EDITORIAL – Passing the baton at UCCI

The University College of the Cayman Islands will begin the new year with a new president. Officials announced last week that Dr. Stacy McAfee will take the helm on Jan. 1, 2019.

We join the islands in welcoming Ms. McAfee and thanking outgoing President J.A. Roy Bodden – who deserves best wishes upon his retirement and recognition for his stewardship over the past nine years.

As UCCI president, Ms. McAfee will have a unique opportunity to activate the school’s latent potential. As a university administrator with fresh eyes, significant training and considerable experience in higher education, we hope she brings a bold vision and ambitious agenda when she arrives.

Ms. McAfee has a solid academic resume, with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Iowa State University, MBA from DePaul University in Illinois and doctorate in educational leadership and management from Drexel University. She has experience with a broad range of students pursuing a variety of goals, having served at several community colleges and universities in Illinois and California, and has experience in accreditation – which is an important goal of UCCI.

The UCCI Board of Governors believes she will bring new energy to fundraising efforts and implementation of a new strategic plan, Chairman Anthony Ritch told the Compass last week. We trust she will find significant opportunities to strengthen UCCI’s internal structures and community partnerships. In short, she will find there is plenty to do.

Ms. McAfee (whose current role as an associate vice president at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, involves a focus on external relations and strategic partnerships) will be pleased to find upon her arrival a resource-rich and demonstrably generous private sector, filled with benefactors eager to support a clearly articulated, ambitious agenda. To tap into those resources, she will have to articulate an inspirational vision and a realistic plan of action. Slow and steady “incremental improvement” won’t excite Cayman’s philanthropic community.

While developing that vision, we would encourage Ms. McAfee to look not only inside and outside the walls of the UCCI campus, but at the physical plant, itself. UCCI’s aging facilities, unfortunately, send an unspoken message about the country’s priorities. We’ve often observed that the university’s annual budget from government approximates the subsidy it makes to cover the losses of the Turtle Centre.  Something is clearly amiss here.

Our elected members have long spoken of being home to a world-class institution of higher education, one that confers prestige and is renowned beyond our borders. It is a dream worth dreaming – and pursuing.

We encourage UCCI’s new president to aim high in her goals and be exacting in her standards; to bring to higher education the type of transformational innovation and success our islands are achieving in other arenas.

Take, for example, the milestones Health City is achieving in the realm of medical tourism. Those strides would have been impossible if Dr. Devi Shetty had come to Cayman with the limited “vision” of plugging gaps in services and meeting the islands’ unmet needs.

Cayman should have similarly stellar ambitions for our flagship college – namely, that it achieves a level of excellence such that local high school graduates are proud to enroll there, that local businesses are competing to hire UCCI graduates, and that international students vie for the opportunity to attend Cayman’s flagship institution of higher learning.