Monday, February 6, 2012

Rekindling the flame

There was no  other time in my life that  I got excited about the MSSW program of the University than recently. That is,  for the   past 6 years.  My appeal for an extension to the deadline for final defense, in behalf of my  advisees,  was granted. There are five of them who aim to graduate this second semester. Will any or all of them beat the deadline on February 29th.? Should all of them make it, it would be a wonderful experience- a fitting tribute to those who struggled with me in reviving the program. This incident has rekindled the flame in promoting  the Master of Science in Social Work program of Central Philippine University.

The experience also  makes me  nostalgic. It doesn’t seem so long when I made the commitment to revive the program while taking up Master of Social Work at UP Diliman. There was no offering  in CPU and other universities in Western Visayas, at that time. With no other alternative, I had to go through with  hassles of  adjustment in a new environment. Especially at the time of  unstable political situation in the country. Not to mention the   air pollution one had to contend with outside  the Campus. My only consolation was that my sweetheart was  also pursuing masteral studies in the adjacent  Ateneo de Manila University.

True to my commitment, I  worked hard for the revival of the program in 2002, a couple of years after my graduation. It was an adventurous attempt, considering the odds. On one hand, it was difficult task to convince the  apathetic targets. Many  had shifted to other masteral program due to the university’s failure to sustain the offering after many attempts  of revival. On the other hand, there were only four of us who had MSW degree in Iloilo City at that time. One was  on furlough shifting to  other  endeavors for a change, after decades of teaching social work. The other one was preoccupied with the new opening of  BSSW program which she headed in another school.

However with the strong  support of Dr. Fely David, Dean of Graduate Studies, we pursued the move. More so, when I had convinced   Sr. Linda Belo, DC , chairperson of the Social Work in Colegio del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus at that time to assist me. But not without trade off. I had also to teach part time in their department because of the accreditation requirements. It was fortunate that I  had a previous  good working relationship with Sr. Belo. Being one of my panelists during the final defense in UP Diliman, she had assisted me in finalization of the paper.  Under such condition, we set  a simple  goal -   to produce even  one graduate in 3 years time to convince the public that we really mean business this time.

Working  in our favor  was my involvement with National Association for Social Work Education, Inc. (NASWEI) and Philippine Association of Social Workers, Inc. (PASWI).  Being the regional chair of both associations,  I had a natural venue and support system for promoting the program. Soon, many enrolled and more faculty joined us. We even conducted extension classes in Bacolod City to accommodate the request of students in Negros Occidental.  We held classes at Convention Baptist Bible College and Bacolod Christian Center, now Bacolod Christian College of Negros Occidental.

Our simple goal was achieved  during  the University’s historic Centennial Year in 2005. One of our MSSW pioneering students succeeded to complete the academic requirements and passed the final defense. Subsequently, Mrs. Lolita Camarig, municipal social welfare and development officer of Leganes  had joined the commencement march of the Centennial graduates. Since then the University  has produced six  more graduates including four  non- social workers who subsequently hurdled the board exam.

But organizational changes in the university and my personal involvement had changed the momentum. Due to the exigencies of service, I was designated as director of the University Outreach Center. Subsequently,  involvement with the social work  organizations was affected. Likewise,  my election  as national president of the Convention Baptist Ministers Association (CBMA) ushered  another venue for service .  Especially with the  masteral program we initiated  for pastors- Master of Socio Pastoral Ministries. It is a combination of  MSSW and Master of Ministry. Hence, the MSSW program was gradually neglected.  More so, that my successor in the Department was not as passionate with the masteral program. Making matters worse was my unexpected illness which constrained my activity.

It was only last year when the program was again given a   push. With the leave of absence of  the new appointed head,  I was compelled  to  resume  my post  in the Department of Social Work in August 2011.  As such,  the MSSW was among the  activities  given importance because two of our  younger faculty only lack thesis to finish the degree. Consequently,  both passed the pre oral defense together with other candidates. Almost  through with the data gathering stage, they are expected to beat the deadline for the extended final defense. With this development, the flame has been rekindled. Hence, the start of the promotion both of the MSSW and Bachelor of Science in Social Work programs of  Central Philippine University.  Recently,   the Professional Regulation Commission has endorsed  Social Work as among the viable courses in the Philippines.  Social Work  is also considered one of the five hot careers for 2012 in the United States.

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