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Bahamian alumni celebrate FIU connection before bowl game

By David Drucker ’18
Reporting from the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl in Nassau, Bahamas

When the football team found out they were going to the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl, the locker room erupted with excitement.

While the team’s trip to the Bahamas is certainly unique, it is not FIU’s first connection to the country, nor will it be the last. In fact, an entire FIU community already exists in the Bahamas, and it’s growing.

FIU News connected with some Bahamian Panthers before the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl on Friday.

Rhandi Elliot ’13

Rhandi Elliot

Elliott oversees employee programs and communications as the human resources manager at Atlantis, Paradise Island. He brings his experience at FIU, and his Panther pride, to the largest private employer in the Bahamas.

In the summer of 2008, FIU was doing on-the-spot admissions at a Hilton property in the Bahamas. Elliot’s mom encouraged him to attend. He brought his SAT scores and was accepted right there. Less than two months later, he was on campus studying international relations.

Elliot became involved socially and academically on campus. He was the vice president of the Caribbean Student Association and competed on the FIU Model United Nations team.

He was also a big FIU football fan. He travelled to St. Petersburg to watch the Panthers play in a bowl game. After that, he was hooked.

“I was waiting for us to have a good enough year [to be bowl eligible again], so I was excited when it was announced that FIU was coming to the Bahamas Bowl,” Elliot said.

After Elliot graduated, he began working at Ignite, FIU’s faculty and staff fundraising campaign. He learned communication skills there that he still uses at Atlantis, Paradise Island today.

“There’s nothing I would change about my college experience. There are a lot of students there who work hard, and it makes for a different kind of student,” Elliot said. “Even now, working in human resources, I know that they have a quality education and that they’re willing to work hard.”

Virginia Chan BS ’07, DPT ’10

Virginia Chan

Needless to say, FIU alumni in the Bahamas are excited for the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl.

Chan is a physical therapist in Nassau. She attended every home game (and even some away games) as a student.

“I’m so excited. I’m actually closing my clinic that day. I’m not seeing any patients, I’m going to the game,” Chan said.

When Chan decided on attending FIU—the convenience of a 30-minute flight was too good to turn down—she embraced campus life. Chan held an executive board position on the Student Programming Council for two years, and later became their graduate assistant while working on her doctorate degree.

She also found a second home in the Caribbean Student Association.

“We would make Bahamian food or Caribbean food. It helped a lot with the homesickness I might have had,” Chan said.

Now that she’s back in the Bahamas, Chan hears about FIU more often than before she left. According to university records, there were 99 Bahamians enrolled in classes in Fall 2018.

“FIU has a really big group of Bahamian students, but I think it’s getting even more popular now. They’re starting to hear the name a little more,” said Chan.

Schevon Miller ’92

Schevon Miller

Miller is a senior manager for CIBC Trust Company [Bahamas]. A native of Nassau, she had FIU on her radar after graduating with her associate’s degree from the College of the Bahamas. Miller was interested in studying international marketing and business so that she could promote tourism in her home country.

Ultimately, her uncle sold her on FIU. He was the general manger of Bahamas Air and a proud FIU alumnus.

“He thought that FIU would be the perfect fit for me. I really respected his view and I applied,” Miller said.

Miller lived the full on-campus experience. She cheered on the Panthers at soccer and football games, participated in the Caribbean Student Association and Black Student Union and worked as a residential assistant.

Now, she’s happy to see more young people from the Bahamas paying attention to FIU.

“FIU is on the list of a lot of students who are coming out of high school. The university is definitely out there as far as consideration goes for those that do their undergraduate here and want to do their Masters abroad,” said Miller.

Gadville McDonald ’95

Gadville, the executive director of the National Training Agency of the Bahamas, did not live on campus when he was an accounting student. Instead, he lived at an off-campus complex with other students from the Bahamas. They called their group “The Bahamian Connection.”

He and his neighbors were focused on bringing Bahamians to FIU and making them feel comfortable.

“I was very much connected with registration to make sure we provided as much information as possible to incoming students to make sure they had the accommodations they needed,” said McDonald, who was also vice president of the Student Government Association.

As a professional, he is still focused on acclimating Bahamians into new roles. His National Training Agency, a government-funded organization, focuses on giving natives of the Bahamas the skills they need to acquire jobs in the workforce.

They concentrate on people ages 16 to 30 years old. They have a 54 percent success rate of placing Bahamians in jobs.

“We have phenomenal success stories. Currently, we are training some 900 at-risk young people. Their lives are being transformed,” McDonald said.

Directing the National Training Agency, which is still in its beginning years, takes a breadth of skills. He learned many of them at FIU.

“I learned how to communicate effectively, how to get along with individuals, how to resolve conflicts. I can give back to my country as a result of what I learned at FIU,” McDonald said.

On Friday, McDonald will also be going to the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl to root on his alma mater. For him, just like many other Bahamian Panthers, not going wasn’t in question.

This article originally appeared on FIU News.

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