The Mindanao State University: A Historical Glimpse (3rd and last of a series)

The Mindanao State University: A Historical Glimpse

(3rd and last of a series)

Dr. Datumanong A. Sarangani

Past MSU EVP (1990-2011), now Senior Professional Lecturer, College of Public Affairs, MSU Past President of the MSUAA, (Member, MSU Students Pioneer Batch 1962, Member, First Graduating Class of 1966, First Alumni Batch)

Strengthening the University System Structure: Period of Consolidation (2005-2008)

In September 2005, Dr. Ricardo F. de Leon, a retired ranking officer of the Philippine National Police (PNP) was appointed Acting President, succeeding Dr. Camar A. Umpa, the 5th regular president of the MSU System. Bringing with him his long veritable military and police experience, President de Leon introduced a holistic-based approach of institutional governance and managerial strategy. This dual-pronged university system perspective included upgrades in thrusts towards academic excellence, advances in communication and information technology, enhanced external linkages, declaration and pursuit of a Peace University status in the country, revival of the cultural arts, and a refurbished university system structure.

Expansion and replication of curricular programs across campuses.

As an integral part of its mandated mission to provide the appropriate academic training and technical know-how, the Board of Regents formulated policies and approved academic programs that were deemed necessary for the various autonomous campuses in catering to the needs of their respective communities. Academic programs that were initially earmarked for the Marawi Main Campus, such as those in agriculture, fisheries, health sciences, communication and information technology were pursued in the campuses of Naawan, Tawi-Tawi, General Santos, Dinaig, as well as the developing Bu-ug external unit, the strategically located high school unit in Lopez Jaena, and the formerly CHED Supervised Institutions of LNCAT, MSAT and LAC.

Pursuing Peace as an Instrument of National Development

The University is well-cognizant of the recurring issues of peace and order in its immediate environment during this period. The often-resurging violent hostilities between the government and the Mindanao-wide separatist groups, as well as the nagging Communist-inspired insurgency creeping in the southern part of the country, prompted the University to take a more pronounced stand in the call for peace and stability in the area. A peace education program designed to nurture the culture of peace in the region and nationwide was developed and institutionalized for appropriate implementation by the autonomous campuses, through its peace development centers and institutes. The University took the bold step in affirming its role and status as a Peace University in the country, and undertook contacts and joint activities with various peace-oriented agencies and organizations, both on a national and international scope.

A Renaissance; Cultural Revival

An avid nationalists and a patron of the arts, President de Leon noticed a declining trend of subscription and an adherence by the University community, particularly in its Marawi main campus, of the rich material culture of the Maranaos and allied cultural communities of the South. On his own initiative, President de Leon caused the revival of the costumes, music, dances, and heraldry during flag ceremonies, traditional Pagana Maranao events, and Foundation Day celebrations. Through this revival momentum took on an unexpected interruption in the ensuing years, after President de Leon’s brief presidency stint, the current administration under the leadership of President Habib Maca-ayong is taking prompt steps towards its resumption by virtue of the construction and establishment of the Meranaw Cultural Center.

Strengthening the University System Structure

A visible consolidation program was effected to bring more relevance to the university system structure through an adherence to uniform institutional operation procedures. System University Council and Academic Promotion Panel activities were streamlined to allow more inputs by campus councils on academic policy formulation and implementation. Initial efforts were undertaken to constantly upgrade the provisions of the Integrated Ranking Scheme for Academic Personnel (ISRP) and the University Code of Governance. This is to achieve and provide institutional relevance within the purview of emerging trends in academic governance among institutions of higher education in the country, as mandated by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), through the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) and the Philippine Accreditation Association of State Universities and Colleges (PAASCU). Higher academic and administrative positions were standardized among the autonomous campuses of the University to achieve uniformity and regularity in the execution of tasks, functions, and implementation of policies formulated by the Board of Regents. Due to the perceived expanse and level of the function and responsibility of the University President, attending simultaneously as head of the Marawi Campus, President de Leon planned to implement the revival of the Chancellor position, as provided for in the Code of Governance, as Chief Executive Officer the Marawi Campus, similar to those in the other autonomous campuses. This plan was aborted after the unexpected end of President de Leon’s stint as acting president in early March 2008.

Sustaining Previous Gains: Settings Goals for Global Educational Immersion (2008-2016)

The period, 2008-2016, under the institutional stewardship of Dr. Macapado A. Muslim, the 6th regular President of the University, brought in several notable features in the overall governance of the University System. Bringing with him a veritable experience and performance as a two-term Chancellor of MSU General Santos, complimented by an amiable governing body, President Muslim injected his policy expertise on academic governance, research directions, institutional linkages, fiscal and management review and budgetary procedural innovations.

The educational demands of the new millennium included focused attention and direction on a global perspective. In response to this calling, the University needed to renew, realign and or revise a number of its curricular programs to worldwide trends in the areas of computer and engineering technology, food production, environment preservation, health care, tourism, and peace studies. Study and travel grants for faculty members and other academic personnel were made for studies abroad, particularly in Europe, the United States of America, Australia and some countries in Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Japan. Most of these grantees have already returned back to the University and are now involved in relevant tasks guiding the University has entered into several Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with other national and international institutions of higher learning with the purpose of strengthening academic capabilities and research potentials. Exchange of visits was made with universities in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and island Southeast Asia. Senior students were also permitted to undergo practicum and on-the-job trainings in the United States, Israel and Singapore.

As the demand for global recognition and competitiveness grows, the University responded by streamlining its academic programs, research undertakings, and other related institutional activities geared towards prominence and relevance. This opened the way for the recognition of the University as the leading institution of higher learning in the southern part of the country. The nature, character and strength of the academic programs of the University have gained for its autonomous campuses several levels of accreditation as Centers of Excellence and Development. In addition, in its avowed desire for peace and tranquillity as ingredients of growth, development and stability in its immediate environment, the University declared itself as a Peace University.

A Halcyon Era of Physical and Infrastructure Development

While the curricular programs and academic activities of the University System were continuously undergoing evaluation and assessment for further relevance, the administration also embarked on a bold step to expand and improved on its physical development. At the onset of the second decade of the current millennium, the financial capability of the University received a tremendous boost through a budgetary allocation by the national government of an initial 2 billion pesos. This newly-obtained resource abundance enabled the University to effect massive infrastructure development in the entire University System. The main campus at Marawi got a huge share of this financial resource, which led to the construction of new buildings, purchase and acquisition of learning and teaching facilities, and the repair as well of existing buildings and facilities. An additional 1 Billion funding thereafter allowed the completion of on-going buildings and other allied infrastructures across campuses of the University.

Capturing Old Dreams, Pursuing New Horizons: The University Onwards (2016-present)

In his inaugural message, after being installed as the 7th regular University President, on April 16, 2016, Dr. Habib W. Macaayong bared his platform of work during his incumbency. The vision and goal of his administration is to explore new frontiers of knowledge and to pursue further the previously laid down plan of preceding administrations to make the University as super-regional university. This goal is to be carried out in several strategies and program of work that will exemplify the character of a true institution of higher learning, with academic excellence as the core of all efforts and performance of the University. The premium put on academic excellence shall be complimented by good governance platforms, rendering efficient service through transparency and accountability, and to make the University Campuses as safe and dynamic learning environments.

For the past four years since the presidency of Dr. Macaayong and the University went through a rigorous path of development amidst challenges posed by enormous pressures exerted by both institutional and community forces. Governance and management efforts were appropriately addressed with extra rigor and patience. Curricular changes were eminently necessary, and securing Centers of Excellence and Development were essential to capture academic excellence. Trimming down a huge administrative machinery, upgrading faculty expertise, exploring meaningful research opportunities, handling overwhelming demands for student admission, and confronting a recurring acute peace and order conditions in the region posed serious challenges to university growth and stability. Most of these challenges were met with resolve, including an eminent threat for the transfer of the University elsewhere due to the aftermath of the tragic Marawi Siege of 2017.

A fitting statement to the overall performance of the University, as an institution of higher learning, under the stewardship of Dr. Macaayong will come in due time. But it will be a remiss of understanding and appreciation if some of the prominent accomplishments made at this point in time will not be declared. Upfront, the massive infrastructure activities initiated during the preceding administration, under President Muslim, were continued without delay and most have been completed at the Marawi Campus alone, nearly all the collegiate buildings were completed and are now in operation and full use by its corresponding constituencies, including the refurbished and recently completed Administration Building. Faculty development and research activities, community and institutional services were given due importance. External linkages for both academic and research endeavors were vigorously pursued. Several memorandums of agreement and understanding were signed with prominent universities in the United States, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Ukraine which allow the exchange of faculty and students to pursue mutual global concerns on environment preservation, climate change, peace and order, world stability and development.

At present, governance efforts are focused on continued improvement in the delivery of educational and community services by all the campuses of the University system. These include the recognition and involvement of multi-sectoral entities involving students, faculty, researchers, extension workers, community leaders, and partners with the uniformed services in certain levels of the decision-making processes in the University. The current officialdom of the University, with overwhelming support by its  governing board, looks to the future in earnest for the revision of the existing charter of the University, R.A. 1387, as amended. This will augur well in increasing the coverage of the  University System, and perform its desired status as a super-regional institution of higher education, and as a true and distinct Peace University.