Head to Head: Batch prexy rivals Josene Gonzales, Michelle Engbino meet again for top BCG seat

Tapat’s Michelle Engbino and Santugon’s Josene Gonzales contend for BCG presidency as they envision a more engaged and equipped RVRCOB.

Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista’s (Tapat) Michelle Engbino and Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon’s (Santugon) Josene Gonzales, who ran against each other in the University Student Government (USG) General Elections 2021 as BLAZE2024 batch president aspirants, face off again for Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business (RVRCOB) college president. With an extensive background as BLAZE2024 electeds and within the Business College Government (BCG), outgoing BLAZE2024 Batch Legislator Engbino and BCG Director for Student Support Gonzales offer varying perspectives to bridge the gaps between RVRCOB stakeholders.

The LaSallian: How do your previous experiences as elected officers of BLAZE2024 aid you as a potential college president?

Josene Gonzales (Santugon): I’d say my experience being batch president has allowed me to [be] the “face” of my batch, being able to see the different needs [and] concerns, being the front person on these kinds of concerns and diversity among our whole batch…In my next year, I was able to become student services director of the whole college government, [which] allowed me to not only see the views of my batch [but also] my whole [college’s] needs and perspectives. 

Michelle Engbino (Tapat): [As the] the incumbent batch legislator of BLAZE2024, I was able to take a proactive approach when it comes to research initiatives and data gathering [to] create pro-student policies. I’m [also] currently the Legislative Assembly’s chairperson for student rights and welfare, [which] allowed me to get a glimpse into how to effectively address student services concerns…and provide sustainable solutions to the issues [being faced] on a University-wide level. One thing that we were able to concretize during my term as batch legislator is the Disability Inclusion Bill…for our PWD (persons with disabilities) students, [which] is [an] example of a sustainable solution that we provide to the students through the long-term student services solutions. Furthermore…I gained fundamental knowledge that makes me well-equipped…as a part of the legislative [and] executive [branches] of the [USG]. 

The LaSallian: What is the most pressing issue that RVRCOB students uniquely experience and how do you plan to address it?

Engbino: Upon several consultations with different organizations, [RVRCOB students, and] the RVRCOB administration, the most uniquely pressing concern that I see in our college is the lack of student participation, pero…hindi ito kasalanan ng estudyante…We have to acknowledge na not all of us have the time nor the energy to get into activities, but this is a problem that we, as student leaders, have the influence [and] power to address. 

The first step is to properly consult with all the primary stakeholders…then find the best solution to the problem at hand, [kung] ano [ba] ‘yung talagang makakatulong not only to the present batches but also to the future batches [in] the long-running problem of lack of student participation.

Gonzales: I [first] want to acknowledge the fact that as the biggest college in the whole University…we consist of [great] diversity… However, the most pressing issue in our college right now would be the disconnect to our Lasallian business excellence…If you see or review the old visions [of] the past college presidents…it is always identified [by] our Lasallian business excellence and I believe that disconnect is what we need the most because how [else] will we be able to make changes…and grow as students and Lasallian business leaders? 

That is why our vision is a transformative RVRCOB but also elevating the Lasallian business leader in you because we acknowledge that every single student in our college is already a Lasallian business leader, [but] there are not enough avenues [and] opportunities for us to elevate that to another level [and] instill our excellence…within [and] outside the University.

The LaSallian: As college president, how do you plan to bridge the gap between the Business College Government (BCG), BLAZE units, PROBE organizations, RVRCOB, and the RVRCOB departments?

Gonzales: One of my projects under student-centric transformation…would be a COB termly town hall…in collaboration with the different departments [including] PROBE organizations in [RVRCOB]…and the student and batch representatives. The batch representative will have that opportunity [and] platform… [to represent] their batchmates to the [administration]. But, because of the lack of student-admin collaboration, there is a need for us to understand more why we go through certain problems…with enlistment, preenlistment, grievances, and [others]. It’s not enough if just the college president [and] the batch representatives [will be the] representation.

Engbino: One of my platforms, “COB Central,” [aims to have] a year-round centralized communication channel with organizations [and] the administration to immediately provide answers to the [students’ concerns]. Another one of my projects, “BCG Open Office,” in collaboration with [the BLAZE] batch units, [is where] we will be conducting regular welfare checks, town halls, [and] focus group discussions [to] regularly check what the BCG can do better, what we have achieved so far that can be implemented [again], [and what] other projects the student body would need. 

Aside from these, we also want to create a yearlong partnership with all of the PROBE organizations in our Activities and Advocacies projects…because some of my key pillars include cultivating a well-rounded student life and hindi namin ito maa-achieve kung BCG ang nag-iisang kikilos. Kailangan ng participation ng bawat organization since sila ‘yung primary representatives ng courses inside RVRCOB. 

The LaSallian: How do you plan to address the low participation rate of RVRCOB students when it comes to important University matters such as preenlistment and University Student Government elections? 

Engbino: From some of the consultations that I had with the administrators and the PROBE organizations, one common problem is sa sobrang laki ng kolehiyo natin, the information doesn’t get to everyone. Sometimes, the information dissemination process is so saturated [that] some students get overwhelmed.

One of the plans I have for this is to ensure maximum collaboration between PROBE, BLAZE units, and the BCG [so] that no information channels are left behind [in] providing information. [We should also] consider [that] some of the students are not inside the PROBE organizations. In order to ensure maximum participation naman in University affairs, we need to be able to find that spark that would capture [the students’] attention and ensure na it could be sustained throughout the year [and] even beyond that kasi importante sa atin na as future Lasallian business leaders, we are knowledgeable not only about University affairs but also what is happening outside our University in order to be prepared for the real world. Not only do we want to provide the best student services within their reach, we also want to maximize the Lasallian experience habang nandito palang sila sa Unibersidad, para kung ano ‘yung theoretical knowledge na matututunan nila, they have practical application as early as now that will continue to be amplified into better avenues as they go outside the University.

Gonzales: Being under BCG [as] student support director, I do acknowledge [and] understand how all of these kinds of information that goes around DLSU…is really overwhelming at times for our students especially since as mentioned before, we are around 8,000 students in RVRCOB and it really is hard to send out these important information.

Moving forward, my focus as next college president, hopefully, would be on a stronger administration and student collaboration. As college presidents, we have the privilege of being that voice towards the students and the admin and the different department heads, [and] if we are able to actually send out all of these important information to every single student in our whole college, there needs to be a collective effort between the [administrators], department heads, professors, BCG, [and] PROBE [organizations], especially in a face-to-face setting. As mentioned, there would be…an actual USG subject [on Canvas] where it gives off the deadline of certain [kinds] of information like enlistment [and] preenlistment.

The LaSallian: What are your plans regarding implementing advocacy and national affairs projects aside from the career development and student services initiatives usually provided by the Business College Government?

Gonzales: One of our three thrusts under my vision on a transformative RVRCOB is on social transformation. [It is] focused on not just being a Lasallian business leader in our University but actually outside of the four walls of DLSU.

One of our projects under social transformation is “COB Across Borders,” [which] focuses on immersive NGO (non-government organization) partnerships where we would be able to talk to different kinds of students from different organizations [and] student sectors and to collaboratively think of plans on how we would be able to make a lasting and sustainable impact not just in DLSU but outside of the University [as well], most especially once we graduate and actually live out the Lasallian business leader within all of us. 

Engbino: One of my key pillars is advancing youth empowerment. One of the platforms under this key pillar is first, “Behind the Corporation,” wherein they can immerse themselves in company immersions and experience what it is like to be [a] part of the corporate world while building connections with our inspiring alumni. Next would be “COBUnity in Diversity,” where we…plan to form a community for student sectors where they can connect [with] each other and find unity. Lastly, empowering does not stop here because we also have “COB Empower,” wherein we will be providing them with business-building starter packs. Given na we are in the field of business, it is imperative [for] us to know how to start our own business especially in this economic setup we are living in right now. We also have loan and investment strategies workshops [on] this platform. We also plan to collaborate with the COB departments in order for them to have practical application by teaching others, especially the marginalized sectors, regarding the knowledge na nakuha nila from the Business College Government, as well as the BLAZE units. 

The LaSallian: What is the core of all your platforms?

Engbino: Lagi’t laging para sa estudyante. Ito naman ‘yung pinaka-core ng bawat platform na naisip ko. That is why I wanted to consult as early as now kahit ‘di pa ako nakaupo sa lahat ng organizations, sa iba’t ibang batches, pati na rin sa administrators kasi sila yung experts na sa pag ha-handle ng mga estudyante natin dito sa COB. 

I do acknowledge as well that Josene and I both want to achieve a transformative COB, but what sets the both of us apart is that fact that I want to focus on working collectively with all of the organizations and the student body as well as the administrators in achieving a [COB] that has a well-rounded student life, elevated interaction and education, and advanced youth empowerment. Lahat ng mga plano na naisip ko bilang future BCG President, hopefully, together with my batches is kailangan lahat ng platforms, lahat ng plano ko [ay] connected sa vision [and] focuses ng bawat organization sa pangangailangan ng mga estudyante [and] ng batches ko kasi I do not want to work in an environment wherein may estudyanteng naiiwanan

This BCG aims to ensure that this time around, the best interest of the student body is put first before anything else, that we answer their most pressing concerns, [and] we provide sustainable and long-term solutions na magagamit years from now. 

Gonzales: My whole experience being in [the] USG…has allowed me to envision, first, a personal transformation aspect in our thrust where this BCG does not only want to provide you with self development, self growth, and [opportunities] to become that Lasallian business leader that we believe you can be. This would be through leadership simulation workshops, career development initiatives, company tours, and all of that alike. 

Second would be student-centric transformation, where we do not only want to just provide you with the mere student services you ask us on a daily basis, or representation that you expect from your USG leaders in general but…it would be focused on providing you this shift to the onsite welfare checks, being able to have fun [and] engaging activities to have a break from academics…and also being able to create these pro-student policies that are sustainable in the long run. 

And third, social transformation focused on having that impact outside of the University, of not just focusing on what we can do now but being able to focus on what we can do in the future as Lasallian business leaders of tomorrow. We acknowledge that every single student has that great amount of potential, that great amount of opportunities that we have in the university and opportunities within the BCG, but we want to elevate it to a new level where we are not constricted anymore [of] the online setting. We are able to do so many more things that we were not able to do during the pandemic so this time around we hope that through BCG, we would be able to unleash your truest potential as the next Lasallian business leaders of tomorrow. 

This interview was edited for length and clarity. 

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