The lone summa cum laude graduate of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) this year is a BS Agriculture student, who underscored the role of agriculturists in seeking ways to ensure food security in his valedictory message during the 45th UPLB Commencement Exercises.
Arnel B. Villancio Jr. said farmers, not agriculturists, feed the world, but said that "the responsibility of agriculturists is to continuously find ways for the world to feed itself."
Director Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. of the UPLB-based Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) affirmed this, noting that agriculture has evolved from the old concept of ox-and-plow farming to a dynamic field that employs modern technologies and business practices, and is one of the most important sectors in the economy. Among the UPLB graduates were 27 of the 50 master's degree and PhD scholars of SEARCA who obtained their graduate degrees in various specialized fields of agriculture and related disciplines.
The 23 other SEARCA scholars completed their graduate programs at universities in Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
Now in its 50th year, SEARCA carries out its mandate to build the capacities of Southeast Asian individuals and institutions through inclusive and sustainable agriculture and rural development. SEARCA is hosted by the Philippine government on the campus of UPLB.
The 23 other SEARCA scholars completed their graduate programs at overseas study posts, namely: Tokyo University of Agriculture; Universiti Putra Malaysia; Universitas Gadjah Mada and Institut Pertanian Bogor, both in Indonesia; and Kasetsart University, Chiang Mai University and Khon Kaen University, all in Thailand.
The degree programs of all 50 newly graduated SEARCA scholars were in the various specialized fields of agriculture- and related disciplines. These include agriculture, agronomy, plant breeding, animal science, horticulture, entomology, plant pathology, soil science, agricultural systems management, food, science and technology, agricultural economics, agricultural engineering, forestry, rural-development management, rural sociology, extension education, environmental science, natural-resource conservation and information technology for natural-resources management.
Out of the 35 masters in science and 15 PhD graduates, 25 were supported by the joint collaboration with the International Development Centre of Canada, while six were supported by the German Academic Exchange Service and one by the University of California-Tokyo Nodai joint scholarship.
During a testimonial program, in which SEARCA honored its graduating scholars, Dr. Saguiguit enjoined the scholars to put their knowledge and skills to good use for the benefit of their respective families, home institutions and countries.
Saguiguit also asked the new graduate alumni to remember SEARCA and "take every opportunity to support and contribute to the center's mandate and development goals".
The graduates joined the pool of some 1,400 SEARCA graduate alumni spread across Southeast Asia. Among them is Philippine Competition Commission Chairman Arsenio M. Balisacan, who was guest speaker at the 2017 UPLB hooding and recognition rites.