Outstanding UWI staff to receive Vice-Chancellor’s Awards on October 16

The Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence, one of the annual highlights of The University of the West Indies’ (The UWI) calendar, is set for October 16, 2019. The prestigious ceremony takes place at The UWI Cave Hill Campus this year. Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles will preside over the event, presenting academic, senior administrative, and professional staff with awards for excellence in teaching, research, service to the university community, and public service, or a combination of areas for 2018/2019. It will be broadcast live via UWItv’s Flow channels and online at www.uwitv.org.

A complete list of the categories and this year’s awardees follows:


  • Dr Aisha Spencer, School of Education, Mona Campus


  • Dr Adesh Ramsubhag, Department of Life Sciences, St Augustine Campus
  • Dr Georgiana Gordon-Strachan, Caribbean Institute for Health Research, Mona Campus


  • Dr Justin Robinson, Faculty of Social Sciences, Cave Hill Campus


  • Professor Ann Marie Bissessar, Faculty of Social Sciences, St Augustine Campus


  • Dr O. Peter Adams, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Cave Hill Campus and Professor Rohan G. Maharaj, Faculty of Medical Sciences, St. Augustine Campus—Principal Investigators with the Eastern Caribbean Health Outcomes Research Network (ECHORN) and the Yale Transdisciplinary Collaborative Centre for Health Disparities Research focused on Precision Medicine (Yale-TCC).
  • Dr Saran Stewart, School of Education, Mona Campus for her work with the Global Access to Postsecondary Education (GAPS) initiative.


More about the Awardees

Dr Aisha Spencer

Dr Aisha Spencer is an educator with more than two decades teaching experience across all levels of the education system. The UWI alumna is the holder of a PhD Literatures in English, an MA Literatures in English with distinction, a postgraduate Diploma in Education and a BA English.  She specialises in Literature and Language Education. As Deputy Dean at The UWI’s Mona Campus, she has responsibility for undergraduate matters and Information Communication Technology (ICT) for the Faculty of Humanities and Education.

Both Dr Spencer’s students and colleagues have praised her passion for teaching and competence with multiple teaching delivery strategies. These include the use of modern ICT for courses delivered online.  Students assessing her teaching delivery skills have consistently ranked her above 4.5 on a five-point scale. Dr Spencer has served as a course coordinator and tutor with The UWI Open Campus delivering online courses for over ten years. She has taught local, regional, and international students via the Single University Space (SVUS), an online teaching space hosted by the School of Education. She currently serves on the Campus Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Steering Committee.

Dr Spencer has developed a variety of instructional material, served as an academic advisor, supervised over 47 students at both undergraduate and graduate levels and revised multiple courses. Her work with the Caribbean Poetry Project, a collaboration between The UWI and the University of Cambridge, has led to the development of two new units for the course Teaching Caribbean Poetry. She has also served as a member of the Caribbean Poetry Research team together with regional and United Kingdom partners, conducting a pilot study of tertiary students’ responses to poetry and the relevance and teaching of Caribbean Poetry as a sub-genre.  Dr Spencer’s work with the Caribbean Poetry Project from 2012–2015 produced two book chapters in the text Teaching Caribbean Poetry (2012) and an anthology of new Caribbean poetry for adolescent readers titled Give the Ball to the Poet.

The global significance of Dr Spencer’s work in Literature and Language Education is further evidenced through projects such as ‘Talk the Poem National Poetry Recitation Competition.’ Dr Spencer’s brainchild, launched in 2015, has partnership with over 35 secondary schools in Jamaica and shown great potential to raise the profile of poetry and impact literacy and literature education at the secondary school level. In the past four years, the project has impacted over 100 teachers and 150 students. Winners of the competition are offered a three-year scholarship in the Faculty of Humanities and Education, granted through the Principal’s Office. This has provided access to tertiary level education for students who would otherwise not have been able to attend The UWI, Mona due to financial constraints. She continues to engage students at the primary level through interactive class sessions which are part of the community outreach programme at the Mona Campus. She is also a lead researcher in ‘Poetry Across Borders’ which involves members of spoken word communities in four countries and faculty members from the University of South Africa and Cambridge University.

In 2018, Dr Aisha Spencer was given the Guardian Life Award for Excellence and Outstanding Achievement in Teaching.


Dr Adesh Ramsubhag

Dr Adesh Ramsubhag is a Microbiologist whose research in applied and basic science has moved beyond academia and proven valuable to Caribbean industries. He holds a BSc in Agriscience and a PhD in Microbiology, both from The University of the West Indies.  Dr Ramsubhag joined the faculty at the St Augustine Campus as an Assistant Lecturer in 1995. He went on to work as a Scientist and Deputy Manager of the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) before returning to The UWI in 2001 as a Lecturer. During his tenure at The UWI he has served as Deputy Dean, Faculty of Science; Head, Department of Life Sciences and a Senior Lecturer.

His research collaborations with regional and international scientists from the USA, France, and India have made significant contributions to the study of human and animal diseases, environmental pollution, crop diseases and health as well as natural products from microorganisms. These research projects have provided commercial industries with scientific data to improve the quality of processed foods and disease management systems in aquaculture. His research on molecular plant disease diagnostics and integrated disease management systems has resulted in the identification of several new pathogens affecting commercial crops including several vegetable crops. His research on environmental pollution has indicated high levels of faecal pollution of recreational waters in Trinidad and revealed that traditional indicators of faecal pollution, such as E. coli, are unsuitable for tropical environments. Dr Ramsubhag’s research has shown the significant contribution of Sahara dust to the presence of microorganisms and allergens in the outdoor air in Trinidad and Tobago. His research on natural products from indigenous microbes yielded several good candidate molecules for drug development, one of which is in the patenting process for controlling antibiotic resistant infections.

Dr Ramsubhag has published 57 peer-reviewed journal publications, including 35 in the last five years. He has been a successful project leader and administrator throughout his career completing eight funded research projects with an outlay of approximately US$1million. During his tenure Dr Ramsubhag had oversight for developing a new Plant-Microbe research laboratory at the Department of Life Sciences funded by an ACP-EU grant. With his contribution a new Biotechnology Research laboratory has also been established. He has supervised 39 undergraduate research projects and 36 successful graduate research students with another 18 currently conducting research.

An invested teacher and researcher, Dr Ramsubhag has consistently assigned coursework-based research mini-projects in undergraduate courses. These are highly rated by students and contribute to increases in student enrolment in Microbiology courses and graduate research programmes such as the MPhil/PhD in Microbiology, which he founded at the Department of Life Sciences.

Dr Ramsubhag’s work has been recognised with the Anthony N. Sabga Caribbean Award for Excellence in Science and Technology in 2018.


Dr Georgiana Gordon-Strachan

Dr Georgiana Gordon-Strachan’s research has significantly contributed to local, regional, and international health policy. A Senior Lecturer at the Sickle Cell Unit of the Caribbean Institute for Health Research (CAIHR), UWI Mona, she specialises in epidemiology, health policy, health services research, research methods, and Biostatistics.  She holds a PhD in Biochemistry (UWI), an MSc Health Policy Planning and Financing (University of London) and a BSc in Biochemistry and Zoology (UWI). She holds various postgraduate diplomas in Data Analysis, Health Economics and Epidemiology, and Public Policy from the Johns Hopkins University and University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

Dr Gordon-Strachan has worked on three National Health Surveys—two editions of the Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey and the Jamaica Youth Risk and Resiliency Behaviour Survey. They have all yielded data which directly informed national health policy. On these projects, Dr Gordon-Strachan expertly aligned research questions with national and regional health agenda, supporting the bid for grant funding as well as informing policy brief for the Jamaican Ministry of Health, international partners, and developmental organisations including the United Nations Children’s Fund. She has worked on various projects receiving grant funding upwards of US$10.6million. These projects have included the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience and some which have received funding from the World Health Organisation and the United States Agency for International Development. She has been a project consultant for the World Bank, UNICEF, Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (UNECLAC) and regional governments including Jamaica, Belize and Trinidad and Tobago.

Dr Gordon-Strachan has played a critical role in connecting key stakeholders for the Essential National Health Research Committee (ENHRC) which has now developed a national research agenda and is working on a National Health Research Policy as a part of Jamaica’s Vision 2030 strategy.

She serves as a board member of the Youth and Education Board of the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (Anglican Church) which oversees one tertiary institution (Church’s Teacher College), 11 high schools, and 112 primary schools across Jamaica for which the Diocese has direct responsibility.

As an academic, Dr Gordon-Strachan has published 65 peer-reviewed journal articles; 41 abstracts from conferences and scientific papers; 13 technical and policy reports; presented at 12 academic conferences and has 6 articles in preparation or under review.  Her work has been cited 2,254 times during her career and 1,500 times over the past five years. Dr Gordon-Strachan has been awarded the Mona Campus Principal’s Awards for Research with the greatest Business/Economic Development Impact (2018 and 2009) and Research Project attracting the most Research Funds (2008).


Dr Justin Robinson

Dr Justin Robinson is Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at The UWI Cave Hill Campus. His colleagues have credited him for being a visionary leader who strategically steered the Faculty during a campus-wide period of economic crisis when full funding for Barbadian students was terminated. Simultaneously he served the wider campus and University community with excellence in various capacities. He is the holder of a PhD in Finance from the University of Manchester (1998), an MSc in Finance and Econometrics with high honours from the University of Florida (1993) and a BSc Management Studies from The UWI (1990).

Dr Robinson joined The UWI in 1997. In 2003 he was appointed Deputy Dean (Distance Education and Outreach) in the Faculty of Social Sciences and, in 2012, Dean of the Faculty. During his tenure Dr Robinson has also served as the Cave Hill Representative to the Mona Campus Council (2009–2011); Chair of the Student Entrepreneurial Development Advisory Committee (2008–2012); Chair, Book Shop Management Committee (2007 to present); Head  of the Department of Management Studies (2007–2012); Chair, Committee of Deans (2016–2017); Member of the Task Force on ‘Creating of an Entrepreneurial University (2016); Member of the Task Force for Establishing a Faculty of Sport (2017); Chair of the Board of Undergraduate Studies’ Sub Committee on ‘The Usage of Student Evaluation of Teaching Surveys’ (2018 to present); Cave Hill Representative on the University Council (2014 to present); and Key Strategy Officer, Cave Hill Campus (2016 to present). In a critical leadership vacuum, Dr Robinson willingly took up the post of Interim Director of the Cave Hill School of Business in 2018.

He efficiently managed this vast array of responsibility as an administrator while still maintaining an active teaching and research portfolio. Dr Robinson contributed significantly to the development of academic programmes and centres including the Centre for Bio-Security Studies, six MSc and three BSc programmes. He has published 20 peer-reviewed journal articles and 11 technical reports including those prepared for the Inter-American Development Bank, Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank.

In addition to his service to the University, Dr Robinson maintains a wide public service portfolio. He currently serves as Director of the Central Bank of Barbados; First Vice President of the Barbados Museum & Historical Society; member of the Council of Economic Advisors, St Vincent and the Grenadines; Regional Expert on Investments for the International Social Security Association; and Financial Advisor to the Barbados Co-operative Credit Union. Dr Robinson previously served as Chairman, Barbados National Insurance Scheme and Chairman of the State-owned Enterprises Oversight Committee. He publishes a monthly Caribbean Stock Market Report which carries the only regional stock market index.


Professor Ann Marie Bissessar

Professor of Public Management Ann Marie Bissessar’s most recent designation (until July 2019) at The UWI was Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the St Augustine Campus. Holder of a PhD and an MSc in Government as well as a BA from The UWI, Professor Bissessar took up a position as a Research Fellow in Primary Health Care at the Faculty of Medical Sciences in 1998, commencing a long and fulfilling career as an academic. She has compiled an outstanding research portfolio and has also served the University community with excellence.

Professor Bissessar’s range of publications include 20 books, 38 peer-reviewed and research-based book chapters; 32 peer-reviewed journal articles; 3 working papers; 11 technical reports and presentations at 45 conferences. Her research largely concentrates on two major areas: the challenges of administrative reform in small ex-colonial countries; and, secondly, race and politics in the Caribbean. She has contributed five biographies for the Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography, a major biographical dictionary covering the lives and legacies of notable Afro-descendants from the Caribbean and Latin America. Professor Bissessar has served as a reviewer for the International Journal of Public Sector Management and the International Review of Administrative Services and is currently a member of the Editorial Board for Teaching Public Administration; Crime Law and Social Change; and the Caribbean Journal.

Professor Bissessar’s service to the University has included Faculty roles as Acting Dean; Head of the Department of Behavioural Science; Deputy Dean, (Undergraduate Student Matters); Coordinator of the Diploma in Public Sector Management and the BSc Public Sector Management and Coordinator of the Governance Unit, Department of Behavioural Sciences. She has had membership in seven specialised committees; coordinated the Associate Degree in Public Sector Management for the School of Continuing Studies, Mona, and also served as a member of the University Senate in 2012. In her former role as Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences Professor Bissessar was credited for overseeing improvements in the financial health of the faculty, increased enrolment, and the introduction of new processes including those for processing student matters. She sat on the Board of Directors for the St Augustine Inn and Conference Centre; Arthur Lok Jack Global School of .

As an international expert, Professor Bissessar has completed several consultancies with the Inter-American Development Bank, United Nations Development Programme, Canadian International Development Agency, and regional governments including Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados. She currently serves as a member of the Anti-Corruption Academic Initiative under the United Nations Organisation for Drug Control.



The Eastern Caribbean Health Outcomes Research Network (ECHORN)/ Yale Transdisciplinary Collaborative Centre for Health Disparities Research focused on Precision Medicine (Yale-TCC) network is a first-of-its kind collaborative research and implementation network in the English-speaking Caribbean. The network focuses on collaboration for health science research which is translated into real world applications including clinical practices and health policy. The project has received three US National Institutes of Health grants, including grants under the National Institute on Minority Health and Disparities, and National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to the sum of US$17.7million. It represents two distinct levels of international collaboration for research.

Part one of the collaboration, ECHORN, was formally initiated in 2011 as a cohort study to generate research, training, and dissemination of information on non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The research network focused its study on heart disease, cancer and diabetes by recruiting and following community-dwelling adults to estimate the prevalence of risk factors associated with the named NCDs. ECHORN is a collaboration between Yale University, the University of Puerto Rico, The University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill and St Augustine campuses and the University of the Virgin Islands.

In 2016, its success led to additional funding for an interdisciplinary research consortium and ECHORN expanded into the level two, multi-core Yale-TCC collaboration. The consortium core of the Yale-TCC brings together health policy and community leader stakeholders to address NCDs. The implementation core prioritises enhancing the evidence base for population and community level strategies and programmes to address NCDs. The biomedical informatics core experts innovate on data sharing, to ensure that research findings are accessible to stakeholders to whom they are most relevant.

The ECHORN/Yale-TCC network is helping to address disease disparities for the millions of adults across the Eastern Caribbean, New York, and New Jersey with non-communicable diseases. The coalition, which includes the four primary academic institutions, draws on the expertise of more than 90 health researchers – site Principal Investigators Dr O. Peter Adams of The UWI, Cave Hill Campus and Professor Rohan Maharaj of The UWI, St Augustine Campus, research staff, community leaders and stakeholders representing 35 organisations in the US and Eastern Caribbean. It is an exemplary model for authentic collaboration in health science research.

In 2019, as a direct result of stakeholder participation, childhood obesity was prioritised and a new study, Paediatric-ECHORN, launched.


The Global Access to Postsecondary Education (GAPS) Project

The Global Access to Postsecondary Education (GAPS) initiative was established in 2013 on the principle that education is a basic human right.  The collaboration’s vast network spans 40 universities across 20 countries and advances the goals of inclusive education and global learning.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 aims at ensuring equal access to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education by 2030. GAPS supports this goal but extends its focus to student preparation for, access to, enrolment in, and completion of postsecondary education. GAPS is an established global, engaged, and collaborative initiative focused on both access and success. It champions post-secondary education for all and transforms student opportunity. The GAPS initiative has taken deliberate steps toward core objectives which include building the scientific evidence base for increasing access to post-secondary education; investigating the type of organisational culture transformation required for a positive shift in student opportunity; creating awareness of inequities and promoting equality in access to technology; as well as promoting inclusive campuses, pedagogy and equal access to post-secondary education for minorities and indigenous peoples around the world.

Dr Saran Stewart, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities and Education, Mona Campus is a leading international scholar and practitioner focused on access, equity and inclusive education in higher education. In the GAPS initiative she co-leads the areas of inclusive education and pedagogy as well as access and success.  Since her involvement with GAPS, Dr Stewart has presented some 50 scholarly presentations including eight keynote addresses and lectures across 14 countries. She has been the recipient of numerous awards including an African Diaspora Emerging Scholar award by the Comparative and International Education Society; an International Scholars Award from the Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of Education and the Inter-American Development Bank; the Principal’s Award for Most Outstanding Researcher, Mona Campus, in 2017 and 2018; and a Salzburg Global Fellowship.

Dr Stewart has played a leading role in key outputs of the GAPS project: the development and publication of ‘Think Pieces’ featuring leading international scholars, as well as awareness campaigns rolled out across the 40 higher education institutions that make up the project’s network. GAPS has sponsored student participation in conferences and learning communities globally. Dr Stewart’s international work in access has resulted in two cohorts of UWI students sponsored for professional development institute programmes at the University of Denver and ECHO, Center for Diversity Policy in the Netherlands. One of The UWI students was granted a full scholarship for doctoral studies in Higher Education.