As one of three Saint Lucians to be recognized as valedictorians of the University of the West Indies, Rhyesa Joseph has made the country proud. Her drive and passion to succeed manifested in what she referred to as a ‘humbling and unforgettable’ award. Rhyesa’s interest in social justice and the enhancement of the Caribbean identity makes her an important asset to Saint Lucia and, if kept unbound, her determination in fighting for the right causes will definitely help the country to progress.
STAR: Give us some background. How did you end up studying at the University of the West Indies?
Rhyesa: I graduated from the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College in 2012. After, I worked for two years in order to save for my tertiary education. During that time I was fortunate to have learned about the Sir Arthur Lewis Award which is a scholarship offered by the UWI Cave Hill to OECS nationals which finances tuition and economic cost. When I applied to the UWI Cave Hill I also applied for that scholarship and was a successful awardee.
STAR: What did you study? How did you come to this decision?
Rhyesa: I studied Political Science with International Relations. It took some thought and consultation with my sister and also a former lecturer at the SALCC. I loved History, Spanish and also Sociology and was unsure which area I should specialize in. Having explored the options available at the UWI Cave Hill, my future endeavours and the advice offered by my sister and lecturer, I decided ultimately that particular field would be best for me.
STAR: What was the experience of attending school in a foreign country like?
Rhyesa: It was an edifying experience which strengthened my character. The UWI Cave Hill is the most diverse of all the UWI campuses so I would say that my experience was international and enabled me to broaden my network and acquire knowledge on diverse points of views, cultural and political backgrounds. It also gave me a deeper appreciation for Saint Lucia and my identity as not only a Saint Lucian but as a Caribbean citizen.
STAR: How did it feel to be recognized as the valedictorian of the Cave Hill campus? On what did you base your speech?
Rhyesa: It was a humbling and unforgettable feeling. To have the trust of a graduating class and to represent them on such a momentous occasion was a huge honour, but also an awesome responsibility. My speech was rooted in reaching not only the graduating class but all Caribbean people. Beyond contextualizing regional and international realities, it sought to advance a call for social justice, effective citizenship, the strengthening of our regional identity and the need for collective responsibility and action. It also sought to pay homage to the late Hon. Derek Walcott as his poem ‘Love after Love’ served as the base which framed my address. I wanted my speech to give inspiration and guidance to graduates and others who were unsure of their purpose within our Caribbean community.
STAR: Having successfully attained this new qualification, what is the next step for you?
Rhyesa: The next step is to continue to expand my expertise in the field of political science with specific focus on conducting research on Saint Lucia which will aid in our nation’s development, and possibly the region as well. It is also my hope to contribute in any way possible to human and social development in Saint Lucia.
STAR: Do you have any hobbies or interests?
Rhyesa: I love debating. I also enjoy volunteering and being involved in social groups which aim to make a difference in people’s lives. I relish viewing track and field and listening to music, especially Reggae music.
STAR: What did your experience at UWI teach you, apart from the obvious academics?
Rhyesa: My UWI experience taught me that there is an incredible reservoir of ability and talent within the region that remains underutilized. Moreover, it is incumbent upon all generations to contribute to creating an enabling environment in which every individual can realize their greatest potential. To do so requires placing our indigenous ideas and people at the forefront of our Caribbean vision and development.
STAR: Tell us one random fact about you.
Rhyesa: I have a very crazy and infectious laugh.