Cayman’s governor gets a speedy education

There is such a thing as accelerated learning. But this was ridiculous.

In the space of 90 minutes, Governor Martyn Roper was whisked through a series of crash courses in steel pan playing, chemistry, sushi making, media production and computer programming before donning a graduation robe and being awarded what is certainly the fastest ‘college degree’ ever earned at the University College of the Cayman Islands, and, perhaps, anywhere.

“This one means a lot,” Roper said, laughingly comparing his faux degree to those he has earned in the past. “I wasn’t aware of the wide variety of different courses [offered at UCCI]. Colleges like this are really important.”

Roper’s visit to the campus on Wednesday was meant to introduce the recently appointed governor to the course offerings of the college. UCCI President Stacy McAfee said she thought treating him like a new student – complete with a student ID, which he received upon his arrival – seemed more fun than the typical sober approach such events often take.

“I was not sleeping nights,” McAfee said, anticipating the governor’s visit, and the “very staid approach” they had planned to take. “I said, ‘Let’s do something different and give the governor a chance to experience what we do at the school.’”

That meant handing him a couple of mallets and throwing him into a steel pan performance where he and McAfee took cues from a couple of experienced students on how to hit the necessary notes for the simple chorus of ‘La Bamba’.

Music instructor Glen Inanga said the governor passed with “flying colours”.

“You can join us anytime,” Inanga said as the governor was swept away to the school’s television production studio. There he got a quick introduction to video technology.

Roper asked student Andre Mena-Hebbert, who was instructing him, what he wanted to do after finishing his studies at UCCI.

“I really want to go out and do my own [commercial] videos,” Mena-Hebbert said. “If you need anything filmed, I hope you’ll call us.”

The governor then was ushered off to the electronics lab where lecturer Fenslie Smith told him and Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, who came with a small contingent of government representatives, about how students learn to test power supplies.

Governor Martyn Roper receives his ‘degree’ from UCCI President Stacy McAfee, as UCCI Board of Governors Chairman Anthony Ritch looks on. – Photo: Mark Muckenfuss

From there, it was a quick transition to the hospitality programme. Roper was given an apron, a chef’s cap and some rapid directions before he had to compete in a sushi-making contest with McAfee, who later admitted she had practiced beforehand.

Roper threw just about everything into his sushi roll and worried that the result, which was almost burrito sized, was too big. McAfee received praise for her avocado-topped creation.

While Wayne Jackson, director of the school of hospitality, gave Roper a passing grade, it was with a caveat.

“I would encourage you to work on your craft more,” he said with a smile.

He added, “Welcome aboard. I hope you pass your other classes.”

Those included computer coding, and an even more abbreviated look into the school’s business programme, graduate studies, student life, mathematics and science, and nursing.

Then it was off to graduation.

Addressing the governor in front of a room full of faculty, staff, administrators and government dignitaries, Provost Livingston Smith told him, “You have passed your course of studies,” and awarded him a degree in interdisciplinary studies.

“I call upon you now, as class valedictorian,” he said, eliciting laughs from the crowd, “to address us.”

“In London, when I was briefed about the governorship, nobody told me about this,” Roper said. “I’m glad I passed.”

He said he appreciated the “imaginative way” he’d been introduced to the campus’s array of courses.

“The sushi competition is going to be one of the things I remember about Cayman,” he said.

McAfee said she is hoping for the governor’s support as the campus initiates more programmes tied to the community and the business sector.

“I think as governor, he can speak quite broadly about nation building,” she said.

That will include the hospitality sector, which may be good for Roper.

“The sushi was good fun,” he said.