THE UP FORUM ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION ON PUBLIC SERVICE

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Beyond teaching and research, how can universities and colleges serve the public better?

 

Lenore Polotan-De la Cruz: Director, Office of Extension Coordination Associate Professor, Department of Community Development, College of Social Work and Community Development UP Diliman
Lenore Polotan-De la Cruz: Director, Office of Extension Coordination Associate Professor, Department of Community Development, College of Social Work and Community Development UP Diliman

 

A key premise behind UP’s mandate as a public service university is that service is not only a function (like teaching and research) but is an overriding ideal and core value that guides our work as faculty, REPS, staff and students. Public service connects us to social realities. We just have to look at communities around us, including our own, to realize the magni­tude and diversity of societal issues that we can help address by seeking better ways of putting our knowledge and exper­tise in the service of these communities.

At the Department of Community Development, the Field Instruction Program (FIP) is an integral part of the academic training of our graduate and undergraduate students. It has proven to be an effective vehicle for both learning and service through which students under the close supervision of faculty members live in marginalized communities and engage community members in address­ing real-life issues and problems using the knowledge and skills in CD learned in the classroom. In particular, students and faculty assist communities and vulnerable groups in organizing and organizational strengthening, community education and training activities, mobilization and advocacy, and in coming up with more effective programs for people-centered development. The FIP has continually provided our faculty tremendous op­portunities for community extension and research which in turn enhance our teaching.

My current role as OEC Director has provided me a wider picture of how UP Diliman has lived to its public service mandate. More than half of its faculty members, REPs and staff are involved in public service initiatives in various capacities, and in various programs that address a rich diversity of social issues and concerns. Many of these initiatives are undertaken through partnerships and the collaborative approach—among different units and disciplines within UP Diliman and other CUs, with partner communi­ties, local government units, national gov­ernment agencies, civil society organiza­tions, UP alumni, and the private sector.

Since 2016, the Parangal (now Gawad Tsanselor) sa Natatanging Programang Pang-Ekstensiyon has been revived to recognize exemplary extension programs in UP Diliman. The awardees to date include: the Geography Field School (Department of Geography, CSSP) and the KaSaMa Teachers Online Commu­nity (NISMED, College of Education) for 2016; the UP MSI Bolinao Marine Laboratory Training and Education Program (Marine Science Institute) and the Microbiological Research Services Laboratory Extension Program (Natural Sciences Research Institute) for 2017. All these programs are solid proof of UP’s significant contributions to public service.

 

Tell us about one or two public service programs or best practices undertaken by your constituent unit (CU). What problems or challenges have you en­countered in doing public service? How did you solve or address them?

UP Diliman as the flagship campus of the UP System has made significant progress towards further institutionalizing the public service and extension work of fac­ulty and staff through improved policies, programs and incentives. These include providing incentives and grants to en­courage them to undertake various forms of community and volunteer service, direct social action as well as scholarly and technical advice to government, civil society and the private sector. We are now seeing an incremental increase in faculty and staff applying for Extension Load Credit, Extension Grants and reporting their public service involvements. How­ever, much work still needs to be done on different fronts.

Management support for extension work remains a challenge since only a few units have established extension offices with full staff support and with fully developed procedures for approving and monitoring extension initiatives based on unit-agreed extension agenda. There is also need for a more robust reporting system that can capture the full picture of public service initiatives in the whole university.

The challenge of integrating exten­sion work, research and teaching in the academic life of faculty members is also crucial in fully realizing the transformative intent of scholarship. The bias in favor of journal publications tends to privilege only one tradition of academic scholar­ship. Extension and its knowledge prod­ucts that are more practical and accessible to the broader publics need to be given the value they deserve.

 

Suggest one or two ways of further improving the public service program in your CU and locality.

I would like to see more documentation and dissemination of our public service experiences and lessons in various formats and media that are relevant to the con­texts, mandate, tradition, and publics of the different units in the university. Such documentation should include system­atic evaluation and measurement of our impact, and critical analysis of the effects of these initiatives on the lives of commu­nities and beneficiaries. I would also like to see more inter- and multi-disciplinary collaborations on extension and public service programs amongst different col­leges. This can be realized through deeper interactions with various sectors within and outside the university. Finally, I look forward to a higher valuation of public service and community engagement as a moral duty amongst all university con­stituents. All these will help ensure that extension and public service remain at the core of our mission as a university, even as we strive to maintain standards of excel­lence in teaching and research.

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