Meet the ‘Super Six’ The UWI St. Augustine announces Class of 2021 Valedictorians
Six students who have excelled in their studies will represent their faculties as valedictorians for The UWI St Augustine’s graduating class of 2021. The valedictorians – who will share messages of perseverance, achievement and UWI pride – will speak at the University’s second held virtual graduation following its inauguration last year. The ceremonies are carded for October 28 to 30, 2021 and will be broadcast live via UWItv.
The class of 2021 valedictorians include Dr Ryley Vernon for the Faculty of Medical Sciences, Rondell Mungal for the Faculty of Humanities and Education, Jensen Samaroo and Weston Maharaj for the Faculty of Social Sciences, Joshua Ramjattan for the Faculty of Science and Technology, and Selena Mohammed for the Faculty of Engineering.
Valedictorians represent the best of The UWI St Augustine’s graduating class. Nominees are selected on academic performance, public speaking skills, and their involvement in extra and co-curricular activities. When selecting valedictorians, The UWI looks for graduates who are creative and critical thinkers, good communicators, versed in technology, strong in their Caribbean identity, and guided by their ethics and values.
The UWI St Augustine congratulates our valedictorians as well as the entire graduating class of 2021. We wish them all success and look forward to them making a positive impact on society.
ABOUT THE VALEDICTORIANS
Ms. Selena Mohammed
Upper Second Class Honours
BSc. Petroleum Geoscience
Faculty of Engineering
Crediting her success to God, a strong support system, self-discipline and dedicated lecturers, the Diamond Vale Primary School and St. Francois Girls College Alumna now also stands as a fine exemplary of The UWI (STA).
Throughout her university experience, Selena Mohammed demonstrated academic and humanitarian achievements, as she became engulfed in the rich and diverse ‘melting pot’ of activities, cultures and discourse existing within The UWI. These interactions also stimulated personal development, whereby as Selena ventures on to her next chapter, she feels equipped to pursue her dreams, desiring to take advantage of various opportunities to aid in finding her niche within the energy sector, that is aligned with her morals and passion for the development of ideas making energy sustainable and easily accessible to all.
Whether she was serving as President (American Association of Petroleum Geologists UWI Student Chapter), Vice-President (Society of Petroleum Engineers UWI Student Chapter), spending time with her Cocker Spaniel “Bo,” engaging in dog training sessions or simply hanging out with her parents and close friends on the beach or in nature, Selena confidently reflects what it means to “BeUWI”, as she now serves as a balanced, proud, and cultured ambassador of the Caribbean! She hopes to leave a lasting positive impression on the people she interacts with, to be a refreshing conversationalist and to always pay attention to the needs of others.
Mr. Rondell Mungal
Bachelor of Arts, Theatre Arts with Music and Psychology
First Class Honours
Faculty of Humanities and Education
Deprivation was a foreign concept to Rondell Mungal in spite of his humble beginnings because of his parents’ love and dedication to ensuring that their two sons were provided for. That love and dedication, coupled with their diligence to working for a better future, saw their family move from living in a small wooden structure to a split-level concrete structure, and exemplified for Rondell the values of hard work and love, and how he’d been fortunate to be born into such a family.
In Naparima College, he found his passion for the arts, and made and executed a plan: he would pursue the sciences throughout Forms 4-6, win a national scholarship, then study music at university. A wavering in his certainty saw him switching from his BA Musical Arts degree to a Practitioner’s Certificate in Theatre Arts so he could have time to figure his path out. Instead, he discovered that storytelling was his calling and singing was his medium. With no desire to abandon music, when he enrolled in the BA Theatre Arts programme, he minored in Music with a focus on vocal performance.
The UWI, while not his first choice of university, became the one that he needed to truly understand his Caribbean-ness and to take pride in his Trinbagonian identity. Through the Student Exchange programme offered by the Division of Student Services and Development, he was able to learn to compare his time in a North American university to his time in UWI and found no less enrichment at The UWI.
His most memorable UWI experiences are all ones he describes as “spiritual in their own way”: taking in Kambule at 5 am on the Piccadilly greens, attending an Orisha Fest at midnight in Central Trinidad, performing Carmina Burana and Requiem with the UWI Arts Chorale, backed by a full steel orchestra, and listening to Dr Dani Lyndersay’s tales of her global travels, to name a few. He describes also an almost transcendental experience of being exhausted on the Department of Creative and Festival Arts’ steps, laughing with friends and, in a single fleeting moment of stillness, being filled with love and gratitude for his comrades.
Rondell’s concept of what it is to “Be UWI” was influenced by his inspirational figures and lecturers – wearing your Caribbean-ness with pride, “daring to be messy in the pursuit of higher standards of innovation and excellence and being bold and unapologetic as I take up space”. His plans for the future involve graduate study, travel, and contributing to the growth of regional creative industries, with ample room for the unwritten.
Mr. Jensen Samaroo
Bachelor of Science, Political Science with International Relations
First Class Honours
Faculty of Social Sciences
Situated in northwest Guyana is the small, vibrant community of Port Kaituma, where Jensen Samaroo calls home. The last of four children, he witnessed the industriousness of his parents as he transitioned from teaching to business, and learned to greatly admire their generosity, humility, kindness, and compassion for others, qualities he’s worked to assimilate.
His maternal grandmother, Ivy, told him stories in his childhood about court sessions that she had witnessed, the number of unrepresented persons, and the skill of attorneys in cross-examination juxtaposed against the high fees Georgetown attorneys would extract from their client. Her stories lit a spark in him to aid the unrepresented and to mitigate the financial exploitation of clients.
Jensen earned a National Hinterland Students’ Scholarship and a place at President’s College, a prestigious school, after writing the Secondary School Entrance Examination. He made the bold decision to transfer to Bishop’s High School, another prestigious school, for sixth form. There, he found his passion for regionalism and a desire for a socially just, sustainable, and united Caribbean region. He founded the first Law Society in a secondary school in the Anglophone region, and his fervour for law grew through the influence of his teachers.
How Jensen ended up in Political Science was the work of serendipity – his Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination Unit 2 grades didn’t make their way to the Admissions office as he’d thought, thus delaying his admittance to the Faculty of Law. Jensen, keen on not wasting time, accepted the offer for his second option, Political Science, and found such a profound interest in Caribbean politics and affairs that he decided to complete the programme and pursue law afterwards. For him, being able to develop intellectually and personally while being surrounded by his fellow Caribbean people was meaningful. Additionally, there was so much readily available to learn from outside of his regularly scheduled classroom sessions – from club leadership positions to open seminars and symposia. Having held the positions of Guild Librarian and Guild International Affairs Committee Chairperson, he was able to experience what high-level leadership was like and make decisions with ramifications for the Campus and even the wider University. As a member of U. WE Speak, and the Guyana and Saint Lucia Students’ Associations, he immersed himself in many of the facets of university life. He attributes his successes to knowing himself and tapping into his strengths. He hopes one day to become the Secretary General of CARICOM to encourage further regional integration measures. For him, boldness, kindness, resilience, determination, adaptability, and perseverance – indeed, qualities already incorporated in our identities as Caribbean people – exemplify what it is to “Be UWI”.
Mr. Weston Maharaj
BSc. Accounting (Special)
Faculty of Social Sciences
First Class Honours
The generosity of fellow students, socializing with friends, and transitioning from a physical to virtual mode of learning. These are just three of many notable factors which stood out to Weston throughout his UWI experience. However, before becoming a symbol of Pelican Pride, Weston Maharaj came from humble beginnings, a nuclear household which ensured that him along with his sister, understood the importance of education and it being the key to future success. This stood as the pillar foundation for both siblings and all their academic endeavours, and was strengthened within Weston, as he watched and became inspired by his older sister, leading by example.
Moving through his school life, attending Holy Cross College (Form 1-5) and Arima Central Secondary (Form 6), along with the inspiration of his role model, Weston developed a passion within the areas of Economics and Accounting. After much deliberation, he made the decision to pursue Accounting as his degree and holds no regrets! Engaging in extracurricular activities such as being a member of the Management Society of UWI and student employment opportunities, an Admission Student Advocate (ASA) in particular, enriched his university experience and academic pursuit.
Now, as Weston jumps into his next chapter, he hopes to make a difference and also, lead by example as he showcases what it means to “BeUWI”: Determined, free spirited, courageous, unique, kind and in a nutshell, dreaming big, aiming high and daring to be. Weston believes that being able to share all that he’s learnt and guide a younger set of impressionable persons into our society to ensure their futures are secure and promising would be the noblest thing he could achieve in his life.
Bachelor of Science, Mathematics (Specialisation)
First Class Honours
Faculty of Science and Technology
Joshua Ramjattan is accustomed to excelling at what he works at, and, for him, that is what it means to “Be UWI” – to be world-class, resilient, versatile and “someone who keeps the door open for those behind you when one has been opened to you”.
Joshua’s fascination with Mathematics began in secondary school as he became more aware of the widening scope of the discipline. He soon determined that he wanted to continue to learn about the body of knowledge that makes up the universe, and its practical applications to, say, a pandemic response.
For him, the choice to study at The UWI St Augustine was easy. Not only would he be able to focus on the parts of pure and applied mathematics that intrigued, but also dabble in computer programming, mechanics, and macroeconomics. Moreover, the experience for him was wholly memorable, from getting lost trying to find the Daaga Auditorium for his very first class, to walking through the verdant field adjacent to the Learning Resource Centre after class, to wondering constantly why the weather on campus seemed to defy all known laws of physics, to sitting his final exam on March 13, a date that became a profound point of change for his life.
Sitting at the top of those memories was the Matriculation and Welcome Ceremony of 2018. At the beginning of it all, Joshua was selected as the top student matriculant as a result of his stellar performance in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) and for earning an Open Scholarship from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. For this, he symbolically signed the student register on behalf of all new students – a moment he keeps a photo of with him at all times.
Joshua credits his successes to the support of family and friends, and the superb guidance of the Faculty’s Mathematics Help Centre and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics’ staff members. Wanting to pay that help forward, in his final year, he tutored secondary students who were preparing to write CAPE and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations to help them overcome the challenges introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic. He also served as Secretary for two of the three years that he was a member of the St Augustine UWI Mathematics Society.
Seeking to continue to be the best version of himself and a version that continues to serve others, Joshua aspires to become an educator in the applied aspects of mathematics, namely statistics, mathematical modelling, and mechanics. He hopes to continue finding joys in food and seeing those around him achieve the goals they set for themselves.
Dr. Ryley Vernon
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Faculty of Medical Sciences
Ryley Vernon knew from childhood that she wanted to be around animals for the rest of her life. Having grown up around horses and dogs in Montego Bay, Jamaica, with her parents and three older siblings, she sought out a life path that would feed her curiosity about animals and allow her to help them.
After attending Mount Alvernia Preparatory and, subsequently, Mount Alvernia High schools, Ryley came to The UWI for practical reasons, but stayed because being at a world-class Caribbean institution instilled her with pride. Interacting with people who were like-minded and learning from those who shared different views, enriched her experience.
Ryley takes inspiration from those around her who exemplify living life to the fullest. In following this philosophy, she cites Vet Fun Day in her fourth year as one of her most memorable experiences, especially as her group was the smallest but dominated the scavenger hunt. Beyond that, as part of her “have you cake while you can” philosophy, she engages in the creative arts alongside her studies, playing the guitar and piano, singing, writing songs, painting, and dancing – the latter of which she did with the UWI Dance Club during the earlier part of her academic journey.
These artistic moments, along with the moments she spends with her friends and family, keep her centred. In addition to being strategic about setting goals for herself, she made great efforts to balance her school life and her social life, especially when things were most hectic. These non-academic sides of her life, when the world seemed at ease, gift her with moments of clarity that bring her the most joy in life.
These altogether sum up what it means to “Be UWI” to Ryley – to experience.
Ryley plans to continue to strive for a future which balances work and play. She also strives to bring better awareness to the wider society about the importance of animal life with a grander aim of contributing to the reduction of the levels of animal cruelty reported globally. For her, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words resound – “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded”.