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Head to Head: Joshua Arao, Zaniel Kekenusa eye reforms in bid for SEG presidency

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Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) and Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat) bets, Joshua Arao and Zaniel Kekenusa, face off as they vie for the top School of Economics Government (SEG) seat. The latter a former batch president, while the other involved in a major University Student Government project, both envision an inclusive and socially-responsible SEG.

The Lasallian: What part of your background do you think contributes the most to making you a capable college president?

Zaniel Kekenusa (Tapat): Well, ever since I was a frosh, I’ve already been in the USG…In my first year, I was the first EXCEL2021 Batch President so I’ve been an elected [officer] before…So in a sense, I don’t have much of an adjustment period anymore and I have an idea how it works. And then for the past four terms, I have been the Chief of Staff for the School of Economics Government…I have been a key person in SEG initiatives within the organization and for the students…With that experience comes the familiarity with the struggles and the needs of the students.

Joshua Arao (Santugon): On my end naman, I think I started noticing that I really had fun when I get to help officers [and] I get to help other people or projects…Over the years, I got the opportunity to take larger opportunities, to get bigger roles…Even though I was not an elected in [my] freshman year, that didn’t necessarily demotivate me to pursue my passion for helping other people…I took on some roles outside the (sic) DLSU, especially with the Boy Scouts of the Philippines [and] efforts here in Cagayan…And I guess it’s from those experience (sic) that I want to share back to the future economists of our college.

The Lasallian: What are some issues that you have observed in the School of Economics, and how can these issues be addressed as the college president?

Arao: The things that are currently pressing in [our] college, I guess, is the transition to the online setting. SOE [has] marvelous, hardworking students…Most of us really want to ensure that we get to do something that is bigger than ourselves…With the standards of SOE in terms of preserving—in terms of thriving—for that culture of excellence, we need to ensure that our college gets to readjust…By engaging them with opportunities, by harnessing the capacities of the students in SOE…I believe that we can try or give a good measure to the current problem of our college.

Kekenusa: From what we’re seeing here, siguro the most pressing issue for SOE now is with regards to mental health. When we shifted into online learning, ‘yung social interaction and social connection ng students with other people was put to a halt…As for how we want to address this, our platform’s hallmark is ‘yung in terms of student welfare…We want to make it personal. We actually want to reach out to each and every SOE student…The USG and the services of the administration like [the] OCCS (Office of Counseling and Career Services) are further than before, and meron ding frosh na hindi alam ‘yung services na iyon…We want to improve mental health by bringing all the services closer to them.

The LaSallian: Are you planning to lobby any academic-related reforms for your college to the admin?

Kekenusa: Not necessarily, no…We have already done so much in terms of acads and Students Services so we have seen that the system works. We acknowledge that the system we’ve set up may not work best now given that…they were set up for a more face-to-face and physical interaction. So ‘yung plan namin mainly is to just refocus and strengthen those systems to adjust to how we interact and how we study now.

Arao: So…it’s (academic reforms) like a very growing need…We cannot necessarily… diretsohin natin na bawasan natin ‘yung workloadmedyo mahihirapan siya. We’ll try to give out some adjustments that we can do on the first time around…One of those things is actually by…making sure that students get to have a more flexible schedule in terms of the requirements, especially with academic workload…given na hindi masyadong pantay-pantay yung mga resources ng mga estudyante ng La Salle…By making sure na flexible ‘yung schedule natin…we can ensure na…‘yung estudyante hindi sila naprepressure.

The LaSallian: Are you planning any…Student Services reform for your college?

Arao: Actually, we want to re-approach how we do Student Services. Given the transition to the online setting, we want to ensure that we get to have a…more personal response, which is why one of the projects that we will be aiming for is a congress for the college…because at the end of the day it’s the students of SOE that should be the focus of the agenda for SEG.

Kekenusa: Yung whole plan for SEG for student services is we want to refocus and strengthen them. We don’t necessarily want to create new things, because in terms of Student Services like yung mga enlistment shifting…you can only do so much…what we want to do, specifically, is to consolidate them. From what we’ve seen for the past few terms…yung Student Services natin medyo kalat…We want…all student service concerns will go through one platform.

We also want to set the foundations for the new types of concerns with regards to Student Services…One of them is ‘yung minors program…’Yung biggest concern nakita namin is because it is still new and medyo kalat pa yung information…We want to set the foundations by parang giving a consolidated database or collaborating with different college governments on how to help minor students not just in SOE, but also students from other colleges that are also minoring in SOE.

The LaSallian: During the online academic year, how do you plan to encourage student utilization of USG services within your college?

Kekenusa: I think I can answer this by grouping the students into two groups. First is yung freshmen or transferees. The biggest problem that we see with them is they don’t know what the USG services are…so by running on a platform that makes everything closer to them, we actually bring these platforms to the students. For the rest of the students, generally it’s the same thing—personal approach…we want to tailor fit it to how they need it, when do they need it, and what do they need.

Arao: First, we need to make sure that of course information is across the platforms, we need to make sure that we can first present the services that we can actually offer…it all boils down to making sure that the foundations of student welfare are correct…We need to go on a more deeper level by making sure that we actually connect to the students of SOE…One of the things that we want to make sure that is really strong with SOE and SEG is Student Services development rin talaga because in the traditional setting, it is just easier.

The LaSallian: What is your overall vision for the college and how do you plan to integrate that vision to your platforms and advocacies?

Arao: Our vision is furthering individual competence and reshaping excellence…First, we harness the capacities of our students. Second, we bridge them with opportunities to excel. Third, we engage them in social responsibility…by engaging them with social responsibility, we aim to rekindle the passion of being an economist. So kasi parang may stigma na pag sa SOE raw baka maging corporate sellout pero, honestly, SOE can do more than that…by engaging them with social responsibility, we aim to rekindle them on how closely intertwined our jobs [are] as future economists and the society we want to live in. It is an avenue [to develop a] culture of being proactive, socially aware, [and] giving back.

Kekenusa: I envision a School of Economics that bridges the gap, a USG that brings everything closer to the students…First, we want to strengthen and refocus Student Services…Besides that, we also want to ensure student welfare. We can do that through two things. First, yung well-being of students we want to make it personal, we want to reach out…Second is through disaster response and managing that..the USG should play a bigger role in terms of ensuring yung safety and security ng students, so we want to ramp up and [institutionalize the] disaster response ng SEG…Our last pillar is mobilizing Lasallian economists to make a mark in society…We also want to enable Lasallian economists as future policymakers and policy leaders, na can contribute into making policies that are relevant to national issues…So again, the whole platform is really built on bridging the gap…We want to work with what we have now, and we still want to give that optimal SOE by bridging the gap we’re experiencing now.

By Oliver Barrios

By Dustin Albert Sy

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