2019 Student Commentary winner named

  • Vernajh E. Pinder is Henson Honors Program student

    Friday, April 19, 2019
    Vernajh E. Pinder

    Vernajh E. Pinder will deliver the student commentary on behalf of the Class of 2019 during the University of Maryland Eastern Shore's spring graduation ceremony May 24. 

    A hospitality and tourism management major from Nassau, Bahamas, Pinder is a member of the Richard A. Henson Honors Program and a broad spectrum of campus organizations, including the Phi Kappa Phi honor society.  His long-term goal is to be a hands-on owner of a hotel and restaurant, where he says he would ensure his recipe ideas like curry dishes get executed. 

    Pinder was among nine seniors who auditioned before a four-judge panel for the honor of representing classmates on stage during commencement, a tradition at UMES that dates at least to the early 20th century.  The fourth of six siblings, he will be the first in his immediate family to receive a college degree. 

    “I'm not sure it's sunk in yet,” Pinder said 30 minutes after being notified he will give a speech he said he was motivated to write “to end on a positive note.” 

    “We made it through,” he said. “It wasn't an easy road.” 

    Dr. Ernest P. Boger, chairman of UMES' Hospitality and Tourism Management Department, met Pinder five years ago when Boger was judging an international high school hospitality competition in Florida. 

    “I immediately recognized a raw talent for leadership and scholarship that would be able to flourish at UMES,” Boger said. 

    Pinder's team won that competition, earning him a full-ride scholarship that led him to UMES as his college choice.

    The Leaning Tower of Pinder?

    “My journey in hospitality started as a kid,” Pinder said.  “I used to go into the kitchen with my grandmother and mother and help them prepare meals. It was then, I think, that I knew … I wanted to be a world renowned chef.” 

    Pinder has accepted a job offer at the Hyatt Regency (Chesapeake Bay) in Cambridge, Md., where he will be a banquet events supervisor. 

    Since coming to America in 2016 to enroll at UMES, he's only had one opportunity to visit home, although he does spend some free time with an aunt who lives in Florida. 

    Pinder was among 21 UMES students who visited Italy this past March for a work-study and cultural exchange experience during spring break. 

    “My goal on every trip is to evaluate the hospitality experience.  I want to taste the foods, see the sights and experience the quality of service at various lodging accommodations,” Pinder said. 

    The Italy trip “opened up my eyes to how culturally diverse different parts of the world are and how everything isn't really the same,” he said.  “It pushed me on a path towards increased self-growth and professional development as a global leader in the hospitality and tourism industry.” 

    Henson Honors Program graduates must complete and present a senior-year capstone project.  Pinder is using his Italy experience as motivation to create what he calls a recipe book focused on Italian foods, herbs and spices. 

    As for his time at UMES, Pinder said he initially experienced “culture shock” relocating from the Caribbean to the Delmarva Peninsula. 

    “I got over it pretty quickly, though, by just getting involved in campus life,” he said.  “I've enjoyed every moment.” 

    Other UMES seniors who auditioned to deliver the student commentary were: Alexa Brady, Morgan Branch, Marcus Burrell, Joshua Dacres, Keith Garner, Jr., Ashelle Henry, Trinity Mathis and Keona Smith.