Gerald Bellot, Jamilla Connor, Joash Liburd, Joevarny Herbert and Orian Stapleton didn’t have much in common. However, they came together and captured the first prize for the 2nd Annual HP HBCU Business Challenge competition.
Tasked to develop business plans tackling real-world challenges that are core to HP’s business, including personal computer (PC) services innovation and office print relevance, the five-member team trumped more than 60 students across 22 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to secure first place.
While this win was quite a great feat, it is one of many accomplishments added to the students’ impressive track records.
Orian Stapleton isn’t only an ardent applied mathematics major, but also an avid middle-distance runner on the UVI Track and Field team. He firmly believes that striking the perfect balance between academics and extra-curricular activities is the recipe to success.
“Probably one of the most important values I took into the competition with me was team spirit,” Stapleton says “During our presentation we all had to be on the same page and move and speak as one unit. As an upcoming researcher working efficiently with groups of people is an essential skill I must continue to build on.”
In the Summer of 2018, he conducted research with the Materials Research and Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC) group at Columbia University in New York City. Since then, he has been accepted to do research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) during the summer of 2019.
Currently, he is conducting physics research with UVI professor Dr. David Morris, which involves reading and analyzing signal from an oscilloscope generated by a signal generator and radioactive sources.
“When we first began preparing for the HP HBCU business challenge, I never imagined we would have gotten so far. The journey from our first meeting to victory was very memorable,” Stapleton stated. “I can still remember meeting several times with our group and brainstorming ideas and that one night when one of my group members said, ‘I got it! This is it!’ This was when the real work began.”
With a company culture that engenders belonging, innovation, and growth, one is inspired to bring his or her best ideas to the table every day. In partnership with the National HBCU Business Deans Roundtable, HP’s new business-case competition is one way of investing in students who are ready to step up and reinvent not only the business landscape, but mindsets, too. This victory confirms UVI students continue to demonstrate their readiness to take on the challenges of the corporate world.
Early in his first semester, Stapleton secured positions as a Peer Led Team Learning (PLTL) instructor and a Physics tutor. He soon rose to the executive ranks in a number of campus organizations including the St. Kitts and Nevis Association, for which he is vice president, and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), for which he is a senator.
Bellot got first-hand exposure to innovation in action at HP. As part of the rewards for winning the HP HBCU Business Challenge competition, the team was invited to California. Selected as team leader, Bellot had the opportunity to present a proposal to the executives of HP at the HP Boise and Palo Alto headquarters in California in January 2019. While there, he had the opportunity to engage with other like-minded students, and tour the modern and futuristic HP campus in Silicon Valley as well as dine and engage with the executives from HP.
Bellot credits his grooming at UVI for his outstanding representation in California. “Having participated in several UVI local and national competitions including 13D, Hackfest and Business Design Grant, I was fully prepared to think on my feet,” Bellot says. “My UVI home-training definitely facilitated my successful presentation.”
Bellot is no stranger to academic competitions. In 2017, he competed in one of the world’s largest and most competitive student health game design competitions with over 86 universities participating. Bellot formed part of the first ever UVI representation to compete at the second International Global Health Game Design Competition and placed second. Games4Health represents a global effort to deliver health through today’s consumer technologies. Bellot and his partner developed a smartphone app that they named Da Vinci. The app combines mental exercise with physical movement, a combination that research has shown to enhance mental acuity and physical condition.
“It was great to network with fellow innovators and receive feedback from various communities,” Bellot said. He said he has enjoyed the challenge of leading and innovating in the university setting and looks forward to continuing in his career. Bellot is a senior undergraduate student majoring in interdisciplinary studies. He has been busy with a tech startup and has plans to work at HP after graduating. When asked about his career goals Bellot replied “I want to help people, nothing feels better than seeing other people smile from something you put your time into.”
Connor, an undergraduate student pursuing a bachelor’s in psychology, believes that active campus involvement is the ideal way to build the necessary skillset to fast track her career. “My participation in these programs involved brainstorming ideas that improve people’s way of life. Having a keen interest in psychology, coming up with new and innovative ways to improve the life of many is always my ultimate goal,” Connor said.
Now in her junior year, she has seen directly how she can make an impact on her campus. In October 2018, Connor and her team members claimed the title of Most Impactful app in the highly competitive Hackfest, a marathon problem-solving event themed “Hack UVI”. Connor’s team, “J-squared”, developed an app that sought to locate the campus shuttle bus via a GPS indicator.
Liburd, a graduate student pursuing a Master of Business Administration, is easily identified among his peers as an exemplary student especially after earning the title of Student Ambassador for the 2016 White House Initiative.
As an All-Star, Liburd was charged with promoting the value of education, developing outreach opportunities for young people to achieve their academic goals and networking with other All-Stars over the course of one year.
“As a graduate student, I can attest to the benefits of active on-campus involvement,” Liburd said. My involvement on campus has truly equipped me with the skills that are important in the working world.”
Dating as far back as 2017 in his undergraduate studies, as a Student Ambassador, Liburd initiated and rallied UVI’s involvement in the Home Depot “Retool Your School” Campus Improvement D Grant Program.
Through his efforts, UVI was able to rank sixth place out of 23 moderately sized Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that participated in the “Retool Your School” program. The initiative saw seventy-one other universities rivaling for the top spot.
Among other things, Liburd is remembered for the instrumental role he has played in the founding of University of the Virgin Islands Innovation Design and Entrepreneurship Association (UVIDEA).
In June 2018, Liburd formed part of a three-man team that captured first place in the Global Top 100 – Business Strategy Game, a simulation game in which competitors managed a public company.
“As a result of my intentional involvement, I have met exceptional individuals, and this has sparked within me the desire to continuously seek out personal and professional development opportunities,” Liburd added.
Herbert believes that challenges from participating in academic competitions will yield transferable life skills.
“Both challenges forced me to push myself to my creative limits. As an aspiring lawyer, cognitive agility is paramount in order to be successful,” Herbert said.
The criminal justice major, who is also president of the criminal justice club, also views his participation in these competitions as opportunities to hone his interpersonal skills all while developing new and innovative best practices.
Different backgrounds, interests, majors but one commonality – a drive to succeed, and that was all it took for UVI’s five-member team to grasp the top spot and etch their names in the history books of the University of the Virgin Islands. Their story continues…