We begin 2018 with an augmented budget from the national government.The current administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte made way for VSU's biggest budget to date, amounting to 930 million pesos for this year. This is a big jump from our last year's budget. With this, we will surely be able to fulfill even better our mandate of providing quality instruction and doing world class research for countryside development.

VSU also welcomes the appointment of Dr. J. Prospero E. De Vera III as the OIC-Chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). Being Chair of the VSU Board of Regents for more than a year, Dr. De Vera has been instrumental in providing long-term strategic directions for our University's overall growth and development. We hope that with Dr. De Vera's experience in public administration and governance, he can usher in new opportunities for CHED as we conclude the K-12 transition program.

True to VSU's new vision of becoming a globally competitive university for science, technology, and environmental conservation, we start this year right by embarking on our first international accreditation for two of our undergraduate degree programs — Agricultural Engineering and Civil Engineering. We do this by taking on the challenge of the Philippine Technological Council - Accreditation and Certification Board for Engineering and Technology (PTC-ACBET) to be the first engineering programs in the Visayas to be subjected to such evaluation. PTC-ACBET is the sole accreditation body in the country recognized by the Washington Accord. Later this year, we will also explore other international accreditation bodies like the ASEAN University Network (AUN) to include other strong degree programs of VSU for internationalization.

While we move towards global recognition, we will still strongly pursue national accreditation through the Accrediting Agency for Chartered Colleges and Universities in the Philippines (AACCUP). In fact, eight of our undergraduate programs are now gearing up for level 3 phase 2 accreditation this February.

Allow me also to share to you some of our other priority plans and proposed milestone projects for 2018. First is on strengthening instruction being one of the core mandates of VSU. We will strive to achieve this by increasing percentage passing rate in licensure examinations by crafting an outcomes-based undergraduate curriculum, ensure the employability of our graduate students through a more industry-matched graduate curriculum, send more faculty overseas for advanced degrees, and establish more academic collaborations to attract more foreign students to enroll in VSU.

Our leadership in research and extension sets VSU apart from other universities and we know this by heart. We will continue to harness our overall research productivity by upgrading our research laboratories to state-of-the-art standards, increase publications and patents of VSU faculty, prioritize the funding of cutting-edge research breakthroughs, accelerate intellectual property rights protection of VSU generated products and technologies, engage in impact assessment studies and customize university research and development agenda to make it responsive to the needs of our direct stakeholders.

In infrastructure development, I promise to finally complete ongoing constructions of old and new library buildings, the annex building of the College of Engineering (COE), the ADE building, biodiversity museum, biotechnology building, graduate student's dormitory and the headquarters of the Regional Climate Change Research Center (RRCRC). We are going to allocate parking areas for vehicles, motorcycles, and bicycles around the campus. We will repair the Administration Building to upgrade some of its offices and make it more customer-friendly to our clients. We will also pursue the second phase of the Innovation Complex which shall be the new hub for research breakthroughs for our university. The University Gymnatorium will also be expanded starting this year to increase its current capacity fit for big academic gatherings and other social events.

I am pursuing the provision of Free WiFi for our students to be placed in strategic locations within the campus by finishing first the campus-wide installation of fiber network optic cables. We also need to fix our wire and cabling systems to keep them safe during natural disasters. I have also appropriated an amount for the purchase of a brand new school bus that can accommodate more passengers and a garbage truck to improve waste collection.

Finally, I am excited to announce VSU's hosting of the Asian Association of Agricultural Colleges and Universities (AAACU) in September. This is the largest gathering of agricultural universities and colleges in Asia and the Pacific. This will be a homecoming event for AAACU in VSU as we are a founding member. Since we last hosted this in the 1980s, I believe it is time we bring it back to VSU.

These are just some of the exciting things we will push for as we start this year right. I hope that all of you will be with me as we embrace the opportunities and challenges of 2018. God bless us all in this exciting journey towards greatness. Together, let us dare to excel!

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