Responding to the mandates officially spelled out in Republic Act 9500 or the new UP System Charter of 2008, which elects UP to be a research and graduate university, among other roles, the UP Los Baños Graduate School convened a faculty conference to plot the path of the school to the future.
The conference titled “Responding to the Challenges of a Research and Graduate University” was held on February 15 and 16, 2015 at the Tagaytay International Convention Center. It was attended by around 260 participants consisting of junior and senior graduate faculty members, committee chairs of degree-granting units, college deans, institute directors, department chairs, and heads of UP campuses.
The first day of the event featured the keynote address of President Alfredo Pascual and plenary presentations of Vice President for Academic Affairs Gisela Concepcion, Vice President for Public Affairs J. Prospero de Vera III, UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan, Department of Science and Technology-National Science Consortium Chair and National Academy of Science and Technology Academician Fabian Dayrit, and USAID Science and Technology, Research and Innovation for Development Chief of Party David Hall.
According to Pascual, the number of UP’s graduate programs, which stands at around 350, distinguishes UP from other Philippine universities. As for UPLB, it continues to be an outstanding achiever in terms of scientific research output and production of postgraduate degree holders who have held international positions, affirming UP as “shaping minds that shape nations,” Pascual said.
“It is time for us to step up and do more,” he added and explained further the rationale of internationalization, and said UP had prepared early for ASEAN integration.
He said that internationalization and UP’s mandate as global university tie up with its other mandates of being a research and graduate university. “Our graduate students form the bulk of our research. . . . Research flourishes through international partnerships,” Pascual said.
During the open forum, Pascual spoke of his ideal of a 50-50 graduate-undergraduate student population in UP. Currently, graduate students constitute just 30 percent.
Concepcion spoke on the rationale and benefits of internationalization to the University and related it to the University’s research and development “suprastructure and infrastructure.”
She stressed that internationalization can be viewed as a means for UP to enhance its capability to serve the nation and the people. That’s why students must not be sent to just any laboratory abroad. Concepcion called for the establishment of linkages first, then choosing projects that will serve Philippine interests and promote inclusive growth.
De Vera pushed for collaborative programs with “hubs of knowledge” and top universities around the world, not just ASEAN universities. He stressed the importance of collaborating with Philippine higher education institutions and helping the country’s state universities and colleges in ASEAN integration.
De Vera underscored the need to factor in public service in University activities to show that UP matters in the life of the nation. But public service activities must also be looked at in terms of value-added benefits to UP, and being strategic or giving “the best bang for the buck.”
Tan used the framework of Behavioral Economics, as featured in the World Bank 2015 Human Development Report, to argue for interdisciplinary and inter-campus teaching and research. There are animal spirits governing human behavior, he said; and in the academic setting, this has led to territoriality which stifles the growth of students.
USAID Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for Development Chief of Party David Hall gave a talk on innovation and endorsed the “disruptive”, as opposed to merely the “incremental” kind.
“We need a graduate system that is well-tuned to the central feature of contemporary life: continuous change,” Dayrit said. He called for the development of a PhD ecosystem, where active research teams and mentorship are foremost, as opposed to individual PhDs going it alone.
Day two of the conference consisted of plenary discussions on the readiness of UP for “inter-CU off-campus and international interdisciplinary graduate program offerings,” with the keynote address delivered by Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs and Office of International Linkages Director Rhodora Azanza. UP Manila Chancellor Carmencita Padilla, UPLB Chancellor Fernando Sanchez, UP Visayas Chancellor Rommel Espinosa, UP Cebu Dean Liza Corro, and Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture Ma. Cristeta Cuaresma were the discussants.
Parallel sessions were held: to review the UPLB graduate faculty and graduate mentoring assistance program; to find ways to enhance the quality of its off-campus graduate programs; to study the proposed Master of Teaching and straight BS-MS Economics programs vis-a-vis K-12, as well as the proposed international program in biodiversity management; to assess the readiness of the UPLB graduate program for ASEAN University Network Quality Assurance; and, to study proposed mechanisms for joint graduate programs with partner institutions abroad.
The UPLB graduate school is led by Dean Jose Camacho Jr.
Article by Jo. Florendo B. Lontoc, photos by Abraham Arboleda