It was an experience of a lifetime. UVI Ph.D. candidate Khadijah Blyden settled in for a 14 hour flight from New Jersey to Mumbai. Then a two and a half hour flight from Mumbai to arrive in Hyderabad, India.
Blyden, along with other students working toward earning their Ph.D. in Creative Leadership for Innovation and Change, participated in the December 2018 residency held in India.
“When the Ph.D. program started in 2016, the idea was to have a Ph.D. program that would offer an opportunity for Virgin Islands and Caribbean locals to earn a higher degree, but also to allow for persons globally to be able to get a Ph.D.,” says Leslyn Tonge, administrative specialist in the Provost’s Office and a student in cohort two.
“Just knowing that the opportunity to go to India was available, was very exciting,” says Blyden. The journey started with a stop in Hyderabad that involved engaging with various professors at the Administrative Staff College of India that provides professional training for administrators in South East Asia. What was most shocking was the blatant colorism that is occurring in their society. They call their society a caste system, but it really appeared to be a class system. Their next stop was Kolkata. Blyden, in describing her experience, states “Kolkata for me was an experience I was not prepared for. I know the country was economically struggling and their were a lot of people beneath the poverty line but it was one thing to read about it and research it as opposed to being in it. We visited a home that provided services to victims of sex trafficking. That experience for me was so touching, that after meeting the young girls, some of whom were in kindergarten and had been sexually abused or saved from sex trafficking, I was in tears. I was very emotional. I found out that they extended their services to young boys because they are now targets of sex trafficking as well.”
As the trip continued, the cohort realized that the classroom setting could not touch what a real world experience was able to give. The cohort’s next stop was New Delhi. There they got the opportunity to explore and indulge in the Indian culture and visit various monuments. “Fascinating!” Is the word Blyden used to describe her visit to the Taj Mahal stating that it was one of the most memorable part of her trip..
Unfortunately, the trip was not all fun and games. The amount of pollution that plagued the various cities in India was overwhelming. However, some good came from it as members of the cohort became more concerned with environmental issues and now pledge to advocate for the preservation of our ecosystem, especially as the Marshall Islands, where a few members of the cohort are from, are washing away due to global warming. The cohort attests to the benefits of traveling and the importance emerging oneself in various cultures to become globally sensitive.
Dr. Hall, commenting on this historic moment expressed his excitement in the last Board of Trustees meeting. “We’re excited over the fact that the principle of wanting our students to be global, and understanding what’s happening in the world is taking on new dimensions and has led our Ph.D. students to conduct a residency in India. The residencies are critical to this program and are generally done on our St. Thomas Campus but the second cohort wanted to do something unique, and the program was able to organize a residency in India, which was very unique and innovative.”
Dr. Maddirala, director of the program echoed his sentiments “as the program is in innovation and change, some of the courses are very much related to global engagement . We thought it was the best way to help them become global leaders and that’s the reason why we have instituted the global experience that would lead to a new Cohort in India.”
The department has all intents to host other international residencies which are being planned. “We’re considering going to the Marshall Islands in spring of 2021 for another international residency as we have a number of students in Cohort 2 and 3 from there and it would be good to be exposed to their culture,” says Tonge enthusiastic about the thought of another impending global residency.