If there’s one industry that we can develop right now to diversify our economies and make our economies competitive, it is to build a sporting industry in our region,” says The UWI Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles. He was speaking at the official launch of the University’s Faculty of Sport on Wednesday 26 July, 2017 at The UWI Regional Headquarters in Jamaica.
Vice-Chancellor Beckles referenced a PWC report which assessed the global sport industry to be valued at an estimated $145 bn and growing at a rate of 4.5% per year. “We in the Caribbean are not getting our just share; the world looks upon us to produce excellence but we are not getting our share of the revenue,” he said. “This is something that we must now take very seriously. This sporting industry is the place of the greatest convergence in the global economy. It’s the place where all the industries are interconnected,” – he cited sport and entertainment, sport and technology, sport and medicine sport and tourism and many other industries. “Sport is at the centre of all of that, translating into economic growth. We’re hoping that our Faculty will do all the relevant research, teaching and learning to participate in that conversation with our investors, our entrepreneurs, our public sector, our global manufacturers to enable that focus to take place here in the Caribbean space that is so rich in sporting talent.”
The launch marked a historic occasion for the University as the Faculty of Sport is the first to be established at The UWI in 40 years. The University Council approved its recommendation in April this year and it becomes operational in the 2017-2018 academic year. The new Faculty consolidates under a ‘One UWI’ umbrella of knowledge, sport programmes offered across all four campuses. Vice-Chancellor Beckles noted, “We have been working towards this for the better part of 25 years.” He explained that the Faculty will operate by three disciplinary pillars: teaching learning and research; professional outreach and engagement; public outreach and community development.
In his remarks, newly appointed Dean, Dr Akshai Mansingh, who will lead the Faculty of Sport, asserted, “For too long sport has been a pastime for the region. We really don’t have the superstar culture, even though our first superstar walked onto the field in 1930 when George Headley made his test debut.”
He added, “The creation of the Faculty of Sport gives an opportunity to bring together all of the creative and scientific minds of the region, while harnessing leaders in all aspects of sports from throughout the world to offer the support to the athletes, many of whom have chosen to make this region their home to perfect their skills. The Faculty of Sport doesn’t only cater to those who play sports, but also to those who play at sports. Creative academic minds with interest in anything to do with sports will have the opportunity to pursue their research, and practitioners such as coaches, sports and conditioning experts, sports physiotherapists etc., will also find a forum in this faculty as well.”
Delivering comments as the Chair of the Faculty of Sport Task force, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of The UWI Mona Campus, Professor Archibald McDonald said, “The launch of this new faculty will not only aid in formally legitimising sports education, training and research in the higher learning industry for the Caribbean, but it will also aid in driving development and economic growth prospects for our region. Sport is at the heart of our regional identity.”
He went on to say, “We must begin to formally invest in this industry if we expect to see greater returns for the future. The launch of this faculty facilitates The UWI’s goal of laying the necessary foundations in moving the sport initiative in the Caribbean in a right and positive direction. To build great athletes and place our mark in the international sport industry we must first invest in a centre of excellence here that explores the research behind sport, which will engage in state-of-the-art teaching and learning about the complexities of sport, whilst providing the facilities and tools that will facilitate training excellence in all fields of sport. Here we are bringing the teaching, learning and research experience in a unique field to the doorsteps of our Caribbean people, opening an immense pathway for sport higher education and regional development.”
Although the launch event was hosted in Jamaica, each campus participated via videoconferencing, delivering remarks virtually from their remote locations. Speaking live from the Open Campus site in Belize, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Luz Longsworth expressed, “We are delighted to celebrate this wonderful, historic launch of the Faculty of Sport. In its 60th year, The UWI showed that it was committed to renewal and forward thinking. At that time we launched the Open Campus. The University’s commitment to growth and renewal and to leading development – economic and social – in the Caribbean is once again on display with the launch of the Faculty of Sport.”
She added, “This is a faculty that is virtual and real. It will be everywhere and anywhere that our Caribbean sporting minds, bodies and souls reside. It will finally ensure that one of our most visible areas of excellence is owned, developed, marketed here in our region for the benefit of our athletes and all of our people. With a virtual platform there is no ceiling, the sky is not even a limit because we will reside on the cloud and on the ground.”
Deputy Principal of the St Augustine Campus, Professor Rhoda Reddock also delivered remarks virtually, on behalf of Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Brian Copeland: “This campus is very excited about this addition to our already robust programme offerings. We can only anticipate the development that this will mean, not only for our campus and The UWI, but for our wider region as a whole.
“At St Augustine, we are already proud of some of the achievements of our student athletes. Like Jehue Gordon, our World Champion who graduated with first class honours from the sports management programme of the Faculty of Social Sciences. More recently, Paralympian, Nyoshia Cain got another bronze medal at the World Paralympics Athletics Championships in London. We know that this development will allow us to better serve our student athletes to achieve the academic and sporting success that they deserve and desire.”
Professor V. Eudine Barriteau, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the Cave Hill Campus shared her sentiments through a recorded video: “We are very pleased that as The University of the West Indies embarks on its 2017-2022 strategic plan, which is dedicated to revitalizing Caribbean development and promoting the goals of access, agility and alignment, one of the University’s first tangible contributions to revitalizing Caribbean development is the creation of the Faculty of Sport. The Cave Hill Campus is delighted to be part of this history. It is proud of the work of its Academy of Sport, especially the academic and athletic programmes that would now contribute or constitute part of the menu of programmes of our newest faculty.”
Offering student testimonials were Mr Oshane Grant, Mona Campus Guild President and Sports Scholarship Awardee and Ms Shimona Nelson, 2016-2017 Vice-Chancellor’s Sport Awardee and Jamaica’s Netball representative. “I believe in sports,” said Mr Grant. “Not just as a vehicle to give athletes access to education by way of a scholarship, but I believe it is one of those things that we can use to help curb the social ills in our society.” Meanwhile Ms Nelson opined, “This faculty will create doors for a lot of students who might not really be of the science type or the lawyer type, but will have this platform so that they can explore the world on a different level.”
Scores of members of the public and private sectors attended the celebrated event in Jamaica, and participated via livestream viewing. Several endorsements came from heads of government, the regional business community, athletes and other well-wishers across the region including: Prime Minister of Jamaica, The Most Hon. Andrew Holness; new UWI Chancellor, Mr Robert Bermudez; Head of the Caribbean Development Bank, Dr William Warren Smith; and many others.
In a written statement, Prime Minister Holness said, “Today, we go a step further in the strategic development of Sport in Jamaica and the region with the official opening of The University of the West Indies Faculty of Sport. I am confident it will bring diversity to the sport industry in Jamaica and to the wider Caribbean region. Sports certainly unites us as a people. This is another signal move in the integration process especially by having the Faculty of Sport at campuses across the region. In years to come I believe sports will be an even greater contributor, not only to our unity and pride as a people, but an even greater source of foreign direct investment, employment generation and greater development. I commend the leadership of The UWI in following through to see this project to fruition, and now the work begins. My wish is that this faculty becomes the centre of excellence across the world in sports.”
Among the other speakers at the official launch ceremony were former Prime Minister, The Most Hon. PJ Patterson; The Hon. Pearnel Charles, Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security; Mrs Amanda Reifer, Director of the Academy of Sport at The UWI Cave Hill; and Mr Ian Jones, Director of Belize National Sports Council.