On August 1, 2017, UST welcomed the new academic year with its new Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs: Prof. Cheryl R. Peralta, DrPH, former Dean of the College of Rehabilitation Sciences. Building on the legacy, Peralta recognized that she comes into the Academic Affairs turf with a lot of programs already in place: “There have been a lot of reforms that Dr. [Clarita] Carillo was already able to establish during her term. We will build on those by continuing the ‘Tradition of Excellence’ in academics, but this time, we will enhance efforts toward quality assurance in our academic programs. We have been recognized by agencies, local and abroad, but there will always be room for improvement of our processes, and aligning these with principles of continuous quality improvement. We will harness those at the institutional level.”
“We have seen a number of best practices in each of our academic units, and we will find out which of those practices can inform and enhance our processes at the institutional level,” Peralta said. The new VRAA noted that there is a need to streamline processes to identify common quality assurance measures for all academic programs, regardless of their inherent uniqueness. “We have to strengthen the connections between academic units, as well as their connections with the support offices so we can move in synergy toward the same direction. Ultimately, we see this as aligning with whatever efforts we currently render in compliance with ISO standards. ” Reflecting on her experience as Dean of the College of Rehabilitation Sciences, Peralta noted that there is a need to find a mechanism by which units will not prepare for accreditations and assessments such as the ISO, local accreditations, international assessments, QS rankings, and other efforts separately to ensure efficiency.
Database for data-based decisions
“We need to harness institutional-level data to make informed decisions for continuous quality improvement. We need to know if the initiatives are actually impacting our key performance indicators and key result areas. So we will not just look at numbers, but also at processes,” Peralta said. At the cusp of the transition UST’s new VRAA comes on the eve of the full blast of the K-12 transition’s effects on the tertiary level—the first of K-12-graduate freshmen will take their undergraduate studies in 2018. She acknowledges that challenges are already being hurdled, but draws attention to curriculum and pedagogy. “This year [academic year 2017-2018] will be spent for training and orienting the faculty members about the new curricula they will be implementing. Public orientations are being conducted by the Commission on Higher Education, and all curricular revisions are due by first term for CHEd submission,” Peralta said. The former Rehabilitation Sciences dean said that issues on the inclusion of Filipino courses in the curricula have been resolved as far as UST is concerned, since a minimum of six units will be integrated into all the new curricula to be implemented in 2018.
The new VRAA noted that in meetings with fellow deans, one salient area that needed attention was pedagogy. “We recognized that there is room to be updated with the principles and techniques of teaching and learning in order for us to effectively embrace outcomes-based education,, and we are looking at the College of Education—being the academic unit concerned with teaching—to spearhead the development and implementation of faculty development programs on pedagogy. This is actually a realization of Dr. Carillo’s vision of having the College of Education as our Center for Teaching and Learning. ”
Unity in diversity of disciplinal culture
For such a comprehensive university with more than 88 programs and over 100 specializations from the tertiary to doctorate levels, diversity is an inherent reality. In the face of institutional assessments and efforts to standardize, Peralta has this to say: “We will always respect disciplinal culture. We cannot turn a blind eye on the uniqueness of every program. We recognize that individual academic units have the content expertise, but at the institutional level, we will aim to further improve our academic quality assurance processes. While we will develop institutional programs to unify good practices, we will eventually tailor-fit them to the specific nature of the units and programs. We use common principles of OBE, but we will need to tailor-fit them to be responsive to the needs of the different clusters (e.g., health, humanities, sciences).” Best practices from units will be documented and considered for possible university-wide implementation.
She also recognized that in the gradual implementation of new curricula, we will still be implementing courses in the old curriculum, so faculty members will be operationalizing two curricula at the same time. We will need to collectively determine what administrativeand support groups will have to be constituted to reinforce such endeavors.
The intertwining of teaching and research
A requirement being imposed now by external accrediting and assessment agencies is the close and overt relationship between teaching and research, in which research efforts and findings inform and influence teaching practices. “We have to grow into research. We recognize that we entered the University because we want to teach. However, with the changing demands on University education, we have to increase the number of faculty members productively engaged in research. It is important that we continue to harness our capacity to utilize existing scientific evidence to inform teaching and professional practice, while likewise contributing to generation of new knowledge for our respective fields. When we are able to do this, we will be able to teach it,” said Peralta, herself a former researcher of the Center for Health Research and Movement Science, the research arm of the College of Rehabilitation Sciences.
Surviving in synergy
Peralta underscored that the faculty’s role in the University’s success is now more pronounced than ever. “The demands on a faculty member are different now compared to when I started as a faculty member. As we live up to local and international standards, and now that we are in transition, we will only survive if there is synergy. We have survived the first wave of transition—from the traditional mode to Outcomes-Based Education—and the various academic units continue to improve our OBE implementation. Despite the transition, successful accreditations and assessments of programs continued to pour in. That means our administrators and faculty members are really working hard and doing their best, and we acknowledge that. But there is just so much more to be done and we need to work together to accomplish our goals.”
Peralta, fondly called as “Dean Che,” is a licensed physical therapist by profession and a doctorate-degree holder on public health, with specialization in epidemiology. Her research interests include quality assurance in education, as well as epidemiology and biostatistics. She has worked on projects on community-based rehabilitation in Bicol, disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction and management, as well as falls prevalence among the elderly, among other endeavors. Peralta served for four-and-a-half years as Dean of the College of Rehabilitation Sciences, from November 2012-July 2017. She is the Chairperson of the CHEd Technical Committee on Physical Therapy, is a Member of the CHEd Technical Panel for Health Professions Education, and is a Member of the Continuing Professional Development Council for Physical Therapy of the Professional Regulations Commission.