BUTUAN CITY – Step up and step out! Be at the forefront of development! This was the rousing message of Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, Director of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), to the graduates of Caraga State University (CSU) at the CSU commencement exercises. The graduation rites were held on 30 May 2019 with the theme "Breaking Barriers for Relevant Global Engagement."
Having hailed from the mountains of Bukidnon where he was born and studied through high school, Dr. Gregorio related how he stepped up and stepped out into college at the University of the Philippines Los Baños and stepped out in his career at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) working on rice breeding for tolerance to saline-prone and problem soils and other varieties, taking him all over the country and the world, and later as crop breeding manager for corn at East-West Seed Company.
Dr. Gregorio noted that CSU is an excellent school that has equipped its graduates to make a difference in their chosen field.
Headed by Dr. Anthony M. Penaso, CSU offers undergraduate and graduate programs in agriculture, information technology, mathematics, and science education. Other undergraduate programs it offers are engineering, forestry, and sciences. It also has a graduate program in environmental management.
Dr. Gregorio nonetheless pointed out that "stepping up and stepping out does not necessarily require you to make your career in another province or another country."
"Rather, it means not limiting yourself in your thinking and aspiring, not allowing geographical barriers or perceived hindrances due to your field of expertise to keep you from maximizing your contribution to the global community, even as you work and make a difference in your local capacity," he said.
Hosted by the Philippine government, SEARCA is an international development organization mandated to promote inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development in the Philippines and the 10 other Southeast Asian countries. SEARCA does this through programs that offer graduate scholarship and institutional development assistance, conduct research and development, and provide science-based information to those who need it most.
Dr. Gregorio said four of CSU's own faculty members are among the 1,400 recipients of SEARCA scholarships who have completed their PhD and master's studies and have gone on to occupy high positions of responsibility in governments, academe, private sector, and international and national institutions. He said some have even become ministers, deputy ministers, members of Parliament or Cabinet, presidents of universities, and other prestigious posts.
Moreover, Dr. Gregorio shared that SEARCA has also been working with partners to contribute to internationalization of education in the Philippines to address the challenges and changing landscape of Southeast Asia's labor market brought about by the ASEAN integration.
"This include building technical and leadership capacities of faculty, continuous curricular reforms, strengthening government-industry-academe partnership, increasing student and faculty mobilities, and enhancing English language proficiency," Dr. Gregorio explained.
He said all these steps are towards a bigger initiative of universities to ensure equitable access to job opportunities and high-quality skills development trainings.
In closing, Dr. Gregorio enthused CSU's Class of 2019 with inspiring words of SEARCA's founding Director Dioscoro L. Umali: "Be the heroes we never were and live."