Caraga State University graduates urged to be at the forefront of development

BUTUAN CITY: "Step up and step out! Be at the forefront of development!"

Thus said distinguished rice scientist Dr. Glenn Gregorio in his rousing message to the graduates of Caraga State University (CSU) at its commencement exercises themed "Breaking Barriers for Relevant Global Engagement" on May 30.

Dr. Gregorio related how he "stepped up and stepped out" of college at the University of the Philippines Los Baños into his career at the International Rice Research Institute, 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 Co. in Bukidnon, where he was born and studied through high school.

He noted that CSU, headed by Dr. Anthony M. Penaso, is an excellent school that has equipped its graduates to make a difference in their chosen field.

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 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.

Now the Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) director, Dr. Gregorio shared how his new post gives him the privilege to think and influence globally while being able to influence and act locally.

Also an international development organization, SEARCA is mandated to promote inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development in the Philippines and the 10 other Southeast Asian countries 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 were among the 1,400 recipients of SEARCA scholarships who have completed their PhD and master's studies.

"They 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," he said.

He also explained 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 Association of Southeast Asian Nations 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 said adding that these steps are towards a bigger initiative of universities to ensure equitable access to job opportunities and high-quality skills development trainings.

In closing his message, Dr. Gregorio enthused CSU's Class of 2019 with inspiring words of SEARCA's founding Director Dioscoro Umali: "Be the heroes we never were and live."