Office of the Vice-Chancellor

Office of the Vice-Chancellor

Statement by H.E. President Hilda C. Heine USP Marshall Islands Graduation, 2 October 2018

  • Our Traditional Leaders,
  • Pro Chancellor Mr. Winston Thompson,
  • The Acting Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Derrick Armstrong,
  • Excellences’ and Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
  • Cabinet Ministers of the RMI Government;
  • Honorable Senators of the Nijitela;
  • Chief Justice and Associate Judges,
  • Members of the USP Marshall Islands National Advisory Committee;
  • Director of the Marshall Islands USP Campus, Dr. Irene Taafaki and Staff;
  • Administrator of the RMI-USP Program, Yolanda Mckay, staff and faculty.
  • President, College of the Marshall Islands, Dr. Theresa Koroivulaono, Representatives of the Private and business sector,
  • Graduands and their families and friends;
  • Ladies and Gentlemen.

Welcome, Yokwe and a very good evening to you all.

It is a great pleasure to return to the USP Campus, and to express to you graduands my sincere congratulations to each one of you. I am delighted to address you at this second graduation held at the Long Island Campus.

Last year’s graduation coincided with the celebration of the opening of this new campus facility in Long Island. You have had the benefit to complete your studies at this beautiful spot on Majuro, and I am glad that you have made the best of the facilities provided to you by my Government.

This graduation is another unique celebration, as it coincides with the week of joyful activities observing the 50th Anniversary of USP. My warm congratulations to USP as it marks this major milestone.

I am very pleased to note that during the months between both graduations more than 40 students from the Marshall Islands have completed certificates, diplomas and degrees at all levels. This is a very good achievement.

I applaud each one of you for your commitment to completing your academic programs, for continuing on the path of realizing your potential, and for striving for excellence. I thank your family, friends and employers for the support they have given you. Without this, I know how hard it would be to complete even a single course.

I am especially pleased to note the increase in students who have gained professional qualifications that make them workforce ready – including another cohort in a steady stream of MBA students and a group of 11 who have achieved qualifications in Accounting. This gives me a great sense of personal satisfaction, since one of my first calls to higher education when I assumed the Presidency was for both the College and University to make a concerted effort to give training in Accounting and Financial Management. It is an inevitable reality that the Marshall Islands needs such skilled Marshallese workers in both the public and private sector.

We must surely recognize the importance of an educated population to meet the critical needs of the time in which we live. It is not enough to sit back and be content with the fact that the Marshall Islands is still a young member of the community of nations, and that we have all the time in the world to build our country. We should not forget that we are living in an unsteady and uncertain environment. Things do not always travel in a straight Iine. Science and technology are forever changing and progressing at an ever-faster speed. Climate change has its own strange nature and flexes its muscles, often beyond our ability to fathom.

Such a world requires strong, determined people who are problem solvers and decision makers. We need Marshallese innovators and skilled technicians and workers – those who will be able to manage, develop and support infrastructure and programs that ensure the Marshall Islands builds and maintains a resilient future.

We require a workforce comprised of people with integrity, who strive to excel. Collaborators who work together to contribute to the betterment of the country.

And, while the need for individual drive and personal fulfilment is recognized as important in today’s world, I appeal to all our graduands not forget to maintain the spirit of service in all you undertake. It is through service that you come to understand yourself as well as contributing in significant ways to the general good. During your studies you will have come across many who you admire for their academic prowess and success. Seek out those who are models of service, and emulate them.

This is our vision of the future, underscored by our culture. This is the ideal. This is what we must aspire to attain and achieve. As one of the foremost thinkers observed, without clarity of vision, the people will die.

The twelve countries that make up the University of the South Pacific are grateful to those who established USP. Without doubt, USP has been an engine of growth over the past 50 years – with its graduates contributing in all sectors of society. USP has ensured that Pacific peoples have the opportunity to develop their talents and capacities, and to realize their potential.

Many of you are new graduates. You now have academic qualifications and are at the beginning of your professional career. My own experience gives me the permission to advise you – that you cannot expect to graduate from University and go straight to the top! After I completed my first degree I held a very low paying position, but I learned much from this work experience and from those who guided me.

The knowledge you have gained at University needs to be enriched by experience – this will provide the wisdom and perception that you require to become a leader in your field. You need the support and guidance of others – and have the humility to accept this.

Mentoring must become an integrated part of our induction of new graduates into the workforce. I hope that Ministries and Agencies of the Government, as well as the private sector, will plan for this in an organized way – so that new graduates are provided guidance as they gain experience. Mentoring ensures that good models of practice are emulated, and provides for succession. It will reduce our dependence on expatriates and help us meet our workforce development and sustainability goals.

When I spoke to USP graduates last year I marveled at the long journey the USP has taken in this country – a journey often filled with frustrations, tests and difficulties.

Despite such obstacles, the momentum at the Marshall Islands campus has continued to build with determination. The Micronesian Center for Sustainable Transport is now firmly established, with its staff identified and programs and activities underway.

The activities will include the Transport Forum which I am pleased to announce is being convened by the governments of Fiji and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, along with the COP23 Secretariat and The University of the South Pacific. This will involve high-level government representatives from all PICs and be held at the Laucala Campus in Fiji in November 2018 as a part of the University’s 50th Anniversary events.
Representatives will review the current status of the transport sector in the region, define national targets for transport emissions reductions in the 2030 and 2050 timeframes, and begin developing pathways towards achieving these targets. For each country, steps toward understanding the contribution of the transport sector (including land, sea, and air) to national GHG emissions will be identified, and government representatives will have the opportunity to engage with the private sector, development partners, and regional and international organizations. The event will culminate with a declaration defining regional goals for transport decarbonisation, and calling for national low-emissions transport roadmaps to be established by 2020.

In the arena of Education, I am very pleased to hear that the IQBE project has begun well, especially in the area of Principal Leadership training. I look forward to the full implementation of the plans USP has for the improvement of the services provided to Kindergarten through Grade 3, and the introduction of academic upskilling for teachers who will lead the improvement in the assessment of children’s learning.

I understand there is a cohort of postgraduate students studying Forensic Accounting and Fraud Investigation, and that the Ministry of Health is working on an MBA program focusing particularly on health sector management. These are all critical areas for the Marshall Islands, and I look forward to receiving regular reports on the progress of these initiatives.

Yet, the most significant achievement is USP’s WASC Senior accreditation, awarded in July 2018. The RMI Government is justifiably proud of its role in maintaining its encouragement to the University to achieve this accreditation, and we look forward to many Marshallese students taking full opportunity of the benefits associated with it. Not only are USP students able to apply for PELL grants but their transfer from our two year college to USP is greatly eased. This should enable more students to complete their degrees at home.

My Government appreciates how USP is contributing to the revitalization of culture – the display of jaki-ed and the launch of the book on this unique cultural activity is part of the 50th Anniversary. It is always good to see how our weaving experts and young weavers are fully integrated into the life of the campus – that their talents are acknowledged and respected as highly as those with academic knowledge.

Last year, I called on USP to assist the Government by leveraging RMI ICT Capacities and usage, and also contribute to the improvement in all areas of STEM – specifically that the USP Campus becomes a hub for intellectual ideas in Science, Technology, Engineering and Innovation.

This is also good opportunity for me to remind the University that we hope the USP Campus will be a model of energy efficiency (Green Campus) and contribute to national targets on carbon emissions. My Government has obligated funds to contribute towards this – and I look forward to the implementation of the proposed solar project by USP, which I understand will be also funded by ADB.

We recognize the need for USP works with the Government and donor partners to complete the renovation and remodeling of buildings 2 and 3 and that these facilities be used to serve vocational education and training: specifically in IT, Culinary Arts, Hospitality and Tourism, while not forgetting to extend the University’s services to Ebeye in meaningful and practical ways.

Students, today you have so many opportunities – with multiple scholarships available to strive for. This is so unlike when I was young, when our choices were much more limited. Take advantage of these opportunities – for we never know when doors will close.

In closing, may I repeat my appeal that all students and graduates in the Marshall Islands invest your energy and talents into the Marshall Islands? It is your generation who will provide the solutions to the puzzle that is the future.

It is you who will ensure progress faster as a nation while maintaining the spirit of our rich cultural heritage.

We have been given so many blessings. To serve the Marshall Islands is the best we can do to appreciate the gifts we have been given.

The vision of Amata Kabua – for a healthy and educated, self-reliant Marshallese people remains as clear and relevant today as it was in 1993. At that time, I was Secretary of Education and led the President’s initiative to bring USP to the Marshall Islands. I am happy to have done so!

Twenty-five years on we strive for the same goal, and have the University firmly established and accredited to make the achievement a reality. Again, my congratulations to those graduating today – you have made the best use of the opportunity provided by our first President Amata Kabua – and have succeeded!

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