Academic Convocation Address

Our Vice President for Instruction, Dr. Beatriz S. Belonias, our Vice President for Research and Extension, Dr. Othello B. Capuno, our Vice President for Admin and Finance, Dr. Remberto A. Patindol, Prof. Daniel M. Tudtud, Jr., Vice President for Planning, Resource Generation and External Affairs as well as the University and Board Secretary, Hon. Alan Gulles, Student Regent, Hon. Ernesto Bulayog, Faculty Regent, the Deans of the Main and External Campuses, the Directors of the Administrative Offices and Research Centers, the Department and Office Heads, members of the Administrative and Academic Council, our Professor Emeritus, our Students, our foreign students, our other partners, dear faculty and staff, retirees, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon again!

Exactly two years ago, I was appointed by the Board of Regents as your Chief Steward of this university. Ever since, I have always been aware that the tasks involved are tremendous and challenging and many reforms in higher education are forthcoming. For the past two years, I am grateful to all of you for all your support, appreciation and cooperation. I am proud to say that what we have accomplished in the past two years is an achievement aptly shared by all of us. Last year, the tag line of my first University Convocation Address was “GO BEYOND”. This was to pose a challenge to all of us to do a little more to what we used to do. I believe that each of us has unique talents that can be harnessed to help our institution grow. I am delighted to see the result of this challenge because for the past twelve months, we have indeed made significant achievements. First and foremost, I would like to congratulate everyone and the whole VSU family for coming up with a 10-year Strategic Plan that was approved by the Board of Regents in our meeting last month. This plan sets the course of where VSU is heading and how the University positions itself in the next decade, particularly at a time when we are approaching our Centennial Celebration. We should all live by our core values of Relevance, Integrity, Truth and Excellence to guide us in our respective responsibilities for the realization of this plan. We have expanded our Vision from a premier university in the Visayas into a globally competitive university of science, technology and environmental conservation. We believe that this vision captures the strength of our institution and the scope of our work. We do not only aim to excel in the Visayas Region; rather we want to show our presence beyond our borders. Our presence and our accomplishments should be known not only among SUCs but also among other private HEIs throughout the country. Yes, we are known in top universities abroad where we have vibrant relationships and collaboration but unfortunately, we are not highly visible in our own country. We have to strive more. The Direction of the University is captured into seven Strategic Goals. These are: World Class Education, Globally Competitive Science and Technology, Empowered Communities, Sustainable Resource Generation, Client-Centered Governance, Versatile Spaces for Innovation and Strong Alumni Engagement. Key initiatives aligned with these goals have been started already and more will be forthcoming to put more focus towards achieving these goals.

Now, allow me to share the highlights of our accomplishments for the past 12 months. With humility, I am proud to tell you that we have been awarded by AACCUP a Level III Institutional Accreditation this year, the first and only one in the country today. In fact, we even almost reached Level IV, an indicator that such level is not very far from our reach. This is on top of our achievement as a Center of Excellence in Agriculture, Agricultural Engineering and Center of Development in Development Communication. In terms of degree programs, we have passed Level II in eight of our programs and will soon be evaluated for Level III status. These are the programs in Biology, Food Science and Technology, Development Communication, Computer Science, Chemistry, Forestry, Agricultural Engineering and Veterinary Medicine. In general, most of our programs have been accredited by AACCUP and even our new programs have passed the Preliminary Survey Visits. In the external campuses, many of the programs have passed Level I and some programs were just recently evaluated for Level II accreditation. On top of these, we are awaiting for the final results of our SUC levelling by CHED. In our submission at the Regional Level, for your information, we have qualified for the Level V, the highest level prescribed in the instrument of CHED. We have likewise made preparations for the ISO 2015 accreditation which hopefully can be done next year. In addition, we will submit our university to the Institutional Sustainability Assessment by CHED comes February or March of 2018.

In infrastructure, we have almost completed the construction of the Biotechnology Building and have started constructing the Regional Climate Change Research and Development Center. We are trying our best to complete the construction for the expansion of the College of Management and Economics or they say College of Education building and hopefully with some additional funds from the Senate from our mandatory reserve, we will be able to make the building functional next year. We have already awarded to the winning bidder the construction of the state of the art three-storey Innovation Complex building in the research corridor of the university. Likewise, notice of awards will also be given to the winning bidder for the Renovations of VSU Manila Office and the VSU Cebu Office. In the external campuses, we have completed the construction of four gymnasiums; one for each campus. There are also on-going constructions of two-storey academic buildings in each of the external campuses to address the increasing number of students next year. We are thankful or grateful to KOICA, the Korean International Cooperating Agency which donated a new academic and dormitory complex in VSU-Tolosa furnished with office and dormitory fixtures which is scheduled to be completed early next year.

As I promised last year, we will have 4 units of the transport loop system operational in time for Christmas lighting ceremony on December 1. The maiden rides will be free for one-month operation for the whole month of December, however, starting January we will impose a very minimal fare, a sort of a season pass to pay for the fuel and the driver of the said vehicles. We hope that these services will answer the needs of our students, faculty and staff in easing their long walk around the campus.

Soon, we will have a new ambulance in the university which we were able to get from our Capital Outlay. If you recall, last year we had acquired a new firetruck which is now in operation.
Another good news, the Fiber Optic Backbone Network is now up to all offices of university through the Administration Office, the Engineering Building and the Research Complex. So with a renewed subscription from Globe, we can increase our bandwidth from 15mbps to 60mbps. This is a dedicated line so hopefully we can expect a much better internet service. This facility can also connect to our Biometrics, CCTV cameras and free wifi. The free wifi will be provided by the Senate next year in the tune of 5 million pesos for one year.

Now let’s go to our faculty development program. In our faculty development program for last year, we have awarded a total of 136 graduate scholarship grants to VSU faculty and administrative staff under the CHED’s K-12 transition program. This is part of our massive personnel development program to enable the faculty to pursue their graduate education, so that they can better carry out the programs of the university in the future. A number of our faculty and staff will soon be retiring in the next three to five years, thus the need to produce people with the required expertise is one of our top priorities.
For the first time, our Graduate School and Open University, has a total number of 455 graduate students. This is the first time in our graduate education program. This number of graduate students is small compared to other big universities but this is a welcome development considering that we are positioning ourselves to become a research university. Subject to the lifting of the moratorium by CHED and subsequent BOR approval, we will be offering next year PhD programs in Soil Science, PhD in Agronomy, as well as Masters of Science in Biology and Chemistry. We have also adopted a new name for the Master of Science major in Development Communication to Master of Science in Development Communication.

I am also requesting our department heads to make the necessary preparations for applications for Centers of Development or Centers of Excellence because these recognitions do not add up only to our prestige but are also vital in attracting students, funding and international collaborations.

I am also happy to inform you that this year, we have forged relationships through Memorandums of Understanding with four big universities in Asia and in Europe. We have Masaryk University and the Czech University of Life Sciences of the Czech Republic. We have Kasetsart University and Khon Kaen University in Thailand just for the past 10 months. Likewise we strengthened our collaborations with Mendel University, also of the Czech Republic, and Tokyo University of Science and Technology. We are also discussing possible tie-up with Manchester University of the United Kingdom and also Nagoya Institute of Technology and Nagoya University.
Opportunities for graduate work are also available in these universities in the fields of Precision Agriculture, Food Packaging, Volcanology, Fisheries Science and others through the program of CHED and the Campus France program and also the VSU fellowship and CHED fellowship Programs.

Of course, we are grateful to ERASMUS MUNDUS & EXPERTS PROGRAM for supporting our faculty for their graduate degrees. I am also humbled to be elected as the President of the Asian Association of Agricultural Colleges and Universities (AAACU) last year and the Vice President for the Visayas for the Philippine Association for State Colleges and Universities (PASUC).
And now, the good news to our students. This year in August, we have started the implementation of the free tuition program for all undergraduate students. This time, the miscellaneous and other fees are excluded. However, next year, as mandated by RA 10931, tuition fees plus miscellaneous fees will also be free. This means that the government is subsidizing your tuition fees and miscellaneous fees. So indeed, our students should be thankful because of this opportunity. Parents will now be concerned mostly on providing for their living expenses which still constitute a big chunk of the budget. College scholars shall continue to receive their stipend on top of their free tuition.

Regarding the performance of our students in Licensure Examinations, I am proud to inform you that this year, we produced topnotchers in the following degree programs: 10th placer of the Agricultural Engineering Licensure Exam, Engr. Francis Diocton; 4th placer for the Geodetic Engineering Licensure Exam, Engr. James Ancheta, and 9th placer for the Geodetic Engineering Licensure Exam, Engr. Gerald Mandia.
Now, let us go to our achievements in Research and Extension. A total of 122 ongoing R&D projects and 30 ongoing extension projects are conducted this year. Of these, 18 projects are funded by our foreign partners while others are locally and nationally funded. It is worthwhile to mention the funds given by the national government for the Technology Business Incubator Project funded by PCAARRD, the Microbial Inoculant Project funded by DA-Biotech, Marine Biodiversity Project funded by CHED, the Regional Coconut-based R&D and Nursery Establishment Program funded by CHED, and the Expansion of the National Greening program funded by DENR along with the Reinvigorating the Coconut Industry through Somatic Embryogenesis funded by PCAARRD among others. In total, we have more than 200 million pesos. We have sustained our relationship or engagement with ACIAR, SEARCA, the Yale University, Naturelife International of Germany among others. In the later part of 2016, we have produced 42 research articles and in 2017, we have published 15 new research papers in refereed journals.

I would like to recognize also the prime movers of our engagement with the community as we have modestly served not only our immediate vicinity but also in the entire region and country. We continued our engagement with some NGOs in their rehabilitation programs to support the victims of Typhoon Yolanda. We have provided livelihood trainings for beneficiaries of the National Greening Program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. We turned over maps and data from the VSU-PhilLIDAR project to different LGUs of the region. We have been very active in gender and development mainstreaming not only in the region but also at our national program.

I also would like to recognize the recipients of the Regional and National Awards of the following individuals or groups given by the Civil Service Commission. To the Philrootcrops Team as Regional Winner-Group Category of the Presidential Lingkod Bayan, to Dr. Lourdes B. Cano, Presidential Lingkod Bayan Award Regional Winner-Individual Category; Dr. Erlinda Vasquez, National Winner of the Presidential Lingkod Bayan and the men and women of VICAARP led by Dr. Othello B. Capuno, for the National Pag-asa Award. Equal recognition also goes to Dr. Jose L. Bacusmo, former President, for the 2017 Leads Agri Award given by the Philippine Association for the Advancement of Science and Technology.

In addition to the University’s 10-year Strategic Plan, we have also approved and printed the following manuals. The VSU Code, that for a long time we have not actually passed to the BOR, the VSU Library Manual, the VSU Quality Manual, the VSU Research Manual, the VSU Employee Manual, the VSU Administrative Manual, the Faculty Manual and Graduate Student Handbook and just recently, the VSU Extension Manual.
These accomplishments and achievements cannot of course be realized without the resources from the government. We are indeed very fortunate that in the past two years, our budget has steadily increased to support our programs and initiatives. In 2016, the budget of the university was around 600 million pesos and this increased in 2017 to 730 million pesos. In 2018, the budget of the university ballooned to 930 million pesos. This is an increase of about 34% from our 2017 budget which is the highest in the region, almost twice that of other universities in the region and one of the highest budgeted state university in the country. We are thankful that we were given a higher budget for capital outlay, more than double than that our previous year because this is the perfect time for realizing and sustaining our programs to become globally competitive university of science, technology and environmental conservation.

So, what are the tasks ahead of us?
We are positioning ourselves to become a globally competitive university because we believe that it defines our strength, our character and our aspirations. We want to produce graduates that can compete globally. We want our faculty and researchers to produce outputs that are comparable with those of their peers and colleagues. As Chairman de Vera puts it, our Chair-designate of CHED, we have to claim that we exert leadership in the programs that we are good at. We want our community to be empowered. We want our client to be satisfied and delighted in their engagement with us. To put it simply, it is our dream to create an environment in the university where the faculty and staff are contented and successful in their respective responsibilities, where the students are given access and assured of employment after graduation and have achieved their full potentials as individuals and where the neighboring communities are empowered to use the technologies we have generated to improve their lives.

I would like to invite everyone to take a look at our 10-year strategic plan which will be posted in our website. The plan highlights our strategic goals, strategies and measurable outputs/metrics to guide us through. Now, let me share with you some specifics of our immediate and long-term plans for the future. As I said, starting next year, for our students, we will implement the free tuition and miscellaneous fees program starting in the first semester, August 2018. For those already enrolled in the university, you will no longer pay the said fees; however, you will only be free within the duration of your enrolled course plus one year grace period. So if your degree program is a 4-year degree program, the government is so generous that you are allowed to overstay for one year and still for free. However, requested subjects are not free. Meaning if you request a subject that is not a regular offering, the student has to pay the said tuition and miscellaneous fees.

The first batch of graduates of the Grade 12 will enter the university next year. As such, we are also expecting a number of freshmen seeking admission to the university. So inasmuch as we cannot accommodate all of these prospective entrants due to the limitations of school facilities and faculty, we will be instituting an admission or qualifying examination to ensure that we get the best quality of students that are prepared to enter the university. Our students are not exempted to take this exam. So they should also take this exam. However, as suggested by the BOR, part of this policy is to provide equity among our poor students, to give them a chance to enter our university, thus ensuring wider access.

We will implement the Outcomes-Based Education in your respective Curriculum. What this means is that you will be learning specific skills in a particular course. So, I am instructing the VP for Instruction, the Deans and the Department Heads to ensure that courses under the new CMO are taught as OBEdized courses.

We will provide more opportunities for student-exchange and OJT and internship programs in industry or partner universities.

We are also looking at the possibilities of offering additional graduate degree programs including PhD by research.

For VSU faculty, we will allocate more funds for faculty development to enhance teaching and research capabilities.

We will likewise enable and require regular faculty members, especially those with higher academic ranks to conduct research and extension projects and publish papers in peer-reviewed journals.

The administration also has a daunting task of completing the unfinished infrastructures in the campus. You will observe that there are still buildings that are not yet completed. We hope to complete the expansion of the CME/College of Education building before the start of the 1st semester. We hope to complete the renovation of the old library and the completion of the other rooms in the new library, the renovation of the old COA office for the Office of the Graduate School and lecture rooms and the completion of the Animal Disease and Diagnostic Laboratory building.

Next year, we will have a new university bus to provide safer transport to our faculty, staff and students for academic-related activities, and an additional garbage truck to assure maintenance of sanitation in the university premises. We will begin the expansion of the Gymnatorium building and the Repair and renovation of the administration building.

We will continue our efforts for accreditation and certification of programs by national and international accrediting bodies including the application of COD and COE.
Our research agenda will be focused on addressing issues of global importance such as climate change, renewable energy, poverty alleviation, gender and development, health and peace.
We continue to forge enduring partnerships among our stakeholders.

We open doors for academic collaboration to other universities here and abroad that are mutually beneficial and sustainable. We establish a management information support system for an effective and efficient client-centered governance. And we continue to involve our alumni in the crafting and design of university program and projects, university promotion and fund sourcing.

Last year, the title of my convocation address was “GO BEYOND”. Today, as I celebrate my two years in office, I challenge you to “DARE TO EXCEL.” Let me tell you a story which I took from the internet, which has inspired and challenged me and perhaps will do the same to some of you. I want you to listen to this story. You will get a very good moral lesson out of this.

Once there was a king who received two falcons. One falcon was flying majestically, soaring high in the sky. But the other falcon had not moved from the branch since the day it had arrived. The king summoned its court to remedy the situation but to no avail. Still, the other falcon remained unmoved. So the king ordered his men to get a farmer. To cut the story short, the next day, the king was thrilled to see the falcon soaring high above. Upon seeing this, he ordered his men to get the farmer who did it. He asked the farmer. How did you make the bird fly? The farmer said. It was very easy, Your Highness. I simply cut the branch where the bird was sitting. The bird had no option but to fly.

The moral lesson of the story is: we are all made to fly-to realize our incredible potential as human beings. But at times, we sit on our branches, clinging to the things that are familiar to us. We conform to the familiar, to the comfortable. So for the most part, our lives lack excitement, thrill and fulfilment. Let us learn to destroy the branch of fear we cling to and free ourselves to the glory of flight.
Let us DARE TO EXCEL and develop our full potentials for the good of our institution and our country. Let us not squabble over things that will create only division and dislike. After all, we are only temporary in this world and our services is part of our journey called life.

Daghang salamat!