SEARCA scholar alumnus-now Cambodian govt official visits UPLB

IN his homecoming, Deputy Director General for Administration Dr. Pheak Sothea of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction in Cambodia visited the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) on October 9, 2023.

Sothea's courtesy visit to SEARCA coincided with his recognition as one of the 2023 University of the Philippines Los Baños College of Public Affairs and Development (CPAf) distinguished alumni.

SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn Gregorio said Sothea is a former SEARCA scholar who earned his Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy in Community Development from the UPLB in 2006 and 2010, respectively.

During his visit, Sothea reminisced about his student days, remembering both the challenges and joys of his academic journey.

Expressing his happiness in reuniting with old friends and mentors who greatly helped him, he said, "I am very proud to be a SEARCAn. For me, SEARCA is not just a donor; SEARCA is family."

During his visit, Sothea was given a concise presentation of SEARCA's achievements in Fiscal Year 2022/2023.

Dr. Maria Cristeta Cuaresma, SEARCA Education and Collective Learning senior program head, shared that there are currently nine Cambodian SEARCA scholars.

Thanking the center for its continuous efforts in providing scholarships and capacity-building programs to Cambodian nationals, Sothea wished for more Cambodians to take advantage of these opportunities.

Also inquiring about extending scholarships to non-government officials and employees, Cuaresma informed Sothea about SEARCA's joint research scholarships.

She said these are funded by various institutions that 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.

Sothea also toured the SEARCA Hub for Agriculture and Rural Innovation for the Next Generation or SHARING, and was welcomed by Dr. Nur Azura Binti Adam, SEARCA deputy director for programs.

Also joining Sothea at SEARCA in the meeting were lawyer Eric Reynoso, Emerging Innovation for Growth program head; Corinta Guerta, technical advisor to the director; Dr. Nova Ramos, Training for Development unit head; Sharon Malaiba, Partnerships unit head; and key staff from the Graduate Scholarship and Institutional Development and Partnerships units.