AS THE highest official of the oldest university in Asia, Fr. Tamerlane Lana, O.P., leads the march towards the quadricentennary of the University’s foundation.

At the start of his term in 1998, Fr. Lana, tagged as the millennial rector, vowed to continue the programs of his predecessor, Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P. He pledged to improve the University’s academic standing by focusing on four issues: faculty development, research invigoration, community development, and building a stronger image of UST as a Christian community.

Fr. Lana said he would goad the University to strive for excellence. In this, he sought to foster a paradigm of education that was “formative” and “integrative”, and a management style that was “collaborative”.

Was Fr. Lana able to achieve the targets he set for his rectorship on his first term?

Now as then, according to Fr. Jose Antonio Aureada, O.P., vice-rector for academic affairs, the administration has four “priority areas of concern” toward 2011 — a competent and competitive faculty force, Level III accreditation or having several disciplines declared as Centers of Excellence (COE), quality graduates, and facility upgrade.

But Fr. Aureada said improving the faculty profile remains problematic. When Fr. Lana started his term, there were 319 faculty members with Master’s (MA) degrees and 375 with doctorate (Ph.D.) degrees out of some 1,500 teachers. By the time he ended his first term last school year, there were 372 MA’s and 391 Ph.D.’s. But the numbers seemed to be padded since they included lawyers and medical doctors.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) considers the Bachelor of Laws degree as an MA and Doctor of Medicine degree as a Ph.D. But they don’t count for the Philippine Assoiation of Colleges and Universities Commission on Accreditation (PACUCOA). PACUCOA only recognizes MA’s and Ph.D.’s in the actual disciplines. In fact, as a result of this classification by PACUCOA, the Faculty of Arts and Letters is in danger of losing its accreditation (see related article, page 4).

Fr. Lana seemed conscious of this since in the faculty figures he presented during his inaugural address last July 26, he did not include medical doctors, Dominicans, and professors teaching exclusively in the Graduate School. He lamented that “only 42 percent” of the faculty have at least Master’s degrees.

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To improve the faculty profile, the faculty members were sent to different local and international seminars and conferences. In some instances, the professors were paper presenters and speakers.

In addition, Fr. Lana sustained and even enhanced programs to fast-track the faculty members’ acquisition of higher degrees. Research grants were granted to teachers doing their theses and dissertations.

In-house training programs were also organized to enhance the capability of the faculty force. To further make these programs effective, visiting professors and renowned lecturers were invited.

Exchange programs were boosted such as those with Lund University, Sweden in food engineering, and with University of South Florida in instructional technology. Study grants from the Universidad Internacional in Santander, Spain were also given.

Salaries were also increased, as shown by the signing of the revised collective bargaining agreement (CBA) last December 2001. The CBA also rationalized and regulated the terms of tenure and faculty membership.

“All policies and implementing guidelines are fully set,” Fr. Aureada said, noting that the faculty will now have their “career path” fully cleared in UST.

Research and publication

Corollary to faculty profile, Fr. Lana sought a better research and publication index for the faculty. He has reiterated this for his second term.

“We intend to make a shift from a purely teaching university to a teaching, research source-oriented university and integrate more the Christian and ethical values in our country,” Fr. Lana said during the opening rites of the 2001-2002 school-year.

In a survey of the defunct Asiaweek magazine, UST ended up last among the top Philippine universities. This result was due to the low research and publication output of the University.

To alleviate the conditions, faculty members have been encouraged to write textbooks.

“Textbook writing (in UST) for many, many years was dead,” said Fr. Aureada.

In the lead-up to 2011, the UST Publishing House has targeted 40 titles to be published every year. The project started last year, so that UST hopes to come up with 400 titles in the University’s quadricentennary.

Scientific research is expected to be given a big boost in the next four years with the completion of the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex (TARC).

The multi-million complex brings under one roof the research facilities of the University dealing in education and the natural and social sciences. Conceptualized during the rectorship of Fr. Dela Rosa, the TARC is expected to enhance the research climate in the University.

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“(The TARC) is the greatest achievement for Fr. Lana. It is a dream come true,” College of Science Dean Dr. Gloria Bernas said.

Bright spots

Despite a problematic faculty profile and a less than ideal research environment, UST, under Fr. Lana’s first term, continued to reap honors in the humanities, business, and science and technology. After the University of the Philippines, UST has the highest number of Centers of Excellence (COE) and Centers of Development (COD), according to CHED records (see chart).

It was during Fr. Lana’s term that the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery received its Level IV status and the College of Science got its Level III status. Enjoying Level II status are the College of Commerce, Faculty of Pharmacy, Faculty of Arts and Letters, College of Nursing, Faculty of Engineering, College of Education, College of Rehabilitation Sciences (formerly the Institute of Physical Therapy) and the Graduate School.

As a result of UST’s sustained academic performance, CHED granted it the full autonomy last year. This means UST has now the power to formulate its own curricula and establish new courses without CHED’s consent. The grant of autonomy was the highlight of Fr. Lana’s first term.

With the grant of autonomy, UST is realigning and updating its curricula while planning to offer new courses and programs.

Fr. Lana’s term also saw the birth of six new programs in the Graduate School. These programs were Ph.D. in Theology, M.A. Theology major in Social and Pastoral Communication, M.A. in Clinical Audiology, M.A. in Education, M.A. in Health Professions Education and Master’s of Science in Physical Therapy.

The University also established new undergraduate courses such as Computer Science, Information Technology, and Applied Physics in the College of Science, and Sports Therapy in the College of Rehabilitation Science.

In addition, the Information Management program of the College of Commerce was transferred to the College of Science.

The Faculty of Arts and Letters and the College of Education spearheaded a double major program, AB-BSE Social Science. The former is introducing next year AB Literature-Communication Arts and AB Literature-Journalism.

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On the other hand, the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery introduced the problem-based learning program. The College of Nursing has recently adopted the method.

Meanwhile, the Faculty of Pharmacy modified its Biochemistry, Botany, Medical Technology internship and Pharmacy apprenticeship programs.

It was also during Fr. Lana’s term that saw a change in the make-up of some colleges. The College of Architecture and Fine Arts was split into two distinct colleges — the College of Architecture and the College of Fine Arts and Design. The Institute of Physical Therapy was renamed the College of Rehabilitation Sciences. Meanwhile, the Institute of Physical Education and Athletic was created to sustain and consolidate the University’s strength in collegiate athletics.

Battle cry

When he was reinstalled last month, Fr. Lana announced the battle cry of his second term — a commitment to UST’s mission and vision, translated into action. He made it clear that committed action will be required of both the individual Thomasian and of the UST academic community.

Fr. Lana cited the revised vision-mission of the University, which he said, is geared towards “a high level of competence in our academic field, tempered by a heart that exudes compassion for the increasing number of the poor and the needy in the country, and translated into a committed service for our faith community and our nation that is saddled by enormous social and economic problems.”

The first thing Fr. Lana plans to do is to establish the University as the center of contextual theology in Asia, so that is could contribute more to the promotion of peace and the understanding between different cultures and religions.

Also in the works is the building of satellite campuses in the future, Fr. Lana said.

The expanded presence means UST will be a pervasive geographical and academic presence.

With the new physical structures and facilities, the Rector urges the Thomasians to be more productive in academics, research and community service. He said Thomasians — be they students, administrators, faculty members, employees, or alumni — must work hand in hand to achieve the goals of the University. Billy Joe I. Allardo with reports from Maria Pacita C. Joson

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