The University of the Virgin Islands Center for Excellence in Leadership and Learning (UVI CELL) and the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) have been awarded a five-year grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), through the 2021 University Center Economic Development Program competition. As co-applicants, UVI CELL and UPR will receive $260,000 per year over five years. The EDA is providing a total of $7.4 million in grants to 25 colleges and universities in 17 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to administer programs, leverage assets, promote innovation and strengthen regional economies. 

Grant funding will allow the launch of the UVI CELL EDA University Center, which will be one of many national programs aimed at building strong regional economies and supporting community-led economic development. The University Center will work with entrepreneurs and assist growing businesses through one-on-one technical assistance, educational workshops and courses, and mentoring opportunities.   

“We are thankful to the EDA for awarding this grant that will allow UVI CELL to transform lives,” said Dr. Suzanne Darrow-Magras, UVI CELL director. “This year marks the 20th anniversary of UVI CELL’s service to the community. As we celebrate, it is fitting that this year we will expand our workforce development programs to meet the needs of entrepreneurs and small businesses.”   

With this grant, participants will also have the opportunity to connect with our OSHA Consultation program, Safety in Paradise, and receive free, confidential safety and health workplace assessments. 

“We are elated to receive this grant as it will allow UVI to leverage resources that can bolster small business growth and economic development throughout the territory,” said Dr. Oluwafemi Banjoko, senior contract and grants specialist. “This is a tremendous opportunity for both UVI and the territory to support our small businesses by providing expertise, applied research, and technical assistance,” continued Dr. Banjoko.   

The EDA University Center program is one of many EDA programs aimed at building strong regional economies and supporting community-led economic development. EDA also was allocated $3 billion in supplemental funding under the American Rescue Plan to assist communities nationwide in their efforts to build back better by accelerating economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks.  

For more information, about EDA’s American Rescue Plan programs, visit For more information about the UVI CELL EDA University Center, contact UVI CELL at (340) 693-1100.    

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration ( 

The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation's regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA invests in communities and supports regional collaboration to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth. 

About UVI CELL ( 

UVI CELL is a division of the University of the Virgin Islands that focuses on developing programs that prepare individuals for high-demand careers, professional development, and licensure. The Center is also responsible for delivering services that aid in planning, economic development, and policy analysis that lead to continuous improvement.   For more information on UVI CELL, visit or call (340) 693-1100.