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19th University Research Colloquium | University President’s Keynote Address

Students, faculty, and staff of Holy Angel University; distinguished scholars; ladies and gentlemen: Good morning to you all and welcome to Holy Angel University’s 19th Research Symposium.


The theme of this symposium is “Research: Scholarship in the Service of Society.” I applaud the Academic Research Office for the choice of this theme for the simple reason that the university is both a servant and a critic of society.


The Dual Roles of the University


Our country’s higher education institutions are supposed to uplift society and contribute in ways that will better the fortunes of citizens and the nation. At the same time, they are expected to criticize tradition, dogma, and the way things are done, and to advocate for necessary changes regardless of who or what might be offended in the process. The role of the university as a critic of society is becoming more difficult in contemporary times – when well-intentioned criticism could be misconstrued as objectionable language or behavior. But the university’s dual role as both a critic and a servant of society continues.


The relationship between the university and society is inherently quite complex. As a servant, its function is complicated by the fact that society’s current economic and cultural contexts are always changing. On the other hand, the university has a fundamental responsibility to criticize society’s current arrangements and to construct, entertain, and test alternative ways of organizing society’s institutions, alternative approaches to understanding nature, and alternative visions of society’s values.


University research in the service of society must be grounded in the needs of society and the world beyond our university. Similarly, given the paramount importance of teaching at Holy Angel University, it must lead to improvements in pedagogy and must address the present and future needs of our students. After all, we are all about students. Let me address these two fundamental demands on university research.


Scholarship to Inform the Curriculum


Multiple times, you have heard me state that our challenge as educators is to prepare our students for careers that do not yet exist, to solve problems that society does not yet recognize as problems, using solutions and technologies that have not yet been invented. The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently published its Jobs of the Future Report. The WEF reported that, in 2018, humans performed an average of 71 percent of total task hours across the 12 industries covered in the report as compared to 29 percent by machines. By the year 2022, this average is expected to have shifted to 58 percent task hours performed by humans and 42 percent performed by machines. By the way, the year 2022 is the year when we will start having college freshmen in our new Alviera campus.


This slide from the Jobs of the Future Report suggests that majority of the current workforce will need significant training to either upgrade their skills or acquire new skills altogether. By the year 2022, everyone will need an extra 101 days of learning, with more than one-third of the workforce requiring an additional six months of training. If university research is going to be relevant to our mission of educating the future workforce, we need to ask ourselves how much of our scholarship would actually inform the process of developing a curriculum for the future.


This slide, also from the Jobs of the Future Report, suggests that there will be a shift in the competencies that we need to teach our students. As educators, we will need to align the competencies for which we prepare our students with the requirements of the future workforce. For example, appearing in the top ten list for the first time will be emotional intelligence. To what extent does our scholarship inform the process of developing co-curricular experiences that would help cultivate these new 21st century competencies among our students?


Scholarship Aligned with the University’s Social Mission


Our university’s second challenge as a servant of society is quite distinct yet related to the university’s intellectual and educational functions. Society expects us—and more so from a not-for-profit university that enjoys public subsidy through our tax-exempt status—to provide a range of services to our region for the social, cultural, ecological, political, and economic development of society and for the pursuit of a more equitable social order.


At last year’s University Research Colloquium, I presented to you the work of a small brainstorming group of colleagues that developed a strategy map for our strategic institutional objective of becoming an authentic instrument for countryside development.


Here is a refined version of that strategy map, which depicts the combination of strategic initiatives and societal outcomes pertaining to our vision. This year’s refinement is in the form of linking our strategy map with the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. Informed by the seventeen SDGs, we envision that Holy Angel University has core capabilities that will enable us to address four outcome areas of sustainable countryside development in the Central Luzon region:


  1. Employment and income generation, which relate to SDG8 [Decent Work and Economic Growth];
  2. Smart region, provinces, and cities, based on ICT investments and development, which relate to SDG9 [Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure];
  3. Sustainable built environment, which relate to SDG7 [Affordable and Clean Energy] and SDG11 [Sustainable Cities and Communities], and;
  4. and ecological balance, which relate to SDG15 [Life on Land].

In this strategy map, the areas highlighted in green are those for which we have achieved some maturity, while highlighted in blue are the new initiatives that we launched during the last academic year. From the perspective of our institutional mission and our strategic plan, your scholarship contributes to our becoming an authentic instrument for countryside development if you could relate it to any of the elements of this strategy map.


The Business Case for Doing Good


At the end of the day, why should all these matter? Please allow me to start with the business case.


The entrepreneur’s ultimate obligation is to repay society. In exchange for the right to exist and to do business, each of us is required to give back to society and to be what the Jewish people refer to as a mensch—which is a generous, honest, socially responsible, fully moral person.


The goal of the entrepreneur goal should be to achieve menschhood. Mensch is the Yiddish term for a person who is ethical, decent and admirable—in other words, a person of high integrity and honor. It is the highest form of praise one can receive from the people whose opinions matter.


Existing in the larger context of society means not doing things that benefit you and your organization but to the detriment of the rest of society. Further, this means that, if you want to build a truly great, lasting organization, you must set the highest moral and ethical standards for employees. A mensch provides a good role model for this.


Being a mensch means helping people who cannot help you. A mensch does what is right and pays society back. There are many “currencies” other than money: giving time, expertise and emotional support. A mensch joyfully pays back—for goodness already received—and pays forward, with no expectation of return.


You just heard the business entrepreneur’s case for doing good.


The Educational Case for Doing Good


Translating the concept of menschhood to education at Holy Angel University and other Catholic higher education institutions, this brings us to our institutional mission of offering accessible quality education that transforms students into persons of conscience, competence, and compassion—all for the greater glory of God.


In Catholic higher education, we believe that educating the whole person includes learning not just about the world, but also includes building relationships with those who suffer. We learn from solidarity with others and with the world through contact and engagement with the world rather than solely through concepts taught in the classroom. As the past Jesuit Superior-General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., said:


When the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change. Personal involvement with innocent suffering, with the injustice others suffer, is the catalyst for solidarity which then gives rise to intellectual inquiry and moral reflection. Students, in the course of their formation, must let the gritty reality of this world into their lives, so they can learn to feel it, think about it critically, respond to its suffering, and engage it constructively.1


It is in this process of personal involvement that community immersion and study missions to far-flung villages move from powerful personal tourism experiences to a reflective learning experience which challenges our values, personal commitments and ultimately our world view.


Educating the whole person will not take place without faculty and staff who share the same values, personal commitments and hope in a world where justice is universal. Faculty and staff are, in fact, the model of learning for students. Faculty and staff must be the change they want to see in the world. Educating the whole person will happen only if we all share and model this commitment to learning and service.


Conclusion


In conclusion, I challenge each of you – the sages, the learned, the scholars among the faculty and staff of Holy Angel University – to commit to continuously improving your scholarship not only in terms of its methodological rigor but also in terms of its relevance. Relevant scholarship informs the intellectual and educational mission of the university by enabling the development of a curriculum that produces graduates with highly valued degrees. Relevant scholarship enables the university to become an authentic instrument for countryside development. By contributing even a small part to this effort, you will have become an enabler of our strategic vision—thereby ensuring that we will have reached the peak of Mount Everest by the year 2025.


Thank you. Laus Deo Semper!


______________________________


1Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in Jesuit Higher Education,” in A Jesuit Education Reader, ed. George W. Traub, S.J. (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2008), 155.


Date Posted: 11-24-2018