The University of The Bahamas (UB) Mingoes has one of its largest class of student-athletes graduating during this year’s commencement.
A total of 11 UB Mingoes receive their degrees in this class from five different sporting disciplines: Bulinsky Cousin (men’s soccer); Alivia Culmer (women’s volleyball); Donovan Dean (men’s basketball); Shanntanna Etienne (women’s volleyball); Daniel Hall (men’s basketball); Kaneisha Johnson (women’s softball); Romica Josey (women’s track and field/cross country); Christoph McKenzie (men’s basketball); Aaron Munnings (men’s soccer); Davia Wright (women’s track and field/cross country); and Jervane Turnquest (men’s soccer).
Athletics Director (AD) Kimberley Rolle said she is excited to have such a large class graduate.
“This is an impressive class of student-athletes who have made a huge impact on the program on many different levels,” she said. “They all had their fair share of challenges during their tenure; however, I am so pleased they persevered and have arrived at this point in their lives. I share in their excitement of getting to this point and can’t wait to see what’s ahead for them.”
Rolle noted that while UB Athletics Department does push their student-athletes in the athletic arena, it is important the program aid in the development of the whole person.
“I have seen the maturation of all of these student-athletes over the course of time,” AD Rolle said. “While we push them hard in their respective sport, we also challenge them about the game of life and to how make a difference in our country. I am confident they are far better today than they were four or five years ago, and that is extremely gratifying.”
Bulinsky Cousin didn’t have the easiest route to becoming a Mingoes athlete. He didn’t quite have the qualifications to get into UB.
“He was broken about that,” Men’s Soccer Head Coach Dion Godet said.
That didn’t stop the striker. He attended another institution to get his grades up and then transferred to UB.
Cousin made an immediate impact on the pitch and carried that persistence into that classroom. That tenacity was rewarded as the civil engineering technology major graduates with a 3.20 Grade Point Average (GPA).
“As a member of the Mingoes I was always pushed to be a hard worker on and off the field with the support from my teammates, coaches, professors and the many friends I met on my college journey here at UB,” Cousin said. “I also learned to always strive to be the best and keep pushing as a student-athlete even through tough times.”
Godet calls Cousin the “picture of persistence” on the pitch. “He is not a natural talent but he has a willingness to try and believes in best,” he said. “I am pleased to see his development and wish him all the success.”
Alivia Culmer captained the women’s volleyball team to one of the best seasons in the program’s history – coming within a few wins of making it to the playoffs in the New Providence Volleyball Association’s (NPVA) 2019-2020 season.
The computer information systems major said her best memories of wearing the Mingoes uniform is the relationships on and off the court with her teammates – despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact.
“The relationships I’ve built through volleyball; those ladies have become my sisters, they are relationships that will continue on outside of UB and outside of volleyball,” she said. “My experience at UB, though it was cut short due to the pandemic, is one I will always remember. I have built many long-term relationships with athletes and non-athletes.”
She added that she’s learned a lot as a Mingoes athlete. “I have learned a lot of self-control and more importantly, being on the team has also taught me patience.”
Culmer said she is not certain if she will keep playing “but who knows what the future holds for me” – however, she knows she wants to give back to the sport. “Volleyball will always be my love and first passion and if my assistance is ever needed, Coach Raymond Wilson and Coach Sydline Justillien know how and where to find me.”
Shanntanna Etienne leaves a huge mark at UB not only as a volleyball player but as a founding vice president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).
The SAAC is a committee made up of student-athletes assembled to provide insight on the student-athlete experience and is intended to provide input on rules, regulations and policies impacting student-athletes and their collegiate experience. The SAAC was formed three months before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sports worldwide.
The bio-chem major said she’s grateful to her coaches for bringing out her talent.
“My best memory was being able to watch my coaches bring me from not knowing about the sport to a point of actually being good in the sport,” she said. “My progress while being at UB is something I will always treasure.”
She added that she learned a lot about herself in the volleyball program.
“I’ve learned patience, teamwork, and school spirit while being a Mingoe,” she said. “It’s not always about winning but it’s about encouraging and lifting up your team members and fellow Mingoes when they might not be able to do it for themselves.”
She may take off the blue Mingoes uniform but blue will never leave her. “Being a Mingoe and representing my school was my best college experience by far and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I will always bleed blue!”
Daniel Hall joined the men’s basketball team right after the team transitioned from the Caribs to the Mingoes.
“I will never forget that experience,” he said. “There were a lot of new things happening and expansion of things already in place such as media day and homecoming. I think being a part of formative years of Mingoes athletics will always stick with me.”
He added that his second-best experience was his first basket on an international tour for UB, “but ultimately it’s trumped by that experience of helping to form The Mingoes Culture,” he said.
As a Mingoes athlete he said he learned the importance of hard work.
“Our coach would often say ‘we’re a team full of guards’ and so coming in as a guard on a team full of guards to play guard one would see the challenge in that,” he said. “This definitely further developed my persistent spirit and it is now a trait that I believe will assist me in my future endeavors.”
The marketing major hopes one day to either manage international basketball teams or represent players.
“I’d like to start with player scouting for a few years,” he said. “I believe in order to be able to represent athletes I must first know exactly what teams would look for in them. So, scouting will be a good experience and a learning opportunity for me.”
Kaneisha Johnson ends her time as a Mingoes athlete but leaves with the memory of being a part of the first UB women’s softball team.
However, she said it’s the memories of camaraderie that will remain with her as she graduates.
“My best memory as an athlete had to be my very first Mingoes Awards,” she said. “It was so much fun showing out with my team and watching how well everyone got along pre-COVID.”
After graduation, the computer information systems major said she hopes to become a cybersecurity expert. “I aspire to further my knowledge of information technology first.”
During her time at UB, the softball infielder said she truly understood the maxim of trusting the process.
“It really is true when people say that comparison is the thief of joy,” she said. “Focusing on my journey and realizing that there can be no flowers without rain was a big part of me being able to push forward and graduate.”
Looking back on her time at UB, she imparted some advice to those coming into the institution.
“To all the freshman I would say to soak it all in, experience everything you can, join clubs and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there,” she said. “You can’t expect to be boring at a school that has a blue flamingo as a mascot.”
Athletics Head Coach Ednal Rolle calls Romica Josey one of – if not the – most supportive athletes he’s coached in his entire career – not just at UB.
“She is special and it is very rare to find an athlete like her,” he said. “I’ve seen her grow throughout the years in Exuma and at C.V. Bethel. She was always a positive person on the track and in the classroom. She was one who I knew was always going to hit the books as hard as she hit the track.”
Rolle added that Josey worked hard on the track in practice and tried to put it together on the track but “sometimes she just could not get over her mental block but it was never because she wasn’t putting in the effort.”
Josey also helped charter the SAAC at UB as the committee’s founding secretary and was instrumental in making it a success. “She was a huge driving force behind the formation of the committee,” Founding Advisor Christopher Saunders said. “She believed in making sure athletes had a voice.”
She was also a big fan for her fellow Mingoes at meets. Her best memory was when the team travelled to the University of South Florida this year and that team was able to socialize with her teammates. “I had my best time ever at that meet but I also enjoyed the time we spent at the restaurant. We shared jokes and spoke about some of our life experiences. It was a great time off the track.”
After graduation, the law and criminal justice major said she hopes to earn a master’s degree in international relations and one day work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
She added that being a Mingoes athlete has taught her many things about life and how to face challenges.
“What I have learned while being a Mingoe is that life is filled with ups and downs, and disappointments at times,” she said. “What we do during those times determines determine what the days that follow will be like. I have learned to learn from every experience in life and to not allow it to bring me down but to create a better version of myself.”
Christoph McKenzie ends his four years at UB as captain of the men’s basketball team.
The computer information systems major said he’s had some exciting times in the Mingoes uniform but his favorite was at 2018 homecoming game against the University of the U.S. Virgin Islands. With about two minutes to go in the third quarter and the Mingoes down two points, McKenzie had a put-back dunk to tie the game. “I still remember that dunk,” he said.
Over his four years in the program, McKenzie said he’s met “some amazing people and made new life-long relationships” that are important to him.
“Those relationships helped me along my journey and I appreciate everyone dearly,” he said. “Also, I would like to say without God and my family I wouldn’t have been able to achieve such an accomplishment. I’d say thanks to Coach Bacchus Rolle, Coach Lavar Johnson, Coach Taige Adderley, AD Rolle and the whole athletics department for giving me the opportunity to play for the team and also granting me an education. I am forever grateful.”
McKenzie said he has big plans after graduation. He is going to explore a professional basketball career. “After my professional career I will become an IT (Information Technology) support specialist.”
Aaron Munnings played for the UB men’s soccer side as goalkeeper but Head Coach Dion Godet called him “my cross.”
Godet said Munnings was an intelligent and brave young man. “Aaron was always the one with solid introspect on how the game was won or loss,” Godet said. “I found him to be a gentleman of even keel and was always respectful.”
So, with all of that Godet still calls him his cross.
“In some far away land, Aaron believes himself to be a striker and sometimes as the goalkeeper a flash of the dream would show up in the game while in goal,” Godet said. “I know Aaron will go far in the future. It was a pleasure to play a small role in his success story.”
For Munnings, he said he will remember his first international tour with the Mingoes, in 2019.
“I was incredibly excited but also nervous at the same time because it would be my first time playing internationally,” he said. “My teammates were very helpful and supportive which helped my confidence to play to the best of my abilities.”
The art major now moves on to pursue acting and is hoping to enroll in a program after graduation. He hopes to carry some of that tenacity from UB with him.
“As a Mingoe, I reaffirmed my belief that supporting and encouraging someone can make a difference in their day and their life.”
Davia Wright will graduate UB with a degree and a record.
The law and criminal justice major set the Mingoes women’s 3,000 meters (m) record at the University of Central Florida Black and Gold Meet in March 2022 as she ran a personal best of 11:03.57.
She said she loved traveling with the team and building bonds as both a track and field and cross-country participant.
“My best memory was traveling with my team and growing closer as we cohabitated on our trips and encouraged each other along the way,” she said.
Her next goal is to move forward in her field. “I will also continue pushing forward on my journey mainly focusing on entrepreneurship with the expansion of my life as it relates to cryptocurrency, music, businesses and generating passive and active income.”
She said being a part of the Mingoes family helped her to learn to “never listen to the crowd” and to forge her own path.
“A lot of people frown on me attending UB and discouraged it as well,” she said, “but despite the challenges I faced I enjoyed my time at UB and I will never regret it.”
Donovan Dean graduates with a degree in economics and finance and said he intends to pursue a career in the investments industry. The basketball forward said that some of his favorite memories in a Mingoes uniform was not in the games but the fellowship with teammates after morning practices. He added that he will probably just play basketball recreationally after graduation but takes something very important with him after his time on the court.
“I learned that it takes sacrifice for the team to grow,” he said.
Men’s soccer defender Jervane Turnquest embodied the fictional Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
As a defender on the field, his main duty was to disrupt offensive penetration and that sometimes meant extreme pressure on the other side and even tackling offensive attackers.
“Jervane did the dirty work on the team and yet he was an absolute gentleman,” Men’s Soccer Head Coach Dion Godet said. “He was always smiling, always willing and always seeking to improve.”
Off the pitch, Turnquest was one of the most polite and respectful players in the program. At matches, he was the one to ask about his teammates and look out for them. He was the one to make sure everything was set before leaving the pitch.
“I am very proud to say I watched this kid become an excellent young man,” Godet added. “We need to see more of the Jervane attitude in our young men if we are to be a civil, progressive country.”
After graduation, Turnquest said he expects to head to the United Kingdom to pursue a career in law with the intent of returning home.
He added, he leaves the soccer program with some great memories and some great outlooks on life.
“What I learned as a Mingoe is no matter how hard things get you have to keep pushing because nothing in life is easy and you will get curve balls when everything seems straight,” he said. “UB has given me some of the best moments of my life and I will never forget them. I will continue to represent them and will forever bleed blue.”
The UB Commencement Ceremony was held Thursday evening at the Atlantis Convention Center with more than 600 listed graduates.