Dr. Pheak Sothea, deputy director general for administration, Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction, Cambodia, paid a courtesy visit to the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) on 9 October 2023.
Dr. Sothea is a former SEARCA scholar who earned his MS and PhD in Community Development from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) in 2006 and 2010, respectively. His homecoming coincided with his recognition as one of the 2023 UPLB College of Public Affairs and Development (CPAf) Distinguished Alumni.
During his visit, Dr. Sothea reminisced about his student days, remembering both the challenges and joys of his academic journey. He expressed happiness in reuniting with old friends and mentors who greatly helped him. "I am very proud to be a SEARCAn. For me, SEARCA is not just a donor; SEARCA is family," he said.
He was given a concise presentation of the Center's achievements in Fiscal Year 2022/2023. In addition, Dr. Maria Cristeta Cuaresma, senior program head, Education and Collective Learning, shared that there are currently nine Cambodian SEARCA scholars.
Dr. Sothea thanked the Center for its continuous efforts in providing scholarships and capacity-building programs to Cambodian nationals. He wished for more Cambodians to take advantage of these opportunities and inquired about extending scholarships to non-government officials and employees. Dr. Cuaresma informed him about SEARCA's joint research scholarships, funded by various institutions, which are accessible to a broader audience as the aspiring scholars can now directly apply online through SEARCA's Scholarship Information System and no longer need endorsements from their ministries.
After the meeting, Dr. Sothea toured the SEARCA Hub for Agriculture and Rural Innovation for the Next Generation (SHARING).
He was welcomed by Dr. Nur Azura Binti Adam, deputy director for programs. With them in the meeting were Dr. Cuaresma; Atty. Eric Reynoso, program head, Emerging Innovation for Growth; Ms. Corinta Guerta, technical advisor to the director; Dr. Nova Ramos, unit head, Training for Development; Ms. Sharon Malaiba, unit head, Partnerships; and key staff from the Graduate Scholarship and Institutional Development and Partnerships units.