We stepped outside our physical space this past week to partner in taking the heritage of the University of the West Indies (UWI) to some of the 5000+ new students, at Mona Campus’ Orientation 2014-2015.

The Pelican Experience was the theme and the UWI Mona PR and Marketing Office ‘roped in’ the Museum and the Main Library to help bring the story.

Our part was the provision of texts on the history and the symbols of the UWI, which started life as the University College of the West Indies some 65 years ago. We also helped to orient the students who, dressed in historic UCWI Matriculation Gowns, passed the information along.

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UWI Mona Marketing Officer Gillian Scott said that the display “got a lot of traffic and the responses were very good – one of surprise at the rich heritage of the university.” She said that the guides, in their robes, “evoked much interest”.

From 1950 until the early 1970s, undergrads had red matriculation gowns which they were expected to wear – originally for lectures, chapel and dinner and eventually just for formal occasions. Today, the gowns are mainly used by the officers of the Guild of Students for formal occasions, and by non-degree graduates.

The museum’s mandate is to reflect and explore the history and development of the university and its relationship to the Caribbean region which it was established to serve. Participating with orientation activities is right in line, and the Museum Curator also gave a ‘Quick and brisk’ introduction to Jamaican and UWI heritage at the Orientation of new students coming in from overseas, and will continue to participate in the orientation of new graduate students this week. Students are always a welcome group of visitors as the semester proceeds, including groups from the annual First Year Experience (FYE) programme.

When the UCWI took its first students in 1948, at the founding Mona campus, there were 33 students in one faculty and the university was a college of the University of London. Since then, it has grown to a full-fledged university with some 45,000 students spread over four campuses across the Caribbean.


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