AS UST nears its 400th anniversary, its plan to put up extension campuses both in and out of the country are taking firmer form and shape.

UST Rector Fr. Tamerlane Lana O.P. said that while the extension plans in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, General Santos City (Gen-San) and Sri Lanka are still undergoing feasibility studies, “their visions are starting to materialize and each has a definite direction.”

According to him, the feasibility studies would hopefully be finished this semester.

General Santos: Research-oriented

Although there is no short-term plan to immediately put up an extension campus in Gen-San, according to Lana, the blueprint of the initial structure to be put up there is already finished.

Dr. Ernesto Gonzales, director of the Social Research Center and head of the special committee overseeing the extension plan, said an international research center will initially be put up in an 80-hectare coconut plantation in the Saranggani Bay area, which would eventually transform into a University.

“The modern concept of the University now is a ‘researching University’,” Gonzales said. “It’s a University doing research to align its efforts to the needs of society by teaching what it has researched.”

The Varsitarian reported last year that the Gen-San project also hopes to build 1,000 crude coconut oil-producing plants to be operated by 500 village cooperatives. From the raw materials produced, oil, soap, detergent and other similar products will be manufactured and sold to generate an estimated income of over $670 million in the first year of operation. But, according to Gonzales, there is more than coconuts in store for this project.

“General Santos city is the tuna capital of Asia,” Gonzales said. “It is a place where the post-harvest technology of its tuna meets the requirement of the meticulous standards of the markets in the industrial world.”

Gonzales explained that UST will try to enhance the modern fishery infrastructure of the city. Developing the tuna export industry, one of the country’s top exports, would benefit not only the people in the city, but the county as well.

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“If that happens, then it would fulfill one of the visions of this extension plan, which is to transfer the wealth of research experiences that we have accumulated through the years to other sectors,” Gonzales said.

He also said that the center also aims to provide helpful information through research, to other sectors such as the government, business and education sectors. It also plans to concentrate on the improvement of science and technology, economics, ecology and sustainable development through research projects.

Gonzales said that while the project mainly focuses on the commercial, economic, and scientific aspects, UST does not forget its evangelical role.

“These perspectives will eventually be complemented by our ‘vehicles’ of evangelization and faith such as our Center for Contextualized Theology and Ethics,” Gonzales said. (See sidebar)

Although there is no information yet regarding the courses that would be offered in the extension campus, Lana noted the possibility of offering courses that would strengthen the natural resources in the area such as agriculture and horticulture.

Although there are doubts on the feasibility of the extension project, Gonzales expressed confidence that it would push through and get the nod of the financial institutions helping his committee.

“Once our financial partners see the beauty of this plan, I’m very sure they would agree to help us,” Gonzales said. “This extension campus is a combination of research, education, evangelization and community development so how could they (financial partners) go wrong?”

Sri Lanka: Uniting faiths

While UST General Santos’ general inclination is on economical development, UST Sri Lanka will mainly focus on improving the quality of tertiary education while providing a milieu for interfaith dialogue since the country has a diverse mix of religious orientations, according to Graduate School Dean Dr. Lilian Sison, head of the committee in charge of the project. (See sidebar)

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The project is in accordance with request of the Archbishop of Colombo in Sri Lanka to the Philippine Dominican Order to put up a Catholic University there.

“Not all students in the extension University will be Christians or Catholics. There will be Buddhists and Moslems but the campus itself would be located in a Christian community,” Sison said.

According to Lana, the Archbishop of Colombo has offered UST a 5 hectare lot containing buildings previously used as a training center for teachers. The committee has already sent a draft memorandum of agreement to the Archbishop and is waiting for his response.

“UST is only one of the stake holders of the project and not a sole stakeholder. It’s also partially owned by the Dominican Order of the Philippines, so we cannot make immediate decisions,” Sison said.

According to her, the initial courses that would be offered on Education, Arts, Languages, Computers and Information Technology with English as the medium of instruction.

If the project pushes through, Sison said UST would be the first private University in Sri Lanka to offer full-degree courses, as the other universities are state-owned.

“The initial costs will probably range from about P10 to P15 million but the University will be self-sufficient since it will look to local hires to cut costs,” Sison said.

Lana added that the campus would strengthen the presence of the Dominican Order as it would provide a ground for its religious missions.

Sta. Rosa: Medically inclined

As UST further strengthens its evangelization and research missions, it is also constantly improving on one of its strengths—Medicine. And, according to Lana, the 30-hectare extension campus in Sta. Rosa, Laguna will initially offer courses related to the sciences, particularly Medicine.

Also according to him, a hospital will also rise over a five-hectare land donated to UST by business tycoon Lucio Tan.

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The structure will start as a basic health hospital, and would slowly become a full-fledged hospital where it can provide training programs for interns, medical technologists, nurses, clerks and the like.

Also, Lana said that the hospital would allow doctors to practice and enhance their respective specializations.

“One of the project’s visions is to be a ‘full-fledged teaching hospital’ that would further enhance our vast knowledge on Medicine and the like, while continuing to help sick people,” Lana said.

All of the extension projects have estimated funds that would be essential in their success. Sourcing these funds, however, is a different story.

For the Gen-San extension plan, Gonzales is putting all of the project’s plans into ‘blueprint proposals’, and sending them to international agencies, such as the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, through the Asian Development Bank (ADB), for funding.

“The blueprint proposals contain the plan not just to put up another UST, but rather to combine the elements of research, science, social and economical development, and evangelization, and place the University in a strategic position where it can educate, help and develop people,” Gonzales said. “It can also make us known internationally.”

Meanwhile, Lana said the Sta. Rosa extension campus will need the procurement of a loan through the ADB, and the help of international financial institutions. UST can also enter into a partnership with other universities to raise the necessary funds.

Lana said that despite some minor financial setbacks, the extension campuses are doing very well. He also vowed that by 2011, there would already be at least minor operational structures on both campuses.

“This is all part of the UST dream for 2011. An internationally recognized University aimed to give the best quality of education while providing means for evangelization, social and economic development, moral uplifting, and understanding other religions through dialogues,” Lana said.

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