The Most Honorable Portia Simpson Miller, Jamaica’s Prime Minister and esteemed Union alumna (B.A. 1997) will mark Union Institute & University’s 50th anniversary at a special celebration in Miami, Florida. Click here to purchase tickets. For more information contact Angela Bolt Byles (305) 653-7141 x2108.
Prime Minister Simpson Miller is currently in her second term. Before first taking office in 2006, her illustrious career included serving as Minister of Labor, Welfare and Sport; Minister of Tourism and Sport; and Minister of Local Government, Community Development and Sport. She was recently inducted into the prestigious International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame, joining the ranks of hall-of-famers including Rosa Parks, Nancy Pelosi, and Margaret Thatcher. Prime Minister Simpson Miller earned a Bachelor of Arts from Union Institute & University in 1997.
The Prime Minister is truly a global ambassador who exemplifies the university’s mission, vision, and values in her words and deeds. She, like so many Union alumni and students have pursued their education against all odds in order to transform lives and communities. “Anything I can do to make life better for the poor or the working poor, or wherever there is injustice, I will do,” she has said. “People. That is what influences me. It doesn’t matter what class, color, religion, or creed,” she continues. “I am the voice of the voiceless in the corridors of power.”
Her many achievements include:
• Mrs. Simpson Miller was the leading architect of Jamaica’s Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development, the Honourable Prime Minister has been tireless in promoting and strengthening urban renewal and community development, leading to fundamental reforms in local government.
• As Minister of Labour, Welfare and Sport, she presided over the significant expansion of Jamaica’s Overseas Work Programme.
• National Insurance Scheme was transformed into a major component of the government’s social protection system.
• She was also instrumental in establishing a Labour Chair in the University of the West Indies, Department of Government.
• The Municipality of Portmore in the parish of Saint Catherine was established while she had Ministerial oversight of the Local Government Portfolio.
As both minister and as prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller has received several local and international awards and accolades:
• In March 2007, she was awarded the International Olympic Committee’s World Women and Sport Trophy for outstanding dedication to women in Jamaican sports – both athletes and administrators.
• In 2009 she received the Distinguished Award for her dedication and commitment to urban renewal and community development from the Mayor, City of Miami.
• She also received the Bureau of Women’s Affairs Award for outstanding contribution to the advancement of women’s affairs in Jamaica.
Simpson Miller chose to study at Union Institute & University to broaden her knowledge base and solidify her academic credentials, which became necessary to advance in a political career that began while she was still in high school.
“It did not matter that I had served my apprenticeship in the intensive workshop of politics and government and had been schooled in the university of life,” she told graduates at Union Institute & University’s 2001 Florida Commencement, where she received the university’s honorary doctorate for her exemplary efforts to improve the quality of life for all Jamaican citizens. “It did not matter that I was routinely called upon to represent my country at conferences all over the world. The absence of a college degree remained an issue in my life.”
From 1994-1997, Mrs. Simpson Miller attended seminars and periodically met with faculty at Union Institute & University’s Florida Academic Center in North Miami Beach as she completed her bachelor of arts degree, while simultaneously attending to her parliamentary duties. When attending classes, Mrs. Simpson Miller was happy to be just another student, something that would have been impossible for her as a public figure in Jamaica.
Not only did she want to ensure that people would never be able to question her intellectual ability, Mrs. Simpson Miller was also motivated to complete her degree to prove something to her constituents, especially to the youth of Jamaica. “Anything you make up your mind to do, you can achieve,” she said. “When you have the power that comes with knowledge, you can use it for the advancement of people’s lives. I will never forget my experiences at Union Institute & University because they assist me in continuing to make a difference.” Despite her demanding schedule and extensive responsibilities throughout the years since her graduation, she has maintained her friendship with the faculty and staff at the Florida Center.