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Francisco Benitez on his inauguration as 92nd PWU President Meeting Room 4, PICC Monday, February 21, 2011 Chief Justice Corona, Commissioner Ricafort, Dr. Ruiz, Atty. Pascua, Bishop Bacani, Senator Rasul, Representatives of Educational Institutions, Distinguished Guests, PWU Board of Trustees, Faculty, Alumnae, Students, Friends and Family, my fellow travelers, I am deeply honored and humbled by your trust as I stand here as the 9th president of PWU in its 92nd year. The immensity of the task before me is daunting, but I do not stand alone. I do not stand alone, but on the shoulders of giants: Paz Marquez Benitez, Francisca Tirona Benitez, Felicing Tirona, Jose Abad Santos, Conrado Benitez, Belen Enrile Gutierrez, Leticia De Guzman, Rosa Santos Munda, Helena Z Benitez, Jose Conrado Benitez, Amelou Benitez Reyes, Freddie Benitez Reyes, Maritza Benitez Canto and Noel Benitez; Doreen Gamboa, Lucrecia Kasilag, Luz Belardo, Lucrecia Urtula, Sylvia Montes, Maria Kalaw Katigbak, Estefania Aldaba-Lim (the list goes on)—and the many other exemplary mentors, distinguished teachers and prominent alumnae who have walked down PWU’s halls. These women, and quite a few men, formed the University’s community of ideas and ideals, and have built the institutional foundations that shall see us to our 100th year and beyond. As the Pamana scroll reminds us, it is in the spirit of crusade that one enters into the PWU family. It is a calling, a vocation, to strengthen the citizenship of our Republic in every possible way. I thank the Board of Trustees, particularly our Tita Helen, for the singular invitation to join such an august company of crusaders. But do not let the language of crusade elicit images of war and discord. Let us think of a pilgrimage and a journey. After a long sojourn overseas, throughout my schooling in the UK and the US, I have finally come home, to return to Family, and now accept the difficult and challenging task of building and sustaining the university. I have not made this pilgrimage alone. I thank my maternal grandmother, Remedios Bantug, who through all the years has never wavered in her support. I thank as well my late paternal grandmother Lulu Benitez and my mother Betty Bantug—without them I would not be who I am today. I thank my brother, Albee Benitez, and my father, Joly Benitez, whose council and camaraderie mean more than they can imagine. I thank too those who have made this long journey with me with fortitude and without complaint: Charlotte, my wife of 16 years, and my children, Chiara, Nuria and Ariana. They have willingly traversed the ocean many times, accompanying me as I negotiated first the demands of a professional academic career, and now the claims of country and family. To you my witnesses, family, friends and the many other fellow travelers I cannot all mention here, my most profound gratitude. Today we gather to install, invest and inaugurate. We gather to remember and renew our fundamental beliefs in the necessity and integrity of our educational mission. An
academic ceremony like this one is an apt reminder that we never stand nor journey alone. We wear our academic garbs not simply for protocol, but for proclaiming our clear recognition of our debts and obligations to our mentors and to our teachers, to those who have come before us and have certified our degrees, our knowledge and our skills. It is upon their lives and efforts, their sacrifices and their devotion, their achievements and their successes, that we owe our present and build our future. As a member of the last generation of Benitez’s with any personal memories of the University’s founders, the oath taken today confirms the university’s enduring spirit and reaffirms the university’s adherence to the founders’ mission of superior education and active service in nation formation. We here are all fellow travelers and equal heirs to the founders’ noble enterprise. For almost one hundred years, the university has deliberately and consciously dedicated itself to Philippine nation-building. Let us recall that PWU was a “house of learning founded by teachers who were at the same time citizens with a social consciousness and missionary zeal.” Establishing a school under the aegis of empire, theirs was the fundamental belief that education cultivated the capacities for the participative citizenship required of a strong democratic and independent republic. They believed our democracy is only as strong as our civic life, only as virtuous as our citizenry. Emboldened by the Jones Law that finally promised Philippine Independence, the founding mothers sought to prepare women for professional and civic life before women’s suffrage had even been passed. With its particular focus on women and gender empowerment, PWU has always sought to bridge the structural and cultural gaps between work and home, the professions and the family, the academy and the community, in the interest of public life. As the conditions of empire and nation changed, so too did the university’s response to the persistent national need for participative citizenship. Despite formal independence for colonies, today’s imperial globalization carries many of the same challenges as yesterday’s colonial imperialism—large sectors of the world still wallow in poverty—a condition of “unfreedom” that Nobel Laureate for economics Amartya Sen has termed the global injustice of capacity deprivation. At the same time, globalization has created distinct conditions for the thickening of older imperial networks. These networks have further facilitated the flow of information, knowledge, goods, labor and capital; and global competition has shifted economic centers from the west to Asia. Coupled with the economic transformations of globalization, contemporary revolutions in information and communication technology have intensified these flows, and they have transformed and are still transforming educational institutions and practices. Education has always offered the capacity for individual social mobility and national social development. But the educational landscape continues to change. As internet connection speeds increase, more and more universities worldwide are offering online education and byte-sized modularized certifications. The emergence of many state universities and colleges here and the increase in transnational programs from foreign educational
institutions regionally and online has provided further choices for our population. Our labor market is global, and our workplace multi-locational. Transnational families are now commonplace for Filipinos. The horizon of our citizenry is simultaneously cosmopolitan and local. As an educational institution devoted to cultivating and empowering the holistic capacities of individuals, and to advancing civic engagement and global justice, how should PWU respond to such conditions given its constraints? This, my fellow travelers, is the challenge and opportunity the institution continues to face. Former President Jose Conrado Benitez made two basic predictions in 1993: (1) that technological advances shall make information accessible and instantaneously available, requiring a transformation in the way we view, practice and disseminate education; and (2) that the 21st Century shall be the Pacific Century. Under his leadership, PWU established initiatives to address itself to these changing conditions. PWU spearheaded the ladderization and modularization of its curriculum to adapt it to a university without borders. PWU instigated the creation of continuing education centers that offered certificates for vocational education. The PWU pioneering School of Distance Education has been offering a master’s in education online and in mixed mode since 90s. Immediate past president Amelou Reyes built on these insights. She initiated external foreign student practicum programs as well as expanded DUAL training and TESDA accredited courses. She established PWU’s present virtual environment system for online education and increased mixed mode graduate courses in addition to the master’s in education. Under her leadership, PWU was deputized by CHED for the innovative Expanded Tertiary Equivalency and Accreditation Programs (ETEAP) to further respond to the needs of working professionals. She brought the university to its current IQUAME certification as a teaching university and CHED’s autonomous status. These creative approaches to educational challenges initiated by the two most immediate past presidents must be further developed and strengthened. We must build on these initiatives that are parts of our legacy. They must go hand-in-hand with our orientation towards further internationalization to acknowledge the globalized nature of our teaching, and to conduct research that addresses the new global realities. Technological development has increased the need for social networking skills and collaborative work. Few individuals will be masters of a totality of knowledge and while each discipline is unique, asks discrete questions and surveys particular fields, we must find ways to increase their collaboration for few problems will be solved through a single discipline. While we raise additional support for our institutional efforts, I propose to you, the PWU community, that we build on our own comprehensive approach to social development. The university, founded on the vision and mission of creating involved and committed citizens, has always purposely matched its programs and thrusts to national development needs. PWU programs such as GEMS (Gearing Education to Maximum Service) in the 60s, and the ASCEND (Accelerating Service in Community Education for National Development) program in the 80s renewed this focus of the university as
collaborator to the government’s development plans. The University Community Outreach Program (UNICORP), continues to champion a comprehensive approach to rural-urban community development. It organizes the university’s various fields and disciplines into relevant components of a holistic approach to sustainable social development and community mobilization. However, I propose that our community engagement must have as its horizon not only the government’s development programs but have a global and transnational scope. I suggest the university becomes an active partner with government and non-government agencies to realize the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals, particularly as they pertain to advocacies it has promoted from the beginning, such as gender equality and the well-being of children and mothers in the interest of stronger families. Guided by UNICORP’s multidisciplinary approach to social and community development, let us increase opportunities for students and faculty to work in interdisciplinary groups directed to solve specific social issues and research problems. Further, our research must build on our core strength in community development and mobilization. Let us re-imagine community involvement not as outreach but as engagement and, re-conceive community engagement not just as technology transfer but as collaborative research in addressing global injustices. Globalization and the information revolution mean the world is already in our classrooms and in our communities. Let us bring our communities into our classrooms and our classroom experiences into the community. It must be a two-way exchange where our theoretical frameworks are constantly re-evaluated and transformed in conjunction with the communities we serve as part of our constituencies. Furthermore, in an information-rich milieu, students are collaborators in the learning process, often providing information or data that the teacher may lack. We cannot assume, however, that students can process the information they gather. Information overload creates a greater need for evaluative judgment and critical thinking. JASMS’ unique pedagogical philosophy: individualized, student-oriented and inquiry- and projectbased education needs to permeate the manner in which we teach tertiary education. We should make these old advocacies and methodologies a core and central research agenda for all programs. Doing so would clarify and promote the particular contributions to international research that PWU’s thrusts have had all along. Even more importantly, it shall provide a clear thrust for the cultivation of “public reason” as the enhancement of information accessibility and of the possibilities for interactive discussions. The capacity for public reason is a foundational component of democracy and civic life, and is increasingly itself a global concern as the Millenium Development Goals manifest. The conditions predicted in 1993 have now accelerated. Apple’s iTunes U now offers lectures by leading academics from prestigious universities for free online! Wikipedia and Google have provided an explosion of information. Such technologies have made possible and made necessary ever more diverse and innovative educational delivery
systems. It has not changed, however, the core significance of a liberal arts education’s emphasis on self-reflexivity, broad cosmopolitan orientation and critical thinking. The challenges of globalization and internationalization require a strong sense of who we are and our commitments to the development of self, family and community while having a strong cross-cultural and international awareness of issues of global justice. These transformations and the increase in the ubiquity of mediating technology have in fact made the arts and humanities even more crucial than ever before. I propose to the PWU family, faculty, alumnae and friends that we once again review our foundation and general education course offerings in the School of Arts and Sciences to ensure that it provides a cross-cultural and international perspective while keeping faith with our own heritage and history. Let us strengthen our orientations towards arts and culture, and facilitate the professionalization of cultural work. Let us explore the establishment of programs in Asian Studies, Gender Studies, Media Studies, Political Communication, Human Development and Family Studies, International Studies, International Diplomacy, Environmental Security, Health Security and Food Security, among others. These programs must work synergistically with each other. They must build on our past traditions of social development and be made responsive to the requirements of industry. At core, these offerings must adhere to specific competencies and skills, to cultivate social and civic engagement and to build capacities for work and life. Let us invigorate our centers and institutes such as the Institute of Family Life and challenge them to provide the institutional home for a research agenda and trajectory for every PWU program and school. They shall work with the newly combined office of Research, Publication and Faculty Development who shall be tasked to coordinate research support. We must internationalize not only our curriculum, but also our student body. We will increase and activate our international linkages, both for faculty and student exchange. Our current efforts to provide transnational education will have to intensify. Our courses must be recognized and accredited by international agencies, providing international certification, from basic to tertiary education. In the rush to provide alternative modalities to campus education, we must not forget to reorganize and revitalize campus life, particularly for undergraduate students who are under our care, to create a more unified and shared educational experience geared towards internationalization. Let us once again methodically encourage exchange with the diplomatic community and deliberately expand our recruitment of foreign and ESL students. Let us build on our history of providing education to our Islamic brethren, and enlarge our efforts to invite into our family our Asian neighbors. Through Tita Helen’s abiding influence, environmentalism and human ecology have been as much a hallmark of PWU as gender advocacy and social development. We envision our campuses to be green and sustainable urban spaces, even as we continue to plan for the expansion and improvement of our centers of learning outside Metro Manila.
Finally, let us squarely address our co-educational nature. Let what was once termed “the woman question” be clearly understood as a human question, as a social question. Let every student of PWU know, regardless of their sex, that gender equality and empowerment is a common good and a matter of social justice. Only in this way shall we finally bridge the barriers between work and family that arrogates the domestic to the sphere of women and impedes gender equality. A co-educational PWU affirms this not only as an enduring advocacy, but as an institutional foundation. My fellow travelers, as you can see there is much work to be done, and I do not deny that there are numerous constraints. Despite the current difficulties we face, let us remember what is possible when imagination is combined with common purpose and, as the Legacy scroll hails us to do, we live out our concept of bayanihan. Let us remember what is possible when people work together cooperatively, united in their crusade for a better life and a better world. As we in bayanihan fashion bear the burden of the institution on our shoulders, let it not be said that we faltered. My fellow travelers, let it be said that in this time of transformation, we refused to let our journey end. Let us stay true to our founder’s legacy to “contribute our share toward the attainment of a democratic Republic enjoying liberty and justice for its people. It is a legacy that this institution is proud to inherit from its founders, to pass on to the unfailing youth, from generation to generation.” To the PWU alumnae, faculty and administrators who have shown unwavering faith, and upon whose sacrifice, dedication and tenacity the university survives and prevails, I do not deny many are the challenges still before us, but know this: these challenges will be met and we shall rise. We shall rise and rise together, transformed and ready to build the scaffolding for another hundred years. Together, we shall build on the strong foundations of our educational mission as the university moves towards its centennial and beyond. In this, I am most deeply grateful to know that I do not stand alone.
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