Jerray Brown realized the opportunity at her fingertips and took advantage of it. Instead of looking beyond Cayman for her education, she found what she needed at the University College of the Cayman Islands.
“Local is good enough, if not better,” said Brown. “I’m proof you can start here and go far.”
Brown, who earned a Bachelor of Social Science at UCCI in 2017, recently became a policy analyst in the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Culture and Heritage. A member of UCCI’s Alumni Network, she said she wants to continue to be involved with the university and to help support its programmes.
“I’ve seen it blossom,” she said of the school. “There’s potential there.”
A native Caymanian, Brown said she had planned to do A-level studies at St. Ignatius Catholic School after graduating from John Gray High School. But personal tragedy – she lost her father and her best friend in close succession – intervened and she wasn’t able to complete those studies. Her plans, which at that time were aimed at studying abroad were scuttled.
In the end, that may have been a good thing, she said. She feels strongly tied to Cayman.
“When I go on vacation, I get really, really homesick,” Brown said.
Had she gone abroad to study, she thinks she probably would have been miserable. So instead, she enrolled in a computer applications programme at UCCI and earned her certificate in 2008.
“I passed with honours and was able to get a scholarship for my associate degree,” she said. “I just went on from there.”
Her associate degree in applied sciences came the following year. In the process of completing that programme, she said, she gained a passion for education.
A necessary part of that passion was a newfound love of reading, which she attributes to UCCI professor Livingston Smith. Any time she had a question, she said, he gave her something to read on the subject. He piqued her interest in social sciences and she learned some necessary skills along the way.
“I learned to write more concisely,” she said. “It made me better. My quality of writing and research, it prepared me when it came to my master’s.”
That degree, in public administration, wasn’t offered at UCCI. After researching a number of options, Brown found Walden University in Minnesota. Not only did it offer the master’s programme she was looking for, but she could take her post-graduate courses online, never having to leave Cayman.
She felt well prepared for the work that was thrown at her by Walden, particularly when it came to research. Researching subjects for her bachelor’s degree was often a challenge. Smaller colleges, such as UCCI, typically have fewer resources than larger institutions and Brown struggled sometimes to find what she needed.
“I would have to dig for research,” she said. “I remember trying to find books and articles for my bachelor’s dissertation.”
But it paid off. When she was able to tap into the resources of her American university, she said, it was almost too simple.
“You don’t have to look, it’s right there,” she said. “What I’d learned at UCCI made it easy to identify scholarly resources and know where the best resources were for certain topics.”
She completed her degree in August.
Prior to her current job, Brown spent time at the Ministry of Health with the Health Practice Commission. There, she was responsible for the regulation of health practitioners and health care facilities and for human clinical trial review, making sure such trials met the necessary protocols. She also worked on legislation legalizing the use of medical cannabis.
She moved on to become secretary for the Public Lands Commission, coordinating and issuing permits for outdoor events on public lands and ensuring beach access.
In her current position, she said, “I’m working to develop policies and programs for legislation. With all the education I’ve had, I can put that to use for my county and my people.
“To know you’re impacting the lives of people,” she added, “it’s a big thing. It’s a humbling thing as well.”
She discusses policy with a quiet fervor, clearly convinced that there is important work to be done in government. She has even been approached about running for public office.
“I’m waiting to see,” she said. “For now, I’m making as much change as I can from within the belly of the beast.”
And while that takes most of her time, she said she still would like to remain involved with UCCI, perhaps in a mentorship role.
“You get students who don’t think they can make it,” she said. “I didn’t think I could make it either. I know I wish there were times when I could have turned to someone like myself for support and advice.”
She also wants to impress upon potential students that UCCI has quality programmes.
“It’s just as good as going abroad,” she said. “There are a lot of opportunities there. Look where I am, and I didn’t take my feet off of home soil.”
UCCI is actively building an alumni network. If you are a graduate, become a member of the network at: ucci.edu.ky/alumni
You can study local and go far at UCCI. Registration for spring classes begins Oct. 27. Classes Start Jan. 10. For more information, visit: ucci.edu.ky/