New University Of The South Pacific Marshall Islands Campus Set To Open

Former Long Island Hotel redeveloped into 'fully appointed university setting'

By Giff Johnson 

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, May 1, 2017) – The first phase of the new University of the South Pacific Campus in Majuro is scheduled for an official opening in less than a month — an opening that will bring the Cook Islands Prime Minister, who doubles as Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific, to Majuro for the historic occasion.

May 23 will see the opening of USP’s new campus at the former Long Island Hotel, which was purchased several years ago by the Marshall Islands government so that USP could develop a new campus for the Suva-based university that currently uses two smaller sites on Majuro from which to operate. A graduation ceremony will follow the opening of the new campus. In addition to Cook Islands PM Henry Puna, education ministers from USP’s 12 member countries and top USP Suva administrators will meet in Majuro for the USP Council’s 84th meeting that is being timed to coincide with the May 23 opening.

Majuro Campus Director Dr. Irene Taafaki provided a tour of the new school facilities this week. The former hotel building has been transformed into a fully appointed university setting, with classrooms, a wet laboratory for science experiments, computer labs, library, book store, and administration offices. What was once the hotel’s restaurant and conference rooms will continue to be used for meetings and workshops, though it has not been the subject of renovations as the first round of USP Campus development focused on the one building.

Taafaki said she anticipates that later this year, German government funding for a new Micronesian Center for Sustainable Transport will become available that will launch this new program, based at the new USP Campus. An important focus of the center’s initial work will be evaluating Marshall Islands domestic shipping fleet looking for options to reduce costs and reliance on fossil fuels. “What they learn from the assessment can be transferred to other island countries, especial atoll nations where transportation is so expensive,” she said.

The new USP Campus will house both the Marshall Islands/USP Education Project that is a college preparation program, and its university students who now are at a small campus in another location in Majuro. In addition to the benefits of bringing both USP operations under one roof at the new campus, Taafaki said a key goal has been developing the new facilities into a “model green campus” for energy efficiency.

Students will actually begin using the new facilities in June, after completing final exams the end of next month at the existing school locations.

While maintaining its focus on developing degreed professionals through their BA and master’s programs, the new USP Campus also plans to focus on certain vocational areas. “We hope to engage students who are not on a straight university path,” said Taafaki. “We also need to offer vocational programs, but not the hammer and nail variety.” She said vocational focus areas for USP will be accounting, culinary and hospitality programs.

The graduation ceremony that will follow the opening of the new campus on May 23 is an “opportunity for more than 150 students to receive their certificates, diplomas and degrees,” said Taafaki. “Among those participating will be 18 post-graduate and master’s level students.”

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