Both having experience in the University Student Government (USG), candidates for the College of Science (COS) presidency share their plans for the office. Incumbent FOCUS2018 Legislative Assembly Representative Renee Formoso of Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat) and former FOCUS2018 Batch President Bianca Bracamonte of Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) speak on their experience and their platforms.
The LaSallian: What part of your background do you think contributes the most in making you a capable college president?
Renee Formoso (Tapat): I’m [the] incumbent FOCUS2018 Legislative Assembly representative and I see that this would enable me to understand both the legislative and the executive branch of the USG. And also [an] additional would be having the experience to have contributed and collaborated with the Judiciary Department as well; it’s a very fulfilling task. In this, of course, ang dami kong natutunan, hindi lang bilang when it comes to being an elected [officer] but the processes, the importance of each branch as well. I think that I will be a capable College Assembly President because I am able to utilize those learnings that I have learned so far in my almost-two years as an elected [officer].
Bianca Bracamonte (Santugon): For me, I was the former batch president of FOCUS2018 during my frosh year, and same with Renee, I have also learned a lot of things during that time. And then after the year that I was elected, I joined the scholarships team of the OTREAS (Office of the Executive Treasurer) and also the academic affairs [team] of the OVPIA (Office of the Vice President for Internal Affairs). So with that experience naman, in OTREAS, I was able to give scholarships to students, especially during the pandemic. Then for the OVPIA naman, I was also able to handle the academic affairs of other colleges, not just COS. I have experience when it comes to handling my batch. Then I also have experience in handling University affairs when it comes to scholarships and academic affairs.
The LaSallian: What are some issues you observed specifically for [COS] that are quite causing some trouble for your batch—for your whole college—and how can these issues be addressed?
Bracamonte: [COS] students kasi are very academic-oriented. With the online classes, some students are getting unmotivated because of heavy workload, and they also have a hard time understanding lessons. For example, we have lab classes, and it’s more effective if it’s held face-to-face…There’s also the issue of internet connectivity problems. And as I mentioned, since you have lab classes in COS, some professors require equipment and materials for some activities, which some students do not have access to. So for these issues and concerns mentioned, we actually have a project that provides assistance for students that will help them make their student life easier during this pandemic.
Formoso: For me, same sentiments with Bianca, that we’re a very academic-centered college…So, I think the problems that we’re facing right now, it’s the accessible learning and unavailable resources. And of course, the inaccessible, as well, laboratory classes because napakapractical ng learning ng isang COS student…I have this initiative wherein we will prepare [COS] to have policies that will revise the laboratory manual of the University para ma-ready, maging safe ang student ‘pag nakapasok sila when we transition [into a] face-to-face [setup]. Also we’re making accessible laboratory equipment for the students…Now magpro-proceed yung students to have access to all the files that they need—syllabi, flow chart, recordings, and important practical worksheet. So magkakaroon kasi ng ganon para magiging centralized siya para available siya sa buong College of Science, hindi lang sa specific department.
The LaSallian: So, you’ve also mentioned a bit of your [plans of action] na you have initiatives to help the students’ ability to learn and [provide] equitable access to learning. But what else are your specific plans that are academic-related that would bring reforms to your college?
Formoso: Well, number one, for me, we wanted to expand the opportunities of the students, especially the ones who are taking practicum and thesis right now…And then you also have opportunities na mabibigyan ‘yung students ng sustainable projects and sustainable learning in terms of applying their academics…And also, we would have preparation for a centralized system that could give the students a tutoring guide and materials and equipments that would ensure na lahat sila nakakuha ng accessible learning, nakakakuha ng effective and efficient learning kahit online, kahit mahirap.
Bracamonte: It’s important to recognize that every Lasallian has different interests, and they have their own potential. As USG, we should take into account their needs and wants as students…We want to provide [students of] the college with avenues to explore different career paths aligned to their degree programs through a series of webinars. As a leader, you should also help them when it comes to their future, [and] I think we should not be limited to providing them with projects that are just for their college life.
The LaSallian: So speaking of reforms, are you planning on any student services reform for [COS]?
Bracamonte: For us, we plan to streamline the student services initiatives in the college…So we want it to be more easier, na may sistema so para din madali din when it comes to processing the student services…We also adapted it to our current online settings..We want to provide them with assistance with contacting [professors]…With our lab classes, some students do not have the materials and equipment for these classes; we want to have a pahiram system—kumbaga—for these materials…So they could coordinate with each other so they could get these materials.
Formoso: Now, meron na tayong sistema, meron tayong called COS (Communications, Operations, and Services) Hub…because we already have that, we will refocus and we will strengthen those ideas of the hub. So magkakaroon tayo ng isang centralized processing manual, na magiging open para sa lahat ng students…It will be available in our SCG (Science College Government) website that we would want to launch para one-stop shop, andun lahat ng kailangan mo…And of course, now, sa panahon ngayon, dapat ang student services hindi lang focused sa academic [or] focused sa student life…But we also need to prepare them (students) for their mental health and mental concerns. We wanted to launch a collaborative project with the guidance of OCCS na magkakaroon tayo ng sariling student enforcers na makakatulong sa batchmates natin, college mates, even lower batches.
The LaSallian: Both of you have mentioned, like, a lot of initiatives that you would like to hold for the College of Science. So how do you plan to encourage the students to utilize these services within your college?
Formoso: We already have the COS Hub, babaguhin natin para mas mag-cater sa needs nila ngayon…For them to utilize it, for example, during enlistment, we’ll up the process manual, ia-up ‘yung student services or ‘yung survey namin…For example, nagkaroon tayo ng typhoon, nagkaroon tayo ng suspension of classes, we will immediately release sa loob ng COS Hub ang isang system na doon lang nila ipapasok ang information ng student…Syempre, of course, lahat ng department representatives, which we have now—ang mangyayari is magkakaroon ng department representative kami per batch, tapos maibibigay nila yung process sa mga students.
Bracamonte: I think one of the most important things that you have to do as leader is to create a stronger relationship with the students because when you have this kind of relationship, you will be able to know what they need and what they want…We want to have an inclusive environment where the project that we created for them will be helpful for the future…If you’re able to provide them with the projects and opportunities that are catered to their needs and wants, then it’s very easy to help them be more engaged in the projects.
The LaSallian: So with all that said, what is your overall vision for the college? And how do you plan to integrate that vision to your platforms and advocacies?
Bracamonte: With the sudden transition to an online setting of education, changes should be done so that we could adapt to the needs of the students with their current situation. So as the SCG, we want to innovate and fully establish new ways to serve the students, and we want to still be able to be present and available and respond to the needs of the students despite being far apart from each other. So we want to provide more projects, external opportunities, and partnerships that will help them be more prepared to achieve their goals and bring their vision to life…We want to empower them to become agents of change. And we also want to help build and strengthen relationships with them, so that they will be more comfortable with sharing their concerns and issues. That’s my vision for COS.
Formoso: Agree naman ako sa lahat ng sinabi ni Bianca…So my vision for the College of Science that envisions the future of the COS students…magkakasama tayo as a unified College of Science na haharap sa mga susunod na buwan at mga taon. As [a] unified college, we would be able to foster a holistic growth of our fellow students…Simula doon sa unified COS that would then create a chain reaction for everything to commence.