BTVI Strengthens Holistic Student Approach

Jul, 15 2021



Shown here from left to right are Daycare Attendant, Ernestine Hepburn; Daycare Supervisor, Jennifer Rolle and Dean of Student Services, Racquel Bethel.

File Photo: BTVI

When the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) quickly pivoted to online learning over a year ago, its Student Services department - which is accustomed to in person events - had to do the same with the view of maintaining a student-centered, holistic approach despite the covid-19 pandemic.

Dean of Student Services, Racquel Bethel, noted that the covid-19 pandemic – though disruptive in nature – did not cause her team to lose sight of how important connections are for students.

“Student Services had to make a quick transition into the virtual space. Because our students were already utilizing that space for classes, it was easy to tune into events we had. We thought the attendance would have tapered off, but we actually saw an increase in involvement. They still wanted to be a part of the BTVI community. Through our events, we’ve been able to stay connected with great success,” said Ms. Bethel.

Student Services create a monthly calendar and a few of the events held virtually for 2020-2021 included a Start Your Own Business seminar, a job fair, a virtual prayer service with Reverend Angela Palacious and a bake sale for the 10th consecutive year which raised money for the Cancer Society of The Bahamas; that sale was an in-person event with social distancing protocols enforced. There were also college informational and scholarship events, in addition to employability and workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial fitness seminars.

“Those events allowed us to expose students to areas they might not have visited before. For example, during our speaker series, students were able to live through someone else’s experience,” said Ms. Bethel.

Although the covid-19 pandemic hit over a year ago, the Student Services team members continued to assist with onboarding new students, solving problems, providing a listening ear and advocating for students. They provide student support which caters to the whole man.

“We meet every incoming student within their first three weeks at BTVI, assessing their learning style, personality type and how to map out their careers. We have all of the support in between, whether for anxiety or a need to do work study, full-time and part time job placement. We connect students to organizations like the Department of Labour, putting them into their job portal. We have private and public connections. We are here from the beginning to way pass graduation,” said Ms. Bethel.

“We have been intentional about the services we provide. We go along with students on the student life cycle, on the journey. We are there at every interval, showing there is someone outside of the instructional team to help. Further, I couldn’t do this without a great team. They put things together logistically, working behind the scenes, sending emails, following up, making interventions. It takes the entire team,” she added.

Additionally, the Student Services department facilitates the Student Success and Workforce Prep courses at BTVI.

“The courses are aligned to the services we provide. We introduce the soft skills and entrepreneurship. We meet them at ground level and help develop them, executing our mission; we want them to be self-sufficient and globally competitive. We equip our students with the necessary soft skills, with life skills such as basic time management, manners, communication, interpersonal skills. Students must have the requisite soft skills. It makes them complete. Along the way, it’s important to equip them with soft skills in addition to the technical skills.  We strategically align our services,” said Ms. Bethel.

BTVI President, Dr. Robert W. Robertson noted student support is everyone’s responsibility. However, he lauded the Student Services department for taking on a key role during students’ life cycle with the institution.

“Ms. Bethel and her dynamic team have taken on an intentional approach to increasing student retention, which affects graduation rates, in addition to career counseling, among other services. They understand that connection is a precious currency, particularly as covid-19 has forced us to have less in-person activities. Despite this, students still feel our touch as an institution,” said Dr. Robertson.

“So many people have been affected by covid-19, so there are multi-dimensional concerns. Students are concerned about their health and that of family members, they’re concerned about finances etc. It causes uncertainty across multiple landscapes. Nevertheless, our Student Services team continues to make those connections, reaching out on various levels and we are grateful for their efforts,” he added.