WHAT is the number one goal of a new dean?

The Varsitarian pores over newly-appointed Michael Anthony Vasco of the Faculty of Arts and Letters (Artlets), Josefin de Alban Jr. of the Faculty of Engineering, and Cynthia Loza of the College of Fine Arts and design (CFAD) as they set the agenda for their respective colleges in their next three years of deanship.

Vasco, who was appointed last October, has one goal as dean: to make Artlets “the number one liberal arts school in the country,” he says.

He may be one of the youngest deans in the University at 37, but he has his 14-year experience as an administrator to back him up.

“I was just an ordinary faculty member then all of a sudden, they elevated me to the rank of a dean,” Vasco says.

To reach his goal, he focuses on the development of education in Artlets by rooting for excellent educators.

“A teacher of the liberal arts should be at the forefront in pushing the limits and frontiers of knowledge. There’s a need to improve faculty qualifications in the college,” he says.

Vasco’s top agenda is to have a 90-percent faculty with post-graduate degrees where 35 percent has Ph.D.s, and 55 percent with master’s degree.

“The teaching staff is encouraged to pursue post-graduate degrees that are directly related to the discipline that they actually teach. If you are teaching history, you must have an MA and Ph.D. in history,” he says.

Vasco also aims to revise the curricula of 10 majors in Artlets. From 200 units per degree, it will be reduced to between 174 and 180 units, including Physical Education and National Service Training Program.

After the addition of AB History and AB English Languages in the school year 2011-2012, Vasco aspires to add more majors like AB Development Studies and AB Humanities among the accreditation of level-one majors would also follow.

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Vasco taught at the College of Nursing at 20. The cum laude Philosophy graduate received the following year his Master of Arts in philosophy “Benemeritus” award, which is equivalent to magna cum laude.

In 1995, he became the college secretary of Nursing, making him the youngest academic official of UST then. The young achiever was also a summa cum laude for his doctorate in philosophy at 26. Vasco was the faculty secretary of the Graduate School for more than a decade, where he now holds the academic rank full professor 2, and in Artlets.

‘Approachable’ dean

Despite being in the faculty for more than 30 years, De Alban’s appointment may have come as a “breath of fresh air” for engineering students and faculty alike. De Alban bridges generation gap by using social networking sites like Facebook to connect with his students. The 52-year-old dean has more than 2,500 friends online, and counting.

“Students may not be sending too many messages, but the fact that they can have easier access to me is enough motivation for them,” De Alban says. “Respect should still be there but at the same time, communication lines are open.”

His mantra as the new dean is to make Engineering the center of excellence.

“The Faculty of Engineering is the oldest engineering school in the Philippines,” De Alban says. “It must be known as the center of excellence. We must live up to that, and not just go with years of experience—we must continue toward our goal for excellence.”

With this, he makes it a point to balance physical changes like laboratory and classroom improvement, and non-physical ones such as people’s outlook and interaction, in the faculty.

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De Alban had to flex his muscles and bones to support his education. He was a working student throughout his college life until he became the assistant to the department chair of civil engineering in his senior year.

“Today’s working scholars work only five to six hours a day. But during my time, you have to work 40 hours a week and you must have your own SSS (social security system),” De Alban says.

After graduation, he taught in the faculty until he became the department chair for more than 20 years.

However, De Alban took up law after being influenced by his father and siblings who are also lawyers. This resolve turned out to be a family affair when he and his siblings focused on real estate for three years. Students and professionals also consult him on the matter.

De Alban still stuck with engineering, and is currently finishing his doctorate in UST.

He also went outside the academe to practice as a project engineer in City Land in 1981 then flew to Saudi Arabia to work as a company planner.

“I wanted to work outside UST to practice engineering. But after a year, I came back because of my love in teaching” he says.

‘Accidental’ teacher

Loza eyes to improve the quality of learning, attend to the needs of faculty and staff, and to have the accreditation of CFAD during her term.

“I’d like to make the college’s system participative,” Loza says. “I want all our faculty members to do their part and be involved with the activities. It’s not good if everything comes from me, we need to be interrelated and connected.”

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Unlike Vasco and De Alban, Loza’s appointment came earlier in July last year. She says implementing change will require longer time.

“You can’t really implement so much in a year,” Loza says. “You have to do it step by step because all the aspects in managing and educational organization need time and effort.”

Loza admits to be tolerant, but knows certainly when to flex authority. However, she counts students’ opinions in making decisions.

The advertising alumna was a graphic artist for publications and television productions.

But it wasn’t until 1995 that Loza entered the world of teaching. She was endorsed to be a substitute teacher in the then College of Architecture and Fine Arts, and she accepted the job for experience.

“At first I wasn’t really planning to stay because I was only a substitute teacher. But later on, I became a regular faculty instructor,” she says.

This resolve encouraged Loza to pursue higher studies and felt the need to meet the qualifications to “make me worthy of teaching,” she says.

And worthy she is when Loza graduated summa cum laude in the Graduate School after finishing her master’s degree in Development Studies. She was also granted scholarship by the Cultural Heritage Center for Asia and the Pacific in the Deakin University at Melbourne, Australia.

In 2008, Loza was hailed magna cum laude for her doctorate, while she also simultaneously served as an assistant director of the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex, a college secretary, and a professor in CFAD. She also taught in the Graduate School. Ronalyn M. Umali

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