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UVI Secures $5.3 Million NSF Grant to Bolster STEM Workforce in the Virgin Islands

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The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) has recently announced a major financial boost for its science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs. A generous grant of $5.3 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will fund the “Navigating Home” initiative, a key part of NSF’s SEAS Islands Alliance and NSF Securing STEM Islands Pathways awards.

Focused on “Enriching STEM Pathways,” this NSF-sponsored project is dedicated to creating more opportunities in the workforce for recent graduates, particularly those from Black, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, or other underrepresented groups in the geosciences. The program specifically targets graduates from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam, aiming to bolster the local workforce in marine and environmental sciences.

Under the banner of “Comprehensive Training for Future Experts,” Navigating Home provides a range of unique training opportunities. These include short-term (two to five months) and long-term (one to two years) job experiences, specifically designed to prepare graduates with the skills needed for a successful career in the island-based marine and environmental science sectors.

Dr. Kristin Wilson Grimes, leading the project from UVI’s Center for Marine and Environmental Studies, highlights the program’s role in “Cultivating Homegrown Talents.” She states, “This initiative not only offers Virgin Islanders the chance to build their careers in STEM fields right here in the U.S. Virgin Islands but also leverages our long-standing partnerships with local organizations like the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources. These collaborations often result in permanent job placements, aligning with the program’s ultimate objective.”

For those in the Virgin Islands seeking more information on this career-shaping opportunity, they can reach out to SEAS Islands Alliance Coordinator, Elisabeth Leerdam at [email protected]. This program marks a significant stride in enriching the local STEM talent pool, reaffirming UVI’s dedication to promoting educational and career advancements in the Virgin Islands.

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Cuban Environmentalist Wins CFVI’s 2023 Judith A. Towle Environmental Studies Fund Award

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The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI) has proudly selected Ailén Anido Escalona, a Cuban conservationist, as the 2023 beneficiary of the Judith A. Towle Environmental Studies Fund Award.

The award, initiated in 2003 at CFVI, aims to bolster studies and initiatives that confront crucial environmental challenges within the insular Caribbean. Ailén Anido Escalona, hailing from Gibara, Cuba, and currently affiliated with the Museum of Natural History in Gibara, Holguín, Cuba, brings an impressive two decades of expertise in bird conservation to the table.

Escalona emerged as the top choice among eight compelling proposals from across the Caribbean, including entries from St. Kitts, St. John, St. Croix, and St. Thomas. Her winning project, which secures her a $5,000 grant, is dedicated to crafting and executing solutions to curb the illicit trapping and trade of wild birds in Cuba—a pressing ecological issue that has widespread ramifications in the Caribbean.

CFVI commends Escalona’s proposal for its direct adherence to the Towle Fund’s objectives, particularly in addressing a critical cross-boundary environmental concern. The fund’s namesake, Judith Towle, along with other reviewers, praised the proposal for its thorough and holistic approach.

The project, under Escalona’s guidance, proposes to engage local communities and governmental bodies, underscoring the importance of education and training at multiple levels. It also underscores the urgency of policy reforms in this field.

This year’s distinction is noteworthy as it represents the first Towle grant allocated to a Cuban initiative, marking the 15th such grant dispensed by the Towle Fund at CFVI. The project will focus on Gibara, a crucial migratory passageway and one of the three primary sites in Cuba for bird capture and trafficking.

Ailén Anido Escalona, who possesses a Master of Science degree in Environmental Management, is lauded for her strong academic and professional background and the well-structured design of her project.

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