UWI staff to be honoured for excellence at virtual Vice-Chancellor’s Awards ceremony on November 25

Seven staff members and one department at The University of the West Indies (The UWI) will be honoured at 2020/2021 Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence. One of the highlights on the University’s calendar, the Awards recognise high achievement by academic, senior administrative and professional personnel throughout the regional university. The 2020/2021 Awards, which marks the 28th year, will be held virtually—similar to last year’s ceremony—due to regional COVID-19 restrictions and protocols and will take the total number of awardees to 161. It takes place on November 25, 2021 and will be broadcast via UWItv.

This highly anticipated annual event is a celebration of the University’s core values, and the recipients of these prestigious awards are persons who have proven themselves exemplars of The UWI’s commitment to the pursuit of excellence. The awardees are peer-nominated and selected following a rigorous assessment process, first at the campus level, then by a university-wide selection committee for the final selection.

Professor Tannecia Stephenson, Head of the Department of Physics, Faculty of Science and Technology at the Mona Campus will receive this year’s award for Research Accomplishments, while the award for Teaching Excellence will be presented to Dr Venkateswara Penugonda, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Physics in the Faculty of Science and Technology, also from the Mona Campus. Three awards for service excellence to the University community will be given to Ms. Allison Fung, Executive Assistant to the Vice-Chancellor, based at the Regional Headquarters in Jamaica, Dr Heather Ricketts, Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Social Sciences at Mona, together with Mr. Compton Beecher, Chief Forensic DNA Analyst in the Faculty of Medical Sciences, also from Mona. Professor Cynthia Barrow-Giles, Professor in the Department of Government, Sociology and Social Work in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Cave Hill Campus will be recognised for her contribution to Public Service, while Professor Marshall Tulloch-Reid, Director of the Caribbean Institute for Health Research (CAIHR) at Mona will be awarded for All-Round Excellence in Research and Public Service, and a Departmental Award will be given to the Office of the Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the Mona Campus.

More about the Awardees

Professor Tannecia Stephenson, Excellence in Research Accomplishments
Professor Tannecia Stephenson is an Environmental Physicist and Head of the Department of Physics, Faculty of Science and Technology at The UWI, Mona Campus. Since 2005, she has been a Researcher and key member of the Climate Studies Group at the Mona Campus. She is recognised internationally as a climate studies expert and currently serves as a contributor and lead author for the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report.

She holds an impressive repertoire of research and publications which include contributions to forty-one refereed journal articles: two book chapters, nineteen conferences/scientific papers, two refereed proceedings/technical guidance, five short monographs, and eleven technical reports, among others. She has been published ten times in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society and is credited with over 1,350 citations.

Professor Stephenson joined the University’s teaching staff in 2006 as an Assistant Lecturer, working her way up to Senior Lecturer in 2015, before her promotion. In addition to teaching, she has contributed to programme development and is engaged in postgraduate supervision, honing the research and publication skills of students by allowing them to publish and organise a series of meetings on climate change and modelling.

Her past extra-departmental service includes co-chairing the Faculty of Science and Technology Conference; serving as a member of the Internal Quality Assurance Working Group and as a faculty representative for The UWI Ethics Committee; as a representative to the Academic Board among other roles. In addition to her UWI experience, Professor Stephenson spent one year as a Visiting Fellow at the Climatic Research Unit, the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England from 2006-2007.

This is her second Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence, after receiving the Globalization Award in 2018. She is also the recipient of a bronze Musgrave Medal in 2014 awarded by the Institute of Jamaica in recognition of achievement in art, science, and literature; The UWI Mona, Faculty of Science & Technology Best Publication Award in 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2019; and she also received the Faculty’s Best Research Activity Award in 2016 and 2018.

Dr Venkateswara Penugonda, Excellence in Teaching
Dr Venkateswara Penugonda, from the Department of Physics, Faculty of Science and Technology at The UWI, Mona Campus is a student-centred Senior Lecturer who is recognised for his meticulous course development and engaging lectures, highly rated by his students. His contributions to teaching and curriculum development reinforce one of the strategic goals of the Department of Physics.

Dr Penugonda’s students consider him extremely competent and one who demystifies Physics and ensures that student learning is his priority and he is known to regularly receive evaluations of up to 4.9 out of 5. His research informs his teaching. He uses his knowledge in research to encourage students to think critically. For example, Dr Penugonda used one of his grants to create low-cost lab equipment and design lab experiment and instrument to measure the speed of light-optical fibre. He also established a Bioactive Glass Laboratory which he uses to teach about synthesizing bioactive glass samples and new material. Outside of lectures and labs, Dr Penugonda is reputed to be approachable and accessible to students.

Dr Penugonda has received numerous awards for exceptional teaching. These include runner-up in the 2018 UWI/Guardian Life Premier Teaching Award; the Best Educationist Award in 2017 from the International Institute of Education and Management in New Delhi, India; second place in the 2017 Jamaica Joint Committee for Tertiary Education (JCTE) Educator of the Year Award; and the 2011-2012 Faculty of Applied Science Award for Outstanding Teaching at Arba Minch University, Ethiopia. He has also received the UWI Principal’s Research Day Awards in 2017, 2018 and 2020.

Dr Penugonda is University Examiner for courses at the St. Augustine and Cave Hill Campuses and an External Examiner at the University of Technology (UTECH).

He is also currently involved in the development of a Master of Science programme in Applied Physics. His international experience has been most valuable in curriculum development. He also facilitates the assessment of select upper-level examination papers by external examiners to ensure that assessment instruments at The UWI are comparable with international university standards.

Dr Penugonda has published forty peer-reviewed journal articles, one book chapter and has over 400 citations.

Ms Allison Fung, Excellence in Service to the University Community
Ms Allison Fung, Executive Assistant and Coordinator of Special Projects to the Vice-Chancellor at the Regional Headquarters is described by her peers as an efficient and calm organiser, who possesses extensive institutional knowledge and is well-informed about the wider CARICOM machinery. Her consistent excellence and sound networking across the region are also among her well-known strengths.
Ms Fung stands out as a beacon for administrators within The UWI. She has worked with several Vice-Chancellors, Principals, and University Committees and launched administrative leadership initiatives throughout her career at the University. Her service extends to the University’s regional partners across the CARICOM system including the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).

Ms Fung has been a Convenor for many events and activities at The UWI. Her most recent include Convenor for the Five Islands Campus Implementation Task Force and Committee and also served on several sub-committees. She convened the Independent 2020 CXC Examination Review Committee established by the Vice-Chancellor in his capacity as Chairman of CXC, to review the 2020 CXC results. Ms Fung was prompt in setting up appointments with persons throughout the region, at short notice briefing the team and preparing the minutes of meetings for review. She also edited and formatted the final report, enabling the team to complete the assignment within the time frame stipulated.

Ms Fung represented the Office of the Vice-Chancellor on the Oversight Committee for the BSc in Software Engineering and was on the delegation to the Global Institute of Software Technology in Suzhou, China led by the Vice-Chancellor to sign the Agreement. She was also The UWI’s lead in planning the visit of former US President Barack Obama to Jamaica.

Ms Fung is a proud UWI alumna. She holds an MSc in Governance and Public Policy and a BSc (Hons) in Management and Accounting.

Dr Heather Ricketts, Excellence in Service to the University Community
Dr Heather Ricketts, Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Mona Campus is a decisive policy-driven, strategic thinker who engages for impact. As a University team member, Dr Ricketts is described as proactive, adaptable, and committed to advancing and strengthening campus management.

In her time as Head of the Department of Sociology, Psychology and Social Work, she was known as an effective, motivational, creative, and responsive leader, who systematically applied an inclusive approach to engage academic and non-academic staff. She expertly guided the department’s implementation of the 2012-2017 Strategic Plan, enhancing its responsiveness and overall operational plan. She led a SWOT analysis of the department, to tackle weaknesses and threats.

In 2015, Dr Ricketts negotiated and introduced the Linnaeus Palme International Exchange programme in anthropology and sociology with the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, and became the first UWI Mona Coordinator. The partnership was later extended to the wider Faculty, and to date, it has facilitated the exchange of six UWI lecturers, and eleven undergraduate and graduate students, and five lecturers, and eight students from the University of Gothenburg.

Dr Ricketts has received consistent teaching scores of 4.65 or above from her students. She also received the Faculty’s 2012-2013 award for Excellence in Teaching, the University’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2018, and two Principal Awards for Best Research Publication (article) and Most Outstanding Research activity.

Dr Ricketts supervises and advises MPhil and PhD candidates in her department, SALISES Mona and St Augustine Campuses, and at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at Mona.

Dr Ricketts has served as the Mona Academic representative on the Open Campus Council and Academic Board; and is University Examiner, as Academic representative on the Mona Campus Appointments Committee, and as a member of the Vice-Chancellor’s Re-Imagining UWI 2020/2021 and Beyond Committee. She was a member of the Mona Campus Subcommittee that drafted the response on staffing for the 2018 Reaccreditation of the campus; member of the Students Disciplinary Committee; board member of the Mona Social Services Company (2013-2018), and Academic Director, UWI/OAS Postgraduate Diploma in Social Protection (2013-2014).

Dr Ricketts has a sustained distinguished public service record with the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) in the areas of living conditions measurement, social policy research and the strengthening of the social protection system. As Deputy Dean of the Faculty, she is currently spearheading a Banner CAPP (Curriculum Advising and Programme Planning) project to automate the current manual process of declaring degrees.

Mr Compton Beecher, Excellence in Service to the University Community
Mr Compton Beecher is the Chief Forensic DNA Analyst in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at The UWI, Mona Campus. Throughout his UWI career, he has demonstrated exceptional administrative, managerial and professional leadership at the University’s state-of-the-art private DNA testing facility and reference Laboratory, Caribbean Genetics (CARIGEN).

Mr Beecher has managed CARIGEN as a high-performance entity, with excellent service and a strong model of academic/industry partnership and viable entrepreneurship. He has built the CARIGEN brand as a lab network across thirteen countries in the region, expanding it from 35 to 43 facilities. He created a niche network of strategic local and regional labs and also established collaborations with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Ministry of Health in Jamaica.

As Administrator and Chief DNA Analyst at CARIGEN, Mr Beecher has built a caring, accountable and motivated team and established a Centre of Excellence in DNA Testing in the Caribbean.

Mr Beecher guided CARIGEN to introduce Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology and molecular testing for sexually transmitted infections and infectious diseases such as H1N1, Dengue, Zika and Chikungunya. CARIGEN was the first private lab in Jamaica and regionally that introduced COVID-19 PCR testing in July 2020, creating a new income stream with a monthly potential of 30 to 40 million Jamaican dollars. CARIGEN detected the first cases of Zika in the 2016 Zika outbreak and the first locally transmitted case of Chikungunya in 2014. He initiated the reduction of the waiting time for paternity testing from three months to five working days.

Under Beecher’s leadership, CARIGEN became the only Molecular Testing Lab in the Caribbean with accreditation from the College of American Pathologists.

Since 2015, eight new labs from the region have joined the network and seven new products and services with electronic reporting were added. He has also begun building new lab spaces to increase and expand the scope for new tests.

Professor Cynthia Barrow-Giles, Excellence in Contribution to Public Service
Ms Cynthia Barrows-Giles is a Professor in the Department of Government, Sociology and Social Work in the Faculty of Social Sciences at The UWI, Cave Hill Campus.

She is described as a zealous academic, advocate and proud UWI alumna, with a history of exceptional public service. Ms Barrows-Giles has effectively aligned her research and teaching activities with her public service. Her interests include good governance and democratic principles, Caribbean constitutionalism, electoral reform, best practices in political party financing, ethics, integrity, transparency and accountability in public life, and women’s representation in political and public affairs.
Professor Barrow-Giles has, in the past five years, advocated for greater transparency, accountability and best practices in the electoral process and exposed deficiencies and gaps in electoral laws, regulations and practices. She has influenced public policy and positive legislation in Barbados to support good governance and prevent corruption and her influence and role as the team leader of the CARICOM Observer Mission for the recount of the Guyana March 2020, elections averted a potentially explosive political situation.
Professor Barrow-Giles has frequently served on the Organization of American States (The OAS) electoral observation missions to Caribbean countries and Latin America and also on Commonwealth electoral observer missions to Ghana, Sri Lanka, and Gambia. She was a member of the Saint Lucia Constitution Reform Commission from 2005 to 2011.
In addition to her scholarly work, Professor Barrow-Giles passionately shares her wealth of knowledge and experience in the Barbados media and with various audiences.
Professor Barrow-Giles has received the 2020 Principal Award at the Cave Hill Campus for “Outstanding Contribution to Public Service; the 2019 UWI CETL/Guild Recognition Award for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning and the 2017/2018 Faculty Award for Most Outstanding Researcher.
Professor Barrow-Giles has authored two books, co-authored another, has edited and co-edited two others in addition to publishing over twenty book chapters, eleven peer-reviewed articles—including seven of them as the first author. She is also a reviewer for many academic journals.

Professor Marshall Tulloch-Reid, All-round Excellence in two or more areas—Research and Public Service
Professor Marshall Tulloch-Reid is Director of The UWI’s Caribbean Institute for Health Research (CAIHR). The Epidemiology Research Unit at CAIHR saw a significant increase in research grant funding following his appointment, supporting research in child development and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) critical to good health and wellbeing in the Caribbean.

He helped establish CAIHR’s MSc and MPhil/PhD Epidemiology training programmes, serving as coordinator for both degrees. He also spearheaded the development of the Postgraduate Diploma in Health Research and Epidemiology in partnership with The UWI Open Campus. He is a founding Director of Cochrane Caribbean, a regional Cochrane Network branch hosted within CAIHR.

Professor Tulloch-Reid is Principal Investigator on two active grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). One is the LIFE project (US $3.3 million), a follow-up study of 8000 Jamaicans to understand the role of genetics/biology, environment, social and lifestyle factors on cancer, heart disease and diabetes; and the second is the CATCH study (US $6 million) to implement team-based hypertension care in Jamaica and Colombia. The CATCH Study is the largest direct award to The UWI from the NIH, responsible for managing the entire study budget and reporting on study progress. His most recent grant from the UK Medical Research Council (worth £300,000) will evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on persons living with NCDs in Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad.

His research publications, which include over 100 peer-reviewed articles in high-impact journals have received over 11,000 citations. He has served as a peer reviewer for several journals and is a Statistical Editor for the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Professor Tulloch-Reid was awarded the 2019 Principal’s Award for Most Outstanding Researcher as well as Awards for Best Research Publication in 2015 and 2019. The Association of Consultant Physicians of Jamaica recognised him in 2019 with an award for Outstanding Contribution to the Teaching and Practice of Endocrinology; he was honoured with the 2018 Errol Morrison Distinguished Award for Research in Diabetes and received the Diabetes Educators of the Caribbean Service Award in 2010.

In his public service, Professor Tulloch-Reid has provided advisory services to the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Jamaica in the development of National Guidelines for Diabetes and Hypertension; the Chikungunya Research Working group (2014-2016) and the COVID-19 Response. He drafted the Caribbean Public Health Agency’s first regional diabetes guidelines for children and adolescents and served as an advisor to the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) in their implementation of regional diabetes guidelines. A sought-after speaker at Continuing Education Meetings, he is a founding member and past President of the Caribbean Endocrine Society, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists Minority Health Affairs and International committees (2002-2012), and the Endocrine Society’s Research Affairs Core Committee (2012-2015). He developed a training and certification programme in diabetes education for Caribbean health professionals – Caribbean Certified Diabetes Educator (CCDE). His research work in pediatric diabetes led him to develop a support group for children with diabetes and their caregivers. He has also supported the International Diabetes Federation’s implementation and evaluation of the “Life for a Child” programme to ensure that every child with diabetes has access to insulin.

Office of the Dean, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Mona Campus, Departmental Excellence Award
The Office of the Dean at the Faculty of Medical Sciences, has, since 2016, aligned a vision of Continuous Quality Initiatives (CQI) to its core values and mission, consistent with standards set by the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Medicine and other Health Professions (CAAM-HP). This approach has guided the Faculty in improving daily administrative and academic processes and expand its vision of quality improvement and innovation. A Special Projects Desk was established in the Office to support and execute these priority initiatives. In January 2019, the Dean launched the FMS-LEAD (Leveraging-Every-Action-for-Development), to improve leadership and management practices within the Faculty.

As a benchmark, the Department used the Global Consensus for Social Accountability of Medical Schools, a standard for Medical Education to build continuous quality improvement in responsiveness to health needs, responsible governance, education and accreditation, research and advocacy. In 2020, the Faculty became the first in Latin America and the Caribbean and the 17th Medical School in the world to receive the Aspire-to-Excellence Award in Social Accountability—this is an international recognition of excellence in medical education standards set by the Association of Medical Education in Europe (AMEE).

The Office of the Dean at the Faculty of Medicine has positioned itself in fast-tracking this initiative by collaborating with the Mona School of Business to initiate a business process review of the Undergraduate Office and to conduct a cost analysis of the MBBS programme. These special projects have contributed to improving net income for the full fee-paying MBBS programme by forty-one percent between 2017 and 2019. Improvements in academic performance were also recorded in targeted courses. The Office has also encouraged sustained student engagement by setting up cross-discipline student leadership councils and initiating social outreach and inter-professional learning.

The Department also completed a self-study in December 2020.

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