SEARCA hosts hybrid testimonial ceremony for 34 graduates

TO honor and celebrate the graduation of its 28 Full MSc and PhD scholars and six PhD Research scholars, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) held a hybrid Testimonial Ceremony on August 3, 2023.

SEARCA director Dr. Glenn Gregorio said the ceremony served as a fitting tribute to the graduates' accomplishments and aspirations, underscoring the center's commitment as the leading enabler and champion of excellence in agriculture and rural development in Southeast Asia.

SEARCA which is an institution under the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization or SEAMEO, is headquartered on the campus of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).

SEAMEO is a regional intergovernmental organization established in 1965 among the governments of Southeast Asian countries to promote regional cooperation in education, science and culture.

Of the 28 full scholars, 11 were co-funded by SEARCA's partners, namely the German Academic Exchange Service or DAAD; National Taiwan University; Agropolis Fondation in France; and Tokyo NODAI and Nagoya University, both in Japan.

Gregorio said the event was "a joyous gathering" attended in person by eight graduating scholars together with their families while the rest of the honorees joined online.

Witnessed by SEARCA staff and ongoing scholars, the ceremony began with a procession of graduates symbolizing the culmination of years of hard work and dedication.

SEARCA deputy director for programs Dr. Nur Azura Binti Adam, who welcomed and congratulated the graduating scholars, noted that for scholars at UPLB, SEARCA was their home away from home.

Expressing a wish that the center will always be remembered fondly, Adam commended the graduates for their passion, dedication and hard work in finishing their graduate degrees.

In his inspirational message, Gregorio emphasized that the pursuit of graduate studies is "full of challenges in which patience, perseverance, intellect, creativity, and character are tested throughout the academic journey."

"It is also a preparation for bigger challenges and opportunities ahead," he said, pointing out that learning should not stop even in times of pandemic.

"[But rather], they must convert these challenges into opportunities to grow, to innovate, and be better and smarter individuals," Gregorio said.

Several graduates were recognized for their exceptional academic achievements, leadership and for completing their degrees on time.

SEARCA awarded a Special Citation for academic excellence to three scholars, namely, Dr. Karen Bautista, PhD Agronomy, University of the Philippines Los Baños, Philippines; Dr. Manuel Da Costa, PhD Veterinary Public Health, IPB University, Indonesia; and Dr. Rini Widyastuti, PhD Veterinary Medicine, IPB University, Indonesia.

Also recognized as the Outstanding SEARCA Scholar for Fiscal Year 2022–2023 was Dr. Vina Eka Aristya, who completed her PhD in Agricultural Sciences from the Universitas Gadjah Mada in Indonesia.

According to SEARCA, Aristya was recognized for her academic excellence, including seven publications in scientific journals (two indexed in Scopus with one in a Q1-indexed journal), numerous papers presented in international conferences and garnering Best Presenter awards in two of these occasions, and other co-curricular engagements.

Special Awards were given to the scholars who completed their degrees on time, namely, Dr. Nget Raby, Cambodia, PhD Agronomy, UPLB; Dr. Maria Christina Campita, Philippines, PhD Bioagricultural Sciences, Nagoya University; Dr. Manuel Da Costa, Timor Leste, PhD Veterinary Public Health, IPB University; and Dr. Rini Widyastuti, Indonesia, PhD Veterinary Medicine, IPB University

On behalf of the graduating scholars, Bautista and Aristya expressed their sincerest gratitude to their SEARCA family and their loved ones for supporting them throughout their years of study.

While Bautista shared her lessons learned on the importance of time, patriotism, integrity, excellence and spirituality, and the value of partnership, networking and collaboration; Vina, on the other hand, exhorted her fellow scholars that the knowledge gained in their studies must benefit not just themselves, but their respective families, communities and countries.

"Education is the most powerful weapon for changing the world," Aristya concluded her speech.

During the event, the Regional SEARCA Alumni Association (RSAA) Oath of Membership to the new graduates was administered by Dr. Asdi Agustar, RSAA president, who also congratulated and reminded them to make use of the networks established during their studies when they return to their respective work.

He also encouraged the new members to work together for the progress of the RSAA and the welfare of the people.