In a General Convocation held on September 8, 2022, Rector Very. Rev. fr. Richard G. Ang, O.P., PhD delivered his first Rector’s Report, covering the first five academic terms from the period of January 2020 to July 2021, at the Grand Ballroom of Buenaventura G. Paredes, O.P. Building.
The 97th Rector started off with his seven priorities for leadership that he mapped out in the early days of his term, aiming to steer the University for the Vision 2024 and beyond:
- Harness Technology in Preparation for Industry 4.0
- Advance Synergy among Disciplines, Units, and Institutions
- Enrich the Research Ecosystem of the University
- Optimize Advances Made in Internationalization
- Foster a Stronger Industry-Academe-Alumni Partnership
- Advocate Wellness Being
- Manage Resources for Strategic Expansion
“As I speak to you today, I expect that these agendas are entrenched in the KRAs and the KPIs of the various strategic directional areas,” fr. Ang said. “They will be carefully planned and regularly monitored to ensure that, as a University, we move together in one mind and one spirit,” he added.
The cornerstone of fr. Ang’s report was the Nine Strategic Development Areas (SDA). He likewise expressed his gratitude to the administrators, students/primary stakeholders, and support staff whose collective efforts made the University thrive and achieve its goals in the said period.
The Rector recounted highlight achievements in the nine strategic directional areas, which he reported about in sequence. For Leadership and Governance, the Rector put the spotlight on the Task Force Veritas, which helped oversee the transition of University operations to the virtual mode as the University complied with health restrictions at the inception of the pandemic. The Rector likewise recalled the appointment of top and mid-level officials to help in the governance of the University. In terms of taking care of the Thomasian stakeholders, the Rector emphasized how the University did not lay off any personnel and even gave pandemic assistance, even as the economy took a sharp nosedive. This, the University did, even as it also revisited and suspended school fees and continued the provision of scholarship grants to students.
For Thomasian Identity, the continued conduct of faith formation activities, albeit via the online mode, helped sustain the University’s mission of spreading the Catholic faith despite restrictions on in-person gatherings. Apart from the traditional University activities like the Baccalaureate Masses and recollections, the efforts toward interreligious dialogue were noted by the Rector.
In terms of Teaching and Learning, the University-wide shift to the Enhanced Virtual Mode of Instruction through the UST Cloud Campus was highlighted by the Rector. The adjustments made in instruction, including reaching out to learners with limited connectivity, helped continue the delivery of quality education from a distance. This was made possible through the consistent and intensified efforts to capacitate the academic staff, some of whom were appointed as pedagogical leads and e-learning specialists.
For Research and Innovation, while the pandemic temporarily shuttered in-person access to laboratories and field work, productivity in terms of publications in both indexed and non-indexed journals continued. For innovation, the opening of the TOMASInno Innovation Center’s office space in the Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, O.P. Building, with funding from the Department of Science and Technology, happened during the pandemic, as well as the groundbreaking of the Dr. Tony Tan Caktiong Innovation Center in the soon-to-open UST Santa Rosa campus.
The University’s adjustment to the pandemic was made possible in large part due to prudent Resource Management, which saw the careful recalibration of the University’s financial and human resources to respond to the changing needs of the Thomasian community. The adoption of remote and in-person work arrangements, while taking care of the personnel and the rest of the Thomasian community through proactive monitoring of the health through the Thomasian Online Medical Services and Support (ThOMedSS) portal were among the highlights touted by the Rector.
The shift in the University’s communication strategy to embrace the online dissemination of information and conduct of collaborative events with external stakeholders took center stage as the Rector reported about Public Presence. Despite the pandemic, the University continued to engage with the members of the diplomatic corps as well as the alumni, who likewise provided assistance in the University’s Community Development and Advocacy efforts. Community Development and Advocacy was counted as the University’s strongest aspect in the 2019 Institutional Assessment by the ASEAN University Network Quality Assurance, which granted a five-year Institutional Certification in early 2020.
For Student Services, the automation of services was highlighted by the Rector. The availability of student support services, especially those pertaining to health, was recalled with the enumeration of different programs by the Health Service, the Counseling and Career Center, and the Office for Student Affairs. In terms of student admissions, the rollout of the UST Application Rating (USTAR) as a temporary replacement to the UST Entrance Test (USTET) was mentioned by the Rector. USTET has been reinstated for the incoming students of Academic Year 2023-2024.
Finally, in terms of Internationalization, the Rector pointed to the transition to Internationalization-At-Home activities, which allowed more than seventeen thousand students to take part in virtual activities with the University’s partners. The Rector likewise enumerated the existing transnational education and research projects, as well as the appointment of visiting professors in the different academic units.
Guided by Tria Haec, triumph against tribulations
For fr. Ang, 2020 was a tumultuous period that tested the rest of the world, plagued by massive shifts in all aspects of human life. The higher education sector was not spared from the COVID-19 pandemic’s debilitating effects, shutting down schools worldwide.
But for the Rector, the University stood with pride against all tribulations as it followed its beacon: Faith, Hope, and Love, which was evident in the collective efforts of each and every unit that constitutes the whole Thomasian community. “As a 411 year old Catholic institution, we have adjusted and evolved the way we do things at the University,” fr. Ang said.
Fr. Ang also emphasized that the COVID-19 fiasco recalibrated the Thomasian community’s vision and character to have more empathy toward others and to realize and share their blessings in life to those in need. “And as we brave each passing day, we learn the value of meaningful connections with fellow members of the Thomasian Community. In the spirit of in dwelling, someone’s joy becomes ours, someone’s sorrow and pain becomes ours as well. And in the process, we experience what it means to be truly blessed with life, with health, with friends, with family,” he said.
Moreover, he underscored the importance of gratitude and openness toward others. “Gratitude and nobles are spirits that allows us to see past the direness of our reality; whereas empathy opens our hands and palms to reach out to those who need our time and resources,” Fr. Ang said.
“Gratitude and empathy are the principles that allow us to redirect our focus on the things that we can change,” fr. Ang said. “Together, they inspire change from within ourselves, driving us to serve with humility and sincerity, and allowing us to touch the lives of around us in way we never thought possible.” He added.
The official Rector’s Report will be submitted to Rome.