Pond Island:--- On 6 December 2018, the University of St. Martin received its first significant corporate donation since Hurricane Irma. Carnival Corporation has secured a much-needed computer server equipment package worth over $31, 000 for the financially strapped university. The servers reached Philipsburg via the cruise ship Carnival Horizon and were delivered ceremoniously to mark the beginning of a new partnership. University administrators are reportedly very happy with the donation, as old servers are failing. “This very generous donation on behalf of Carnival Corporation comes to us at a crucial time,” said USM president Dr. Antonio Carmona in written statements to the press on Thursday.
“Since September 2017, we have been going through a difficult time and our computers and servers are running old, as is much of our other equipment which is used to prepare St. Maarten’s future teachers, business leaders, and professionals. For this, we are eternally grateful.” Upon initiative of USM faculty member Sharon Freiburg and Carnival Vice President for Global Ports and Caribbean Government Relations, Marie McKenzie, collaboration between the two entities began last July, when 10 Education, Business and Hospitality students were welcomed onboard the Carnival Princess.
“This was a great opportunity for students to learn and see our ship firsthand,” said McKenzie. “And now we are honored to be able to make a difference in the lives of students at the University of St. Martin, especially after the devastating results of Hurricane Irma. “We are always looking for ways to assist and give back to our port of call communities, especially within the education system,” said Mike Pack, cruise director of Carnival Horizon. “The Carnival Horizon team and the Carnival family, both on board and ashore, are so grateful that we can do our part in supporting the wonderful students in St. Maarten by providing the tools for fostering educational growth and development.” Investing towards higher education is an excellent opportunity to advance in the country’s continued recovery. As USM is the only university on the island serving the local population, it is very important for us to ensure its longevity. After meeting with Dr. Carmona, we agreed that computer servers were an essential resource for both students and faculty alike.” Carmona has expressed his enthusiasm for their future partnership. In reference to data provided by the Ministry of Tourism and Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications (TEATT), cruise ship tourists are becoming less interested in retail and more attracted to onshore services; including tours and cultural activities. “We hope to carry out more research in this area; hopefully our students can unveil this emerging niche as part of their studies,” Carmona stated. McKenzie sees potential in linking business and hospitality students with cruise related internships or future mentorships for the multiethnic and multilingual student body.
“Carnival Cruise line has been a key stakeholder in the Cruise Tourism Industry on St. Maarten for many years. They continue to show their commitment to our destination, and we were happy to see their quick return to St. Maarten after we were devastated by hurricane Irma in 2017. Coming from a background of vocation, and as a USM Alumni, the University will always have a special place in my heart. Cruise Tourism, tourism in general and Education go hand in hand and are equally important for the sustainable redevelopment of St. Maarten. Therefore, I am excited to witness the very generous donation that Carnival Cruise Line has made to the USM. This will help to strengthen the University’s position as it rebuilds and expands its reach to shine its bright light illuminating the pathway to the future for students from even more islands in the Caribbean. On behalf of the Government and the people of St. Maarten I want to say a special thank you to Carnival Cruise line for its very generous donation and continued commitment to St. Maarten” said Minister Stuart Johnson proudly.
As St. Maarten continues to wait for the government to pass the Ordinance on Higher Education, thereby guaranteeing structural public funding, USM administrators have been pushed to solicit corporate giving. “We are thinking creatively and forging new friendships with the private sector. We seek international liaisons and partnerships that are mutually beneficial”, Carmona concluded.
The ceremonious reception took place at the port on the morning of 6 December. “I am convinced that education plays a critical role in the sustainability of a country. Thus, it is truly a pleasure to witness a key stakeholder in St Maarten’s main industry giving back to education. Today’s in-kind donation is a pleasant reminder that we all have a role to play in the rebuilding of the University of St Martin. I remain very grateful for the generosity of the Carnival Corporation’s and look forward to future collaborations” said USM Dean of Academics Dr. Rolinda Carter. Together with her colleagues, Dr. Rolinda Carter was joined by Minister Stuart Johnson and CaribWorks IT consultants in welcoming the corporate donation.