leadership programmes.

In January, he hopes to introduce on Saturday mornings a ‘Men of Standards’ programme that will teach young men about ‘deportment, elocution and social graces’, and later a similar one for female students.

And on Thursdays, he wants to hold cultural evenings to introduce students to Caribbean films, playwrights, musicians and writers.

In January, he plans to hold an inter-denominational service for the students, faculty and staff of the university and the public, and hopes to repeat this at the beginning of each new school year.

He admitted his plans for the university were ‘very ambitious’.

Audit

Mr. Bodden had previously said he wanted to see an audit of the university carried out before he would consider taking up the post. Yesterday he said this had not been a prerequisite of his acceptance of the post. ‘It’s still a work in progress,’ he said, adding: ‘I wanted a clean demarcation drawn before coming to the post and I’m satisfied that has been done.’

Minister of Education Rolston Anglin said he looked forward to the university being re-organised and stabilised.

‘Mr. Bodden takes over during extremely challenging times for UCCI. However, I am confident that he is the right person to be the president at this crucial juncture of the college’s history and development,’ Mr. Rolston said.

‘The Ministry expects that UCCI will not only be stabilised but we also envision a reorganised institution focused on the needs of students and the economy. We anticipate relevant programme offerings that will distinguish UCCI not only regionally but internationally,’ the education minister added.

New start

Mrs. Murphy-Cummins described Mr. Bodden as a ‘respected scholar, with the rare ability to relate to people at all levels.’

She added: ‘Among his distinguishing characteristics was his ability to convince the panel that he is a visionary leader with the experience and commitment necessary to conceive and communicate strategy at the highest levels, and to carry others with him.

‘The board has offered its full support to the new president and we look forward to a new start at UCCI.’

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