Dominican student Stephanie Pascal has captured the award for one of the two Valedictorians of the UWI Cavehill Campus graduating class of 2022. Notably, Pascal has completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and Mathematics with First Class Honors and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Financial and Business Economics as of September 2022.
Upon interview with Emonews, Pascal expressed that she had chosen to pursue this field since she wants to become an economist or economic advisor in the near future. She expressed that the reason that she would want to do this field is because of Dominica’s economy. “We know the challenges we have faced with our economy particularly due to the impact of natural disasters. Even more so, we have faced challenges in terms of the economic policies that we have implemented which I believe are not inspired by economic backing or economic research,” she stated.
According to Pascal, many of Dominica’s policies are social-welfare based. She believes that this is as a direct result of the limited number of economists on island. “I remember while at college I attended a function and they stated that, at the time, we only had 4 certified economists in Dominica,” she conveyed. This has intrigued a sense of necessity in the mind of Pascal as she believes that without appropriate and adequate economic policies, the economy will not exhibit significant improvement.
Moreover, Pascal added mathematics to her degree upon the advice of her older sister who encouraged her to make herself more marketable in an environment where few people do math. By doing mathematics, she has also opened doors to possibly pursue sciences without having to start all over which saves her both time and money.
When asked how she felt after being named Valedictorian, Pascal responded that she was both surprised and not surprised at the same time. “I know that the Guild council had selected me and a number of persons had reached out saying that they had voted for me. When I was officially named Valedictorian I was shell shocked like is this real? My best friend Iyka who was the valedictorian last year told me she understood the feeling of shock. To be honest, being named valedictorian of such a prestigious institution is like wow? Me? It’s surreal,” she stated.
Importantly, Pascal pointed out that despite her success she has had to face a few challenges, some which are common to every student. “For me, the most difficult challenge I had was struggling academically knowing that I had always done well at school. UWI is definitely not a walk in the park as the program is very difficult,” she articulated.
Moreover, she voiced that another difficulty she faced was the impact of taking a two-year gap period between college and university. Due to the lack of practice during these two years, Pascal had forgotten some of the mathematics concepts and had to essentially teach herself the college syllabus. “I had to relearn what I had once been taught which was somewhat double the work,” she said. Furthermore, the gap year created a sense of inadequacy as at the time of commencing her degree she was older than her fellow classmates. “It kind of made me feel inadequate if I’m being honest because at that time persons my age were graduating with their bachelors. A part of me felt like I was behind,” she added.
Notwithstanding these challenges, Pascal overcame by simply putting in the extra work. According to her, the first year of university was in fact the year she worked the hardest as she would successfully complete three all-nighters every week to bring herself up to speed. While she felt that she was behind her friends or colleagues from college, she actively reminded herself that it was ok to be behind and that her time is now, not then.
Significantly, through the three years at UWI, Pascal uttered that she learnt a number of valuable lessons. “I learnt to be kind to myself. I learnt the importance of rest. I learnt that failure is ok and that it is ok to struggle and cry. It is ok to do absolutely nothing at all. It is ok to not operate at 100% all the time. I learnt that at the end of the day I am still human,” she articulated. More importantly, she learnt to balance rest while still persevering and pushing through, even with the workload from extra-curricular activities.
In light of the balance between extra-curricular activities and academics, Pascal expressed that she has always been heavily involved in extra-curricular activities and school.
“At the Convent High School I did 11 subjects for CSEC while being involved in approximately 4 or 5 different clubs. When I got to college I was a triple major (Economics, Maths and Physics) while being the president of the student body council,” she stated.
Evidently, at UWI it was no different. Pascal got involved in a number of roles and currently holds the position of Guild Council Vice President, a position held by three Dominican females within the past 5 years. Importantly, Pascal believes that the balance between academics and extra-curricular activities help to maintain her sanity. “If it was strictly school I would not do well. How I balanced it, I don’t know exactly. I think it is second nature to me and it’s something I got from my father who always encouraged his children to be well-rounded individuals,” she added.
As it pertains to her support system, Pascal expressed deepest gratitude and appreciation to her immediate family who have relentlessly supported her throughout every phase of her academic journey. “Anybody who knows me or knows my family, knows that my family is the reason that I am as successful as I am today. They encourage me to be fearless and ambitious while echoing that there are no limits to my success,” she voiced.
Pointedly, she considers her mother as one of her greatest source of support as she has continually drilled into her the importance of education and the values of not accepting mediocrity or settling for less. “I’ve seen how education has transformed our financial situation as a family. I’ve seen my mom go from a cashier at Astaphans to being a branch manager at NCCU. That is as a result of her push to get her degree and necessary qualifications to work her way up the ladder,” she voiced.
She also thanked her father who has made her hardworking and competitive and her siblings who have demonstrated great work ethic even in times when there are limited resources. She basks on the hard work of her sister who is currently a chemical engineer and considers this as motivation to succeed within her own field.
In addition, Pascal sought to relay advice to the youth by encouraging them to find their niche. “School is not for everyone. For me I don’t have so many talents so school is my path. It is my way to make a better life and future. This is not so for everyone so I would encourage young persons to find their niche, develop it and become better at it,” she guided. Moreover, Pascal advised the youth to be multi-faceted in a world where there are different settings and so many things to enjoy and learn.
Notably, while Pascal has successfully completed one leg of her journey, she has hopes of furthering her academic studies by pursing a PhD in Economic Development at a UK institution, with a dissertation focused on transportation systems within the Caribbean. It is her greater hope to return home to Dominica to implement the things that she has learnt.
Notwithstanding her desire to succeed, Pascal’s greatest goal is happiness. “Above all I want to be happy, remain myself and still be full of life. I really don’t want this world to deter me, to dampen my spirit or to change who I am at my core. I still want to be Steph who continues to volunteer, promote youth advocacy and engage in service-oriented activities,” she expressed.
It is without a doubt that Pascal has demonstrated exemplary performance in all fields that she has pursued thus far. In light of her recent success, Emonews wishes her all the best as she soars to greater heights.
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