Andronekia Clarke and her architectural cohort made history at the University of The Bahamas (UB) as the first class to graduate with a Bachelor of Architecture. Clarke, 37, continued the history-making trend earning valedictorian honors as well.
During her virtual commencement address, Clarke, who started the program in 2018, said earning the degree was not an easy journey for her as a full-time student, mother, wife and career woman.
“My journey has been one of sacrifice, hard work, determination, and success. I wrote on my vision board at the beginning of each semester to help me remain focused on what I had to achieve,” said Clarke.
From the time she earned her associate’s degree in 2006, she said she knew she wanted to earn a bachelor’s and get licensed in architecture, but life got in the way.
“I worked as soon as I came out of college, and that set me back.”
But she clung to the hope that the then-College of The Bahamas (COB) would introduce the bachelor’s program. When they did, she said she had to get in.
“Fall 2018 I got in, started out part-time for the first semester. I started out with just two classes … did some summer classes and whatever they had available.”
The mother of six-year-old Azaria said she had to learn to juggle.
“That was so difficult – because at the same time she was having classes, I was having classes. It was a lot. Having to transition to online learning along with my daughter, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, proved challenging. However, I refused to let this obstacle deter me from accomplishing my goals.”
Clarke said the feeling she got having earned her degree is indescribable. Her bachelor’s, she said, was just one of many goals she wanted to accomplish.
“I have a vision board that I got after my first semester, and everything I wrote on my board I put a tick to it after I got it. I put valedictorian and was honored with the governor general’s award. I put down architecture award and graduated with distinction, and the mathematics, physics and technology school award for academic excellence.”
During her commencement address, she encouraged her fellow graduates to always write down their vision and make it plain.
“Having faith in what you want to see happen can drive you to overcome all the obstacles that would deter you from your destiny. No matter how many distractions, criticisms, or heartaches you may encounter, trust that your faith will give you the power that you need to catapult you to unimaginable heights,” she said.
“To all my sisters in the STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] and STEAM [science, technology, engineering, arts and math] fields, let us continue to break down barriers, create opportunities and present ourselves as positive role models for all women – young and old. We must help them realize that it only takes a leap of faith to begin the pursuit of their dreams.”
Clarke’s lone disappointment – she did not get to walk across the stage, which she would have done with a cousin who was also among the 2021 graduation ceremony on May 27.
“There is a feeling you get when you walk across the stage, but even though we did not walk across the stage, we had family and friends celebrating with us at home.
Returning to the formal classroom setting 15 years after earning her first degree, Clarke admits, took some doing as far as getting back into the habit of studying, and that frame of mind. She also had to learn to balance her work life, home life, school life and helping her daughter, so that she didn’t succumb under the pressure of it all.
While it was tough, she said the end goal was worth it.
Her advice to anyone who may find themselves contemplating a return to the classroom after years away is to “take a deep breath, jump in with both feet, and trust that you will achieve all that you imagined, and so much more”.
She’s taking a break to re-acclimate with not going to bed before midnight, but intends a return to the books. Her next goal is to earn a master’s degree. She is contemplating studying project management and real estate or business.
Ernal McKenzie, Breanne Grant, Alexis Lightbourne, Shabernice Brown, Kavon Knowles, Shanea Adderley, and Derek Wong also comprised the history-making Bachelor’s in Architecture cohort with Clarke.
UB’s Bachelor of Architecture program was first offered in November 2016, the same year that UB was inaugurated. The program had been 10 to 15 years in the making.
The Bachelor of Architecture is a five-year degree program with special focus on sustainability and the built environment. The program prepares students to address issues of ecotourism, green architecture and sustainable development, and provides a balanced approach to the art and science of architectural design and construction.
Students gain an awareness of the impact of climate change as a result of the built environment and conduct research that fosters and informs sustainable community development.
In the program’s fifth year, students spend a semester abroad at an accredited architecture program, where they complete upper level architecture courses. They explore issues of sustainability and design where the approach, techniques and communication of architectural ideas require a different methodology, due to the environment and climate of the area/region in which the institution is located. Students are also exposed to differing codes and regulations, as they impact the area/region in relationship to the built environment, as well as to issues of sustainability and design.