Celebrating UWI Women: International Women’s Day 2016

The UWI Archives joins the rest of the world community in celebrating our Women! One of the visions for the University is that women would not be prejudiced in any way in their pursuits of self-actualisation and in their contributions to Caribbean society.

Sir  James Irvine, Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of St Andrews in Scotland from 1920 to 1952; and the chair of the British committee on higher education that recommended establishment of the regional university, stated in his 1945 Irvine Report an explicit provision for women.


 “The women of the West Indies, though some of them are already showing their quality, do not yet make their full contribution to professional life or to public affairs….. With greater access to higher education, the influence of women, valuable in itself and perhaps  especially requisite for the solution of the difficult  social problems of the West Indies, would make itself felt….It is probable that if University Education could be provided in the West Indies at a lesser cost than overseas and with residential accommodation, a gradually increasing number of daughters would be able to obtain higher education and play their part fully in the life of their communities.”

Thus The UWI has always expressed an interest in women rights to education and equality to create a balance and uplift society. The University has been moulded by great women leadership over the years. These women have been integral part of the University’s success. Today, the UWI Archives celebrates our women alumni, students, staff members, academics, professors and university administrators.

In this blog, we highlight some of our Notable Women, who have served or are serving The regional University as Chancellor or Pro Vice Chancellors

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Women such as:

HRH Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, the last surviving granddaughter of Queen Victoria, became the first Chancellor of the University College of the West Indies. This made her the first female Chancellor of any University. Princess Alice might be considered a trailblazer in terms of fundraising activities in higher education and, in this respect, showed tremendous foresight.

In 1955, the Princess Alice Appeal was launched in order to raise money for an endowment fund for the provision of scholarships, and for the building of a chapel. The appeal was successful: £1million for the UCWI, including £40,000 for the chapel. A substantial sum was also received for a Senior Common Room. In 1971, after resigning the Chancellorship, she received the title of Chancellor Emeritus.

 Professor Elsa Leo-Rhynie is a lifelong educator and firm believer in women in leadership roles Leo-Rhynie is a graduate of the UCWI with a bachelor of science in Botany and Zoology, Diploma in Education and a Doctor of philosophy degree. Professor Leo-Rhynie served as Executive Director of the Institute of Management and Production between 1987 and 1992. And she was also appointed the Regional Coordinator of the Centre for Gender and Development Studies in 1992 and remained in this post until 1996. Professor Leo-Rhynie is recognized as the first female to become both Deputy Principal (1996-2002) and Principal (2006-2007) of the University of the West Indies. In 2002, Professor Leo-Rhynie became Pro-Vice Chancellor and Chair of the Board of Undergraduate Studies. She was named Professor Emerita by the University of the West Indies following her retirement in 2007. And in 2000 she was a recipient of the National Honour – Order of Distinction and in 2015 Order of Distinction, Commander Class.  A Hall of Residence is named in her honour at the Mona Campus.

Professor Marlene Hamilton, Professor Emerita of Educational Psychology, served respectively as Deputy Principal, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Undergraduate Studies, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Student and Alumni Relations, and Pro Vice-Chancellor, Administration and Special Initiatives. She also supervised and nurtured some thirty six Masters and Doctorial theses to completion. Marlene Hamilton, demonstrated a genuine flair for organization and an unsurpassable loyalty and sense of duty to the University’s students and Staff and its first constituency, the people of the Caribbean.  A Hall of Residence is named in her honour at the Mona Campus

Professor Hazel Simmons-McDonald was the  Pro-Vice Chancellor and first Principal of The University of the West Indies Open Campus, a post which she has held from August 1, 2007 to July 2014. Prior to that, she served as Head of the Department of Language, Linguistics and Literature, Deputy Dean of Outreach, Deputy Dean – Planning and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Education at the Cave Hill Campus. She is Professor of Applied Linguistics at the Cave Hill Campus of the University in Barbados. Based at the Open Campus offices at Cave Hill,  Professor Simmons-McDonald traveled widely throughout the region to enable the establishment and implementation of Open Campus services, particularly in the UWI 12 countries. Professor Simmons-McDonald continued to teach in the Applied Linguistics graduate programme until the end May 2008, and she supervised students pursuing higher degrees in the field.

Professor Simmons-McDonald represents the University on several boards, including the Council of the Caribbean Examinations Council and the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network (CKLN).She is a founding member of the literary journal Poui and she serves on the editorial board Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT), Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT); and has served as a reviewer for scholarly texts for The Press, UWI, the Hampton Press for the Dept. of English, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Chicago and The Journal of Pidgin and Creole Linguistics (JPCL).

 Professor Violet Eudine Barriteau is the current Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus. Barriteau is a Professor of Gender and Public Policy and is a Grenadian born, Caribbean feminist, scholar and activist with considerable experience in research, administration and development and delivery of workshops and training modules in gender and development issues.

Professor Barriteau is the author of The Political Economy of Gender in the Twentieth Century Caribbean published by Palgrave International, and won the University of the West Indies inaugural bestselling text book prize for the edited work Confronting Power Theorizing Gender: Interdisciplinary Perspectives in the Caribbean.  She has co-edited three other publications as well as published eighteen chapters in books and ten articles in peer reviewed journals.  For fifteen years Professor Barriteau served as the first Head of the Centre for Gender and Development Studies: Nita Barrow Unit and the first woman at the University of the West Indies to be appointed Campus Coordinator, School for Graduate Studies and Research.  This is a position she held for four years until becoming the second woman to be appointed Deputy Principal at the Cave Hill Campus. In that role, two of her major accomplishments were serving as Chair of the Cave Hill Campus Institutional Accreditation Exercise, which resulted in full accreditation of the Campus for six years and serving as Chair of the 2011 UWI Games Organising Committee. On August 1, 2014 she assumed the position as Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal of the Open Campus. On May 1, 2015 she assumed the position as Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal of the Cave Hill Campus

Professor Barriteau’s research interests encompass feminist theorizing, gender and public policy and investigations of the Caribbean political economy from the perspective of gender. Professor Barriteau is currently President Elect of the International Association for Feminist Economics.

Dr Luz Longsworth is the newest woman appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal (Ag.) of The UWI Open Campus. She is a Caribbean national who was born to Venezulean and Jamaican parents and who lived and worked in Belize for many years raising two children. Fluent in Spanish and French, Dr Longsworth also holds a Doctorate in Business Administration in Higher Education Management from the University of Bath in the United Kingdom. She is also a graduate of The University of the West Indies where she earned her BA in French and Spanish and MBA (Marketing) degrees. She is the holder of a Master of Arts degree in Hispanic Studies from Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada.

Dr Longsworth has over 25 years of experience in both academia and business in Jamaica, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Belize. As a senior administrator at The UWI, she has served in various posts at the Mona and Open Campuses, including Director of the School of Continuing Studies, Director of The UWI Open Campus Country Sites, and as Director of The UWI Mona Western Jamaica campus in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Dr Longworth’s research includes leadership development, change management and organisational development and transformation. She is also a certified trainer in leadership courses for the internationally renowned John Maxwell Company and has participated in various consulting projects in the Caribbean and the United Kingdom.


-contributed by Vanessa Lyons, Archives Assistant (Paper Collections)




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