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Beyond Teaching: Life in the Academe

In an institution that breeds a system tuned to be, by nature, quick-paced, many are by default set on the premise and idea of pursuing careers outside of the academe. Because many are conditioned to break into fields of business, medicine and so forth, as sensationalized by the current capitalist frenzy of society, pursuing a life in the academe becomes less of a popular choice. Many however have come to overlook the discipline that comes with it—be it through the discipline of educating, researching, or in other areas within the institution.

 

Characterizing the life of an academic

Apart from the capability and capacity to teach, being in the academe requires much more in terms of academic achievement, work output, and attitude.

Academicians, apart from teaching, must engage themselves in research work and be active in publishing. In some schools, DLSU included, a professor’s research output has a bearing on his or her rank and salary. This culture in the academic world has been coined “Research or Perish”.

To ensure that they are able to cope with a work environment such as this, those who wish to enter the academe are encouraged to pursue higher education. In DLSU’s case, professors are required to hold at least a Master’s Degree, and PhD’s are highly preferred. But more than academic and post-graduate achievements, certain traits such as being hard-working, patient, and assiduous are, to an extent, required to survive in the field.

Professor Bernie Gonzalo of the Department of English and Applied Linguistics shares that “the life of an academician is filled with challenges and needless to say, [is] interesting. One has to be on the go, catching up with new ideas, patient in dealing with students and fellow workers, and dependable. Being a good member and leader in the group is essential.”

Networking and increased awareness in technological advances have also been cited as vital in the academic community.

“Learning and education never stops with MAs and PhDs, one has to continually update oneself through research and readings,” explains Willard Macaraan of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, “Students are becoming more tech-savvy and information has become too accessible for everyone. Teachers must at least keep pace with societal changes.”

Dr. Tereso Tullao, Jr., University Fellow and Director of the DLSU Angelo King Institute for Economic and Business Studies adds that as an academic, one must be a “synthetic thinker” in advancing not only in his or her own field by taking information and insight from various other fields and integrating it into one’s own in order to identify and address pressing problems of the country and even of the world.

“You must be a critical thinker, you must have an appetite to inquire, to ask questions, and you must have the creativity on how you should inquire… then you really become a scholar, more than an academic,” he says.

In the current light of things, entering the academe is not something looked to with high expectations by most, mainly because of the great effort it demands and the not very high pay. However, professors all agreed that choosing to stay in the profession is a matter of dedication and self-fulfillment.

College of Business professor Wilson Cordova shares, “The academe is equated with low income… Pero para maging happy ka, you look at what you can contribute to your future students.” He furthers by saying that seeing his students succeed and even surpass him is one of the most rewarding feelings.

In another way of looking at things, Tullao states that the reason for this kind of sentiment may be the lack of a strong academic presence in the country.

“There are very few, I won’t say intellectuals, but very few critical thinkers. We have many critics, not really critical thinkers… In this country, they are the minority rather than the majority,” he explains, “Because of this lack of creative minds and intellectuals… somehow the students are not also challenged.”

 

Benefits and Drawbacks

Like most things, life in the academe can reap some all time highs and lows.  While it has become an unfortunate yet common thought to regard life in the academe as tedious, it does not override the fact that many still gain fulfillment from it, opting to dedicate their lives to educating and to remain educated. Whether one is opts to plunge right into the thrill of dipping their toes into the waters of teaching, research, or community service, one has to be keen on some gains and drawbacks that can arise from one’s involvement.

For our interviewees, they were undivided when it came to being instinctively patient and hardworking. They all understood, as they have gone through the rigorous process, that their respective roles in the academe was greater than simply imparting knowledge on people who came after them, it becomes more of the matter of influencing the next generation of academics, on a national level and eventually on an international scale, on how to ask questions and how to answer these questions. It also entails being careful with their ways, as they have to become accustomed to practicing what they preach so as to serve as good role models to their students, says Macaraan.

Drawbacks on the other hand do not go too far from having to keep pace with the changing general attitude of the later students, and the technologies that advance rapidly, he says, also further lamenting on the struggle to be considered socially relevant to a society with minor regard on their discipline— a blow to their purpose and professions.

Psychology professor Nico A. Canoy however believes that life in the academe gives a lot of room for mistakes, although ultimately, mistakes are what lead people to learning.

 

A gratifying vocation

Conversely, Macaraan believes that being able to contribute to the knowledge of students and empowering their skills and learning through encounters in a classroom exceeds the anticipated fulfillment. In the same way, Cordova, in his years in the academe, has always found the company of his students the most rewarding. What remains to be satisfying to him is to have his own students surpass him, and more importantly, their personal expectations of themselves. Gonzalo describes being able to touch lives as a priceless value. Likewise, Dr. Tullao admits, “The reward is more on self-fulfilment rather than material gains. It’s more on the psychic income both in teaching and in research.”

A lifelong vocation devoted to shaping minds and hearts, as long as there remain passionate teachers for students who desire to hone their potentials, the academe will be something that will thrive as an institution. Library in A.Y. 2011-2012.

By Dana Uson

By Martha Elisse Teves

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