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On the arts with CLA Dean Dr. Rhoderick Nuncio

The uncertainty of Filipino courses in the undergraduate curriculum are the least of the College of Liberal Arts’ (CLA) concerns. As the online learning mode’s efficacy comes into question, followed by doubts on the future of social science research, the college faces challenges in adapting to the new normal.

New CLA Dean Dr. Rhoderick Nuncio—a writer, computer enthusiast, and scholar—discusses with The LaSallian his vision, goals, and plans for CLA as Academic Year 2020-2021 is underway.

How do you plan to shape CLA? What are some projects or advocacies that you have in store?

To make [CLA] a world-class institution of the arts, humanities, and social sciences in Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific [region]…Specifically, I want CLA to be [on] par with top universities in Southeast Asia.

I reiterated the need to have robust academic programs [and] course offerings [to] make it competitive. [That is], benchmark [the courses of the] top universities [and] come up with competitive [and] international programs that [are] not just accessible to Filipino students but can [also] cater to students coming from [the] 10 countries in Southeast Asia.

[Next], high-level research productivity, [which is] not just about quantity; it’s [also] about quality. I told [the center directors in our college] that you need to find the niche and align [them] with the [United Nations Sustainable Development Goals].

What are some current issues in your college that you hope to address during your term as dean?

I need to address ‘yung stress level ng college ko, hindi lang mga estudyante [and] mga parents, but ‘yung mga faculty [as well]…When DLSU stepped up and embraced e-learning technology [prior to the pandemic], a lot of faculty members were hesitant. You can find data from the [Academic Support for Instructional Services and Technology Office] that not even 30 percent [of faculty joined] training sessions [before the pandemic].

(Not just the students’ and parents’ stress levels but also of the faculty members.)

I got some information that there are many faculty members—part-time and full time—who are not yet confident in delivering ODL (Open Distance Learning) classes. So, I need to have [a] survey [on their computer literacy] to find out and then strategize [to] make [ODL] operational and efficient in the succeeding weeks or months.

With the uncertainty of reverting back to face-to-face sessions, how will you ensure that the college can adapt to the situation?

Those who are not yet fully trained…need to start mastering or get familiarized with the use of AnimoSpace because this is our gateway for our ODL. At the same time, faculty members need to have that broader perspective; as online teachers, we shouldn’t be relying [on only] one platform kasi the millennials—you students—are adept with [social media], applications, [and] different gadgets. 

If [you] only [know] one system, lugi kayo…The teachers and the students must be open to different kinds of digital platforms because the reality out there is much bigger than what we have here right now.

(You’re at a disadvantage.)

How do you plan on improving or maintaining CLA’s quality of education during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Quality of education is [based on] ‘yung faculty lineup. They need to finish their [doctorate] degrees; second, they need to be equipped with the skills, attitude, [and] knowledge on handling regular face-to-face classes and at the same time ODL classes; third, they need to translate whatever they have achieved as a good educator [and] do research [because] we are a research university; [and] finally, commitment toward accomplishing the Lasallian mission. 

Quality education is not just about books [or] Scopus Index papers; it’s about serving the people out there.

What are your opinions on the industry’s current demand for Liberal Arts graduates? 

This is something that people in the sciences miss a lot…We may be battling for [an] increase in our aim to be educated in the sciences, but that is so limiting because industries are looking [for] people or skilled professionals who are into various ways of assessing [the] current situation and addressing possible problems in the future.

We need to have people who have the balance of the arts, critical thinking, and creative thinking, [while] at the same time being objective, systematic, and logical.

How has the COVID-19 situation affected the studying, researching, and development of the social sciences, arts, and humanities?

When you [conduct] social science research, you are dealing with people in different spaces like public [and] community spheres. We [cross] borders, go to local [and] global areas, etcetera, to do our research. You cannot conduct authentic research when you sit on your chair and face the screen of your computer; that would be inauthentic. Social engagement is a bulk of our social scientific research.

How do you plan to market DLSU’s Liberal Arts programs to incoming college students, especially with the COVID-19 situation and the apprehensions around online learning?

Maximize [and] optimize social media platforms. Many industries [and] companies have been using social media as their affordable, cost-efficient way of marketing their products and services. At the same time, we can also make use of that strategy.

That is the same venue that I’m going to use when I sit down with the [Council of Chairs]; that every department must have its own social media account. At the same time, I am planning to have an auxiliary website for CLA…We need to show that [these are the kind] of people—professionals, faculty members, researchers, and students—that we have in our college and in DLSU.

Hailing from the Departamento ng Filipino, what can you say about the current state of Filipino courses in the undergraduate curriculum?

Courses being offered by other colleges may be—and should be—in the years to come, taught in Filipino. In the Philippines, we still have the bilingual education policy [where] we should be trained and taught in two languages equally. [But] for the longest time, Filipino [has] been relegated [and] marginalized.

Our [Filipino Department] Chair Dr. [Raquel] Sison-Buban…would be the one to roll out the specific initiatives and course of actions, [including] short-term [and] long-term activities. [The] Departamento ng Filipino is now consulting experts, stakeholders, and advocates in DLSU to make that landmark decision of [the] Academics Council [concretized] in the years to come.

Can you comment on the importance of including research communication in Filipino as part of the General Education curriculum?

When you write conveniently in [the] language [that] can be understood by your people, you can produce a lot more. We can always produce also a lot more using English. But there is always a disconnect because a majority of our people do not understand [that] language because we haven’t reached that kind of economic development where everyone or a majority of our people are well-educated. 

We need to always connect—that is the Lasallian mission. If you remember, St. La Salle has always been giving out training and education programs to the poor in the local language of the students. In the same way, if we maximize, if we advocate, and if we pursue that goal of using the language of what our people can use and understand, these will make a difference. 

What are some of the achievements, projects, research, and outputs that you have produced working in the field that you take pride in?

I am fortunate enough to have been trained in that intellectual posture as a scholar, so when we’re discussing about programs in interdisciplinary courses, I have something to share—I have something to contribute because I am a product of that same program…There is always a thing that I [can] give to my students when I teach research courses.

With reports from Julianne Cayco

By Enrico Sebastian Salazar

By Dustin Albert Sy

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