Grenada and St George’s University: 30 years of united growth

ST GEORGE’S, Grenada — In the 30 years since Operation Urgent Fury and the change of government into a parliamentary democracy, Grenada has emerged as a vibrant economy, poised for development into a vital entrepreneurial powerhouse in the Caribbean and the world.

The once little-known English-speaking Caribbean island was catapulted into world news in October 1983, when Grenada was thrown into political turmoil and its prime minister was put under house arrest. The US marines intervened to help the country return to its democratic traditions.

Some may remember the iconic images of US students leaving Grenada. What didn’t make it into the news was that within weeks the students returned to Grenada to resume their studies – and went on to successfully complete their studies and graduate on schedule. What didn’t make it into the news was that, within 12 months, Grenada held parliamentary elections and a freely elected parliament and prime minister formed a new government. What didn’t make into the press was that, for 35 years, St George’s University has worked along with its host country to build a nation and create an intellectual academic environment that entices Grenadians who have moved abroad to come home and be a part of a thriving academic community.

St George’s University and Grenada have grown alongside each other for more than 35 years. Grenada has moved from a sleepy island to a burgeoning economy, becoming a leader in the Caribbean region. The installation of an international airport, improvements in infrastructure and a growing middle class have led to a boom in tourism that further bolsters the local economy and has improved the economic prospects of all Grenadians.

Meanwhile, St George’s University, the first private medical school in the Caribbean, has mushroomed into a full university, with a School of Arts and Sciences (1996), School of Veterinary Medicine (1999), and robust programs in public health and graduate studies. In its 37 years, the university has more than 13,000 graduates in medicine, veterinary medicine, public health, and other professions and disciplines who have practiced in over 50 countries in the world.

Grenadians have been an integral part of that growth, as students, faculty members and staff of the University. In 1983, there were approximately 1,000 students on campus along with 43 faculty and 26 Grenadian staff. Today over 6,000 students, over 500 faculty, and 650 staff can be found at the True Blue campus. Having a tertiary institution on island has opened opportunities for Grenadians to access quality tertiary educations and resulted in over 950 Grenadian citizens graduating from SGU and over 3,000 being enrolled in an array of programs and courses. These graduates have joined the workforce and are now leaders in their communities and well-respected professionals.

It has been recognized that education is a critical social protection measure and a means of escaping poverty. Therefore the value of an education must be underscored as vulnerability due to poverty decreases significantly when the head of the household has at least a secondary education: with an even greater reduction upon attainment of tertiary education.

SGU offers many scholarships for academic excellence and/or financial need, ranging from the Legacy of Excellence Scholarships and the Veterinary Mentor Scholarships to the Commonwealth Jubilee Scholarship, all for higher education, as well as Independence Scholarships for primary school students going into secondary schools, which ease the burden for three successful candidates at the Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (formerly Common Entrance Examinations).

The government and the university both have a vested interest in promoting educational opportunities for Grenadians, and through this mutually beneficial relationship, there are 72 full tuition scholarships to be awarded through the government of Grenada annually. These include 40 to the School of Arts and Sciences, 15 to the School of Medicine, one to the School of Veterinary Medicine and 16 to the various graduate programs.

For the university’s part, it awards an additional 60 full scholarships — or full equivalents — allowing hundreds of Grenadians partial scholarships for undergraduate degree programs. Since 2005, SGU has granted over US$90 million in scholarships to Caribbean students, many of them Grenadian, and they have gone on to study medicine, veterinary medicine, business, public health, nursing, and more.

In addition, SGU hosts SGU Knowledge Bowl each year, helping Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) students prepare for examinations, and the university’s annual Career Day provides critical insight into emerging careers for these young adults.

The university also provides US$150,000 annually to hospital services for purchasing medical equipment. The university also cooperates with General Hospital in research and in providing medical assistance in specialist areas.

SGU being in Grenada means more than just increased access to a quality education. It has provided an avenue for research through the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF), whose Sport for Health campaign and other research initiatives benefit the community directly. The School of Veterinary Medicine has worked closely with farmers in the areas of animal husbandry to improve local farming practices. The campus has also played host to prestigious public lectures, possible not only because of the present infrastructure but also the resources and networking of its faculty and friends.

In the 30 years since the return of democracy, the various administrations have pursued economic and social policies, to diversify the economy, encourage investment, expand the physical and social infrastructure, improve primary and secondary health care facilities and increase access to secondary and tertiary education. SGU continues to attract dedicated and committed students to all of its schools and programs who call the 44-acres state-of-the-art campus home and, with over 80 countries represented on the campus, it provides a truly multicultural and international experience. Together, SGU and Grenada have grown together and introduced the world to Grenada and Grenada to the world through its graduate ambassadors who travel with a bit of Grenada in their hearts.

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