You probably know her voice, if not her face as well.
Shanda Gallego has been on the air at Radio Cayman, at various times for nearly 20 years.
These days, she is both on the radio and, periodically, on the Cayman Islands Government’s television service.
She is also an alumna of the University College of the Cayman Islands and a new member of the UCCI Alumni Network. She says the school was essential in her education and career path.
“A lot of people are surprised that I went to UCCI,” Gallego said. “I’m like, ‘Of course. I would do it again.’”
She began her UCCI career not long after starting as an intern at Radio Cayman. The internship came out of a two-week introductory program she tapped into as a high school student. Those two weeks convinced her she had found her calling. Gallego got the unique opportunity to work part time as an on-air personality with a six-hour Sunday afternoon Christian-themed show.
“That was an opportunity to learn how to talk to an audience, how to craft music according to themes and genres such as classical, traditional, contemporary,” she said.
“I wanted to be the next Oprah,” she said. “But I knew I needed to go further in my education to make that happen.”
She knew she would have to go off island to get the upper-level courses needed to complete a bachelor’s degree in the broadcasting field. But she also knew she could get her start at UCCI and she was happy to have it as a resource.
“UCCI was exactly what I needed,” she said. “I would call it the foundation. I needed a little exposure to the campus experience and how to navigate the college life.”
She finished an associate degree in business administration in 2009 and then transferred to the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. Her UCCI experience made for a smooth transition, she said.
“If I had gone straight to Windsor, it would have been a culture shock,” she said. “Instead, it was perfect.”
Gallego earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, Media, and Film -- focusing on radio news broadcasting and journalism – with a minor in sociology. She graduated with honours.
After returning from school in 2012, Gallego volunteered with overseas mission work and did part-time work at her local church conference radio station. In 2013, Gallego started working at Radio Cayman full time as a journalist.
Over the years, she has broadened her presence at the station. She now serves in a number of roles.
“In a nutshell,” she said, “on a daily basis, I research, gather and compile sports and news stories. Plan and implement follow–up procedures where necessary. Coordinate and write sports and news stories, making sure that they are factual, concise and interesting. Provide live coverage of sports and other current events.
On the radio, she is a News and Sports Reporter and Anchor. She assists GIS/CIGTV as a news anchor. And she is also the writer and producer of Cayman Up Close, a weekly news feature. which highlights artists, musicians and newsmakers in and around the Cayman Islands.
Recently, Gallego noticed a promotion for the UCCI Alumni Network, a fledgling organization that launched in August and now has nearly 200 members.
“I did not hesitate when I saw the invitation,” she said. “I wanted not only to be part of a network that celebrates UCCI’s accomplishments, but to reunite with those individuals who made a difference in my life.”
She said the dedication of the instructors she had at the university has always impressed her.
“They inspired me with certain quotes and certain principles of learning” she said. “It’s stayed with me to this day. Ansel Tempral (who taught accounting) stands out. He took his time and extended himself to make sure you understood the course. When I was crossing the stage at graduation, he gave me a thumbs up. I’ll never forget it.”
Gallego said math instructor Tracey Hargrave showed her she could do calculus when she never thought she would be able to. Paula-Grace Anderson also made an impact on her during her time at UCCI, she said, imparting knowledge and wisdom that went beyond the classroom.
Such instructors, she said, “cultivated my passion for excelling.”
She believes the alumni network could be a good vehicle for mentoring young people in school in order to help them achieve their academic goals. It also provides a good way to promote UCCI, she said.
“I want to encourage more people to use UCCI as a platform for success,” she said.
For many, Gallego said, studying overseas is an expense they can’t manage.
“But the opportunity to study at home is very good,” she said. With the breadth of programs UCCI offers, she added, many students can complete their studies in Cayman. Those students can feel the same satisfaction she does.
“It fills you with pride to know you came from an institution that prides itself on excellence,” Gallego said. “It’s a beautiful feeling. I hope we continue to uphold that standard. Not just now but in the future.”