The research journey: Becoming what one could fully be

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TERESITATANHUECO-TUMAPONTHERE are times I feel we, in higher education, as it were, are birthing practices to keep up with what we should at this time consider a routine function in academe. I refer to research (besides instruction and community engagement) as one of the threefold function in the academe, or, as in chartered universities, a fourth one — the function of production. In advanced countries of Europe such as the United Kingdom, research is central to a university’s existence — hence, research was much more developed than the art of communicating new knowledge particularly to its internal publics. When higher education was liberalized in the UK, more students came knocking at university doors. Knowledge had to be communicated in a manner that students understood.

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While strict Oxbridge admission examinations did not cease, there were admission mechanisms for the bigger mass of students seeking university education. Polytechnics were given leave to bestow degrees either in partnership with long standing universities or on their own. (cf the Robbins report) UK universities required a Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP) for university teaching. Centers for quality teaching and learning in universities trained academics in improving teaching approaches. Formal institutional quality assurance was a must.

The production function refers to the tangible research outcomes such as those by our Seven Outstanding Young Scientists for 2015, named by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), the country’s highest scientific advisory body. Among their inventions and discoveries are those that provide us technology in combatting disease of aqua and terrestrial life, thus improving farm and fishpond productivity.

<http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/710131/young-scientists-and-new-academics-named> There are also the products of common sense, creativity and experience-based. Much information from the web attests to Filipino versatility. To name several, the moon buggy — the ride used in July 1968 by the astronauts as “man first set foot” on the moon. Other inventions patented are the banana catsup and a process converting plastic bags into diesel. There’s Challenge 21, an amazing “strategy board game that combines the difficulties of scrabble, bingo, tictactoe, checkers and even basketball”— helps keep family togetherness.

<http://www.filipiknow.net/filipino-inventions/> Given all these, and much more from the web, academics like us will realize how much opportunities we have to stimulate, inspire, nurture and foster the hidden genius among our students whose “produce” would not only make life comfortable for the many of our brethren but provide much sought after knowledge to make our planet livable, prepare us for the onslaught of climate change and other global uncertainties.

Related to our giving opportunities to inspire is the practice of setting up regular research colloquia in graduate and undergraduate levels where all degrees require specific attempts at scientific or creative genius. The more meaningful and valuable outcome of such capstones are what students gain as the change in them — as persons that have become. What sends the truthful message to us of going through the research process is articulated in the meaty message of Liceo’s vice-president for academics Dr. Ma. Florecilla C. Cinches during last week’s regular research colloquium when she said: “. . . the paper you produce is just a secondary, but the hard evidence of the person you have become . . ..”

A seasoned researcher herself, she asked the research presenters “Did you ever realize that as you went through writing a paper (thesis/dissertation or project paper, faculty research) something happens to your person. Not only the discovery/creation of knowledge, that’s a given, but we become what we were not at the start of the study . . . more patient . . . more persevering, more objective … more confident. . ..” Continuing, she stressed “mentors, project paper advisers/professors, I give you the same message . . . you have an advantage. Other than becoming more patient . . . persevering to journey with the students, we expand our horizons . . . From the literature and studies that our students dish out to us.” However, she clarified that for a mentor to gain such qualities for oneself is conditional. This will depend on how mentors/advisers “respond to students’ needs.” “If we positively re-join our students in their journey . . . we draw from our students the best that they can be especially by encouraging posture that both mentor and advisee are learning from each other. . .. ”

Pointing out what research mentors gain, she explained, “In the process, we become more patient . . . more persevering, more objective . . . more confident but more intellectually humble . . . and more grateful . . . to people around us and to our God.” Concluding her message, she invited the audience in that colloquium – graduate students and the academics to “listen to the output . . . the evidence of what these writers-authors have become.”

On retiring after what I felt was a gainful day, I realized how we academics as teachers, regardless of specialty, have a wide lane to journey with our students to their own promised land — their own dreams and what they could fully be. Unconsciously exhibited by folks what they conceive of a teacher when asked about their offspring’s job, one almost always gets this answer: “My son is an engineer (or business graduate) but nagteach lang siya.” (he merely teaches.) Are you an engineer? A business graduate? Whatever your degree is and you are with academe — fulltime or part time — you are a teacher. Journey with your students!

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Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, PhD, one of the Philippines’ most accomplished educators and institutional management experts, held top academic positions at Xavier University (the Ateneo de Cagayan) before heading chartered institutions. She studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Great Britain and Japan. An internationalization consultant on call, she is copy editor of the Liceo journals, and professorial lecturer at the Graduate Studies of Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro City). Awards include a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the Commission on Higher Education. (Email: ttumapon@liceo.edu.ph)

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2 Comments

  1. Catsup! Board Games! Seriously that’s science?

    They snubbed the scientific achievement of young Aisa Mijeno who so impressed Obama during his RP visit last 2015 that the US president recommended her to Alibaba multi-billionare Jack Ma. Her innovation is the most proven and technically feasible low cost means to bring light to areas neglected by development and without electrification. Yet has NAST honored her with scientific merit, no. Her exclusion is a disincentive to true innovators and scientist of worth in this country.

    NAST selection of awardees is fraudulent, silly and the reason S&T has not progressed in the country since the Marcos era.

    Now nuclear energy, that’s real science!

    • Aisa Mijeno is the Co-Founder & CEO of SALt (Sustainable Alternative Lighting). She developed an electrochemical LED lamp that is activated by saline solution and can charge low-power mobile devices. Her mission and advocacy is to address the light inequality gap and end the use of combustion based light sources (kerosene lamps and candles) for the 16 Million Filipinos and 1.4 Billion people across the world.

      Some of the awards won by SALt:

      Kotra Award – Startup Nations Summit 2014, South Korea
      People’s Choice Award – Startup Nations Summit 2014, South Korea
      ASEAN SME Sustainability Commitment – ACSSA 2015, Philippines
      Innovation for Impact – ADB x Ideaspace 2015, Philippines
      Asia Entrepreneurship Award 2015, Japan
      National Research Foundation TechVenture 2015, Singapore
      Product Startup of the Year (Top 3) – RBSA 2015, Malaysia
      Runner-Up – Startup Open 2015, USA