The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and the College of Development Communication of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB-CDC) jointly implemented a training program on strategic communication for higher education institutions (HEIs) in the Philippines held on 20-24 November 2023 at the SEARCA Headquarters, Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines.
Titled Strategic Communication Planning Workshop: Enhancing Communication Skills for Higher Education Institutions in the Philippines (StratCom4HEIs), the learning event was attended by 19 delegates from 13 members of the State Universities and Colleges - Association of Colleges of Agriculture in the Philippines, Inc. (SUC-ACAP).
StratCom4HEIs is under the Short-Term Training Program component of the Leveling-Up Higher Education Institutions in Agriculture, Fisheries, and Natural Resources (LevelUPHEI AFAR) project funded by the Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED). The project, which started in 2021, intends to build the leadership and research and development capacities of faculty/staff members from the 75 SUC-ACAP member universities and enhance their institutions' internationalization efforts by linking them with the University Consortium and other higher education institutions in the region through participation in short-term training courses (online, onsite, hybrid) and cross-visits.
StratCom4HEIs is designed to enhance the public communication skills of its participants, particularly in the design and development of appropriate communication materials. The eight-module training covered lectures on public/strategic communication and a hands-on guided workshop on strategic communication planning and development of communication materials. At the end of the program, participants presented thei strategic communication plans and prototypes of communication materials for their respective university campaigns, extension programs, and research projects.
Leading the implementation of StratCom4HEIs was Dr. Edmund Centeno who served as Technical Coordinator and Lead Faculty. Dr. Centeno is an Associate Professor at the Department of Educational Communication of UPLB-CDC and concurrently Director of the UPLB Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning. Other professors from UPLB-CDC also joined his team to conduct the lectures and facilitate the workshops.
The week-long workshop commenced with the official opening by Center Director, Dr. Glenn Gregorio. He emphasized SEARCA's vision of helping Philippine HEIs acquire the necessary competencies to spearhead reforms that can shape the education system and promote the best interests of research institutions and public service. In joining StratCom4HEIs, Dr. Gregorio challenged the participants to commit to "a communication strategy that not only informs but also inspires, not just conveys but connects, and not only disseminates but transforms."
Dr. Ma. Stella Tirol, UPLB-CDC Dean, joined in welcoming the participants and underscored that in the ever-changing landscape of higher education, "effective communication is not just a skill; it is the cornerstone upon which collaboration, innovation, and progress thrive." Dr. Tirol shared insights into how StratCom4HEIs would empower participants to strategically plan communication, from analyzing current situations to designing strategic planning matrices, to communication production, and testing of materials, monitoring and evaluation, and ensuring the sustainability of communication plans.
Dr. Centeno and his team consistently emphasized the significance of participatory approaches in formulating strategic communication plans. In wrapping up StratCom4HEIs, he reiterated the imperative of integrating participation in the framework of communication for development. This assures targeted and ensured communication that is not only appropriate but is also responsive to stakeholders' needs. Aligning with Dr. Tirol's welcome remarks, Dr. Centeno reminded the participants that developing communication materials extends beyond monitoring and evaluation and towards sustainability.
During the closing activities, some of the participants shared their testimonials which shed light on the valuable insights they gained throughout the workshop. Their reflections ranged from crafting SMART (simple, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound) communication objectives, to learning about strategically steering communication development activities to achieve project objectives.
SEARCA Deputy Director for Programs, Dr. Nur Azura Binti Adam, formally concluded StratCom4HEIs during the last day of the training. She shared her enthusiasm in witnessing the implementation of the participants' Communication for Development (ComDev) plans within their respective HEIs. SEARCA and UPLB-CDC hope to see participants not only share their learnings with colleagues but also extend this knowledge to their students. "It is the multiplier effect of our training programs that serves as a measure for their effectivity and impact," said Dr. Nur.
The participants came from the following SUCs: Cavite State University (CvSU), Central Bicol State University of Agriculture (CBSUA), Central Luzon State University (CLSU), Ilocos Sur Polytechnic State College (ISPSC), Iloilo State College of Fisheries (ISCOF), Laguna State Polytechnic University (LSPU), Mindanao State University (MSU), Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College (NIPSC), Romblon State University (RSU), Sorsogon State University (SSU), Tarlac Agricultural University (TAU), University of Rizal System (URS), and Visayas State University (VSU).
StratCom4HEIs was organized and implemented by SEARCA through its Education and Collective Learning Department-Training for Development Unit (ECLD-T4DU).