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Investiture Address of the 9th President of Central Mindanao University

Investiture Address of the 9th President of Central Mindanao University

16 September 2019

“Becoming a Giant: On Our Shoulders, Others Could Stand On”

I thank God for second chances. Well, in fact, for “many” second chances. I believe you understand me because we all have our stories of second chances. Becoming the 9th president of this great university is my HUGE second chance at life and career, at vindicating myself, and at living out my vocation of service. I am given this second chance to serve, and it is most special and serendipitous because Central Mindanao University is my beloved Alma Mater. I am one of her sons, and it is where most of my philosophies in life as an adult were forged and cemented.

I graduated in 1987 with the degree Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. I had also served in my senior year as the President of the Supreme Student Council. I believe that leadership is service and responsibility. But my first opportunity to lead an academe forward was not completed. It was unfinished, and my brand of leadership was highly criticized and scrutinized. The challenges I and my family went through were not for the faint of heart.

But perhaps courage and resilience are both my middle names. I found the courage to apply again for another university presidency. I held on tight to humility to begin again in spite of the flood of gossips and speculations. Ladies and gentlemen, it takes a lot of faith, hope and grace to put myself again in the spotlight for scrutiny, criticism, and skepticism. But such is the heart of a servant. Not serving in spite of the difficulties would be more unthinkable.

To try again, I needed to step back and ruminate on the past for valuable lessons I need to carry forward. Navigating my beloved Alma Mater would require a better version of me, better ideas for service, but the intentions of my heart are the same – to serve people, to serve the community, to help make things become even better.

But mind you, I am still a work in progress, as most of us are. Hence, I am sincerely and truly grateful for my family and true friends who stood with me through the storms. As I am grateful to the CMU Board of Regents and the Commission on Higher Education, and everyone who supported me, for this second chance at service.

Every administrator of a state university like CMU’s caliber has to uphold, sustain and continuously break grounds for its four mandates: instruction, research, extension,  and production.

A mandate is an order by law. Therefore, focusing on these four orders makes my job a bit easier. Realizing each mandate however, in support of our new vision that was formally embedded in the 2015 University Code is more challenging, which is for Central Mindanao University to become a leading ASEAN university. Nonetheless, for people of courage, dreams, faith, and vision, challenges actually present a multitude of opportunities. I am also grateful to the 8th CMU President, Dr. Maria Luisa R. Soliven, who laid down the foundation for our internationalization.  

As your 9th president, it is my primary responsibility to lead, and it is equally my duty to follow. We all need to remind one another that we share the same goals – growth and development, progress and prosperity, sustaining the quality and excellence of the university, rooting deeper, extending our reach, fortifying our relevance, and enhancing our resources so that we could do all things well.  

As fellow workers in this vineyard, CMU’s vision and mission should be our own, too. So, I suggest that we post a copy of our vision and mission on our mirrors. And, every morning, as we prepare for work, we are reminded. And perhaps we write one more sentence below it. It is a question and it says: Today, how can I help realize our vision and mission?

Every person in this academe is here for a set of duties and responsibilities. Whether you are an administrator or a janitor, a professor or a carpenter, a clerk or a student, doing our tasks excellently would be our foremost and primary contribution to sustaining the greatness of CMU. First because, we have self-respect and integrity. And, second is because we are people who earn an honest pay at the end of every workday. There is fulfillment and joy in knowing that we have been good and faithful servants.

Now at 109 years since its humble beginnings as an industrial four-grade primary school established in Managok, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, CMU has helped thousands of lives and families become better. And either directly or indirectly, her sons and daughters, the alumni, are making many workplaces and communities better.

CMU is now one of the leading higher education institutions in the country. A number of our alumni are also making their mark and significant contributions abroad. There is no doubt that CMU has done truly well for itself — through the years, through the stewardship of eight presidents and at least a couple of officers-in-charge. Some of them have graciously honored us with their presence today

To all of them, we should be thankful for, because regardless of their styles of leadership, each had laid bricks to the foundation of this beloved academe for it to rise higher and to become stronger. The past stewards had find ways to stand on the shoulders of giants so that CMU could see further the horizon.

So, what else can you and I do for each mandate that has not been done before? One of Isaac Newton’s famous quotes came to mind: ‘If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants”. This got me thinking really deep. Then perhaps, the time has come for Central Mindanao University to purposively commit to becoming a giant, and on our shoulders, others could stand on.

How do we make that happen? I think the answer is very simple but it will take a lot of work. We simply need to have a better culture, a growth-minded way of life as an academic community, where excellence is practiced every day, and to quote Aristotle, to make it a habit – a habit in thinking and doing. It should become part of our ordinary conversations and I hope that we all commit to helping one another become excellent.

Working towards our vision and realizing our mission would be a lot easier when our academic culture of excellence is stronger, up-building and life-giving, and not just an abstraction. It would be easier when each of us evolves to have solid work ethics and discipline, creative ideas, courage and compassion, and a strong code of honor and integrity. All these tempered with love and genuine compassion for others.

Many families are here in CMU for more than one generation already. And it has been a sanctuary for many. Therefore, it is to our advantage that this university continues to become better, where future generations of “Batang Musuan” roam free and are nurtured well. Nonetheless, to contribute to the greater good of CMU, we need to review and assess first our individual reservoirs of knowledge, skills, and values. For we cannot give what we do not have. To become a giant, we need to muscle up for each of our mandates.  

So for instruction, the primary business of CMU is quality education, not just education. Many have toiled hard to develop academic programs useful and appropriate for our local communities and country. The phrase “global competitiveness of our graduates” had crept in, at least two decades ago, into our conversations and programs.

“Global competitiveness” should not just be a cliché or phrase, but a commitment and a daily grind. And it is more imperative now because we are no longer content of just being an academic paradise of the south, we now want to establish our relevance even beyond the Philippine borders.

For these aspirations, definitely we need additional and better infrastructures for classes, equipment and laboratories for science classes, as well as, for the arts. For science and arts need to have balance. For what is science without dance, literature and music?  

Hence, the task at hand for all of us, especially the faculty and administrators, is to further level up the quality of our academic programs, as well as, to design new and creative learning platforms such as distance learning, online courses and access to very useful life-long education programs.

To do these, it would entail that every member of the faculty, has to be sustainably enriched and retooled. They are the front-liners who attend to our primary customers and deliver our primary service of quality education. They are responsible for helping develop ingenious, curious, confident, intelligent, well-grounded, and responsible students who are the future human resources of our country and of the world. But, such would only be possible if and when the faculty are likewise excellent, of good fit to our system and culture, trained and educated well, with good values and character, happy, and less stressed.

We also need to provide and support opportunities for the faculty, staff and students to experience different academic cultures and systems, especially for internationalization. We need to invite experts and attract students from other countries for co-learning, as well as, to help assess where we could improve our programs and services.

The International Relations Office (IRO) created in 2015, a very young unit that helps centralize our international academic engagements, is slowly but surely helping CMU establish a good name and reputation of the quality of our students. It has facilitated several programs that allow some CMU students to gain substantial knowledge, skills and experience through trainings and internships in countries like Japan, Israel, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, USA, and Vietnam, as well as, from several international programs held in the country.

They also help facilitate the academic life of foreign students we have in campus. With its head and two full-time staff, perhaps, it is time to expand and equip the IRO with additional staff, an adequate budget and a proper office.

My administration will support everyone’s professional growth whenever possible. And equally, it is expected that each of us, especially the faculty, desires to grow, as it is necessary for progress. The quality of our graduates, first and foremost, will be defined by the quality of our faculty — instructors to professors, across the spectrum. So dear faculty, your excellent best is asked of you, not mediocrity and “pwede na”.

For research, the highest status a higher learning institution could aspire for is to become a research university. It is highly regarded as a generator of knowledge, a committed leader in addressing the concerns and challenges of peoples  and societies through innovations, efficient and smart technologies, and creative solutions.

CMU still has a long way to go to reach this status but while aiming for it, our university should continue to do quality and cutting-edge research, address gaps and generate new knowledge and solutions that would help address the perennial, current and future concerns of our stakeholders, many of whom are the disadvantaged like the indigenous communities. 

But while toiling on future research outputs, our mature technologies and innovations need to be patented and then promoted for better utilization. We have another young unit, the Intellectual Property Licensing Office (IPLO) that helps facilitate these matters, and has done quite well in such a short time. I believe, they will do even better as we do better research.

Our students, both the undergraduate and graduate students, need to be trained early on to do excellent research, for they, too, after graduation, will have opportunities to offer smart solutions to the concerns of their families, communities and future workplaces. We should do better at cultivating them to be insatiably curious and to be excited problem-solvers with utmost intellectual integrity.

However, sustaining an excellent research reputation would entail an ethical and stronger research culture, many good journal publications, well-written grants for external funding, collaborations with other Filipino and foreign experts, and for the faculty especially the professors to be deeply and joyfully involved in research.

For our extension, we need to “put back the heart” into extension. Sometimes, I think the word extension is too clinical and lacks warmth. Would it be better to call it “community engagements”?

Anyhow, this is our third mandate and I think that this should not feel like an obligation as it is one of the criteria that we get evaluated as a state university. Our community engagements should be rooted from a sincere desire to help people.

We are committed to help reduce the gaps among our peoples, address many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, especially on zero poverty, eliminating hunger, contributing to a healthier nation, and having a healthy planet. However, we also need to draw the line and “man up” when our generosity would be abused or misused. I do not think that even the “Magbabaya” would condone career squatting and deception. Quality education that CMU offers is still one best way out of the vicious cycle of poverty.

Remember that the primary purpose of education is for any form of knowledge to empower lives. Knowledge that satisfies our psyche and knowledge that we transform into tangible technologies that solve problems, ease the burden of work, and allow us to have quality time for loved ones and meaningful conversations, than just do back-breaking toil every single day.

Who would not want these? I believe, we all do. Sustaining our community engagements would mean that our excellent research outputs need to be sustained as well. And that we remain, at our core, generous with our knowledge, discoveries and our technologies. Because the universe is more generous to generous people. The Lord is never outgiven.

For production, perhaps, it would be better for us to call it “resource generation and management”? With all our inspired goals for the next decade at least, we definitely need to have more funds. CMU has one of the biggest budgets among the SUCs in Mindanao. However, it may not be easy to get additional budget from the government, especially so, that there are new and emerging HEIs.  Hence, we need smarter strategies to build on our university resources. We should support our business managers but we need smarter business models. Also, we need to earn from our patented technologies. If we are to become a giant, we need to multiply the limited resources of the university to serve better.

So the simple question is, what do we do next? We have a lot of aspirations for our students, employees, stakeholders, and equally, for the Filipino people who pay their taxes to support our mission of building a better nation through quality education. What are new things we need to try? And, how do we do things better? I propose that one of the things we need to strongly pursue and optimize is partnership with other good people and organizations that believe in our vision and mission. Alone, CMU is good, but together with them, we could become better and positively impact more lives.  

Another one area that has not been fully explored and optimized is to open our doors to the generosity of the sons and daughters of Central Mindanao University, her thousands of alumni! Top universities in the country and in the world sustain their ranks and status because of other people’s generosity. Hence, we need to craft and get approved sound policies and implementing guidelines for endowments, gifts and donations of the alumni, CMU friends, philanthropists, corporations, and other generous individuals.

Through their endowments, we could have additional and decent student residence halls, laboratories for professors, faculty and staff recreation areas to de-stress and to develop better professional relationships; scholarships and sponsorships for our students who still need assistance even with the tuition fees being free (dahil meron pa ring hindi nakakain ng maayos sa isang araw), access to books and online resources, opportunities for enriched learning in other academic venues, revival of the professional chairs, and support for post-doctoral opportunities of brilliant faculty.

It is high time to invoke on the generosity of our thousands of alumni, many of whom have really done well in life.

So, dearest CMU alumni, this was your home from where a significant part of who you are now had been nurtured. You have had a variety of experiences here, some may be even painful. However, one thing that you cannot deny is that in this academic community, you learned much, and these learnings have helped made you who you are. Please help us. You see that your dear Alma Mater has grown, but we still need to grow more.

Definitely, funds would be sincerely appreciated but you can also help in other things – as beacons of inspiration, good role models, support, opportunity-providers for our students to learn in your workplaces or for them to experience something new that shapes character, sponsorship for our sports teams, and job opportunities after graduation.

For administration, as president, vice-presidents, deans, directors and heads of units; our primary job is to take care of the people who do the daily grind of realizing the mandates and services of the university. Leadership is a responsibility. It is our responsibility to make sure that our employees have self-esteem and self-worth, because this is one of the ingredients for excellent and fulfilling work. For no matter how beautiful and smart our plans and goals us, we need our people to work together and to work well.

Top leadership is no sleep in the park, nor a bed of roses. It is both a privilege and a huge challenge. One will be criticized on a daily basis and seldom gets praised. But often, only the brave and faithful dare to take these reigns of leadership. Only those who see and believe that they can help build better communities, and contribute further to the lives of peoples.

Early in my presidency, I had proclaimed that I would be a unifying president. I commit to taking the lead in building bridges of cooperation and partnership. In simple words, in helping solve conflicts and heal wounds. Because if these are unresolved, these would just continue to drag us down. We also need to work more harmoniously. We need to re-learn to value one another’s strengths and gifts. We need to learn to truly complement and put to good use our diversity of ideas, knowledge, skills and talents.

Administrators need to learn more about valuing and keeping people who make significant contributions. We need to take the lead in developing a better lifestyle of excellence. From us, other employees could mirror themselves, especially when we get our tenure, that we continue to do excellent work and not succumb to mediocrity; that we honor the blessing of security of work, by doing even better work; that in our own workplaces, there would be less talk and more work, more meaningful conversations and less gossip; and that there would be a stronger code of honor and integrity. And finally, that our people are better appreciated.

One important program to continue and strengthen is for many of the staff to be fully developed and become heads of units, confident of their ability to make intelligent and fair decisions, and well-grounded on the principles of excellence of the university. This would free a number of faculty and professors from doing administrative work, so they could focus back on instruction, their research, writing, and other scholarly endeavor.

Every CMUan, be an administrator, faculty, staff, student or alumnus, should be known and respected for our competencies and values. We can erect buildings, have good landscaping, paint the entire campus green and gold, etc. – but we need everyone especially the alumni to be loyal to the mission of CMU. The tangible achievements of every administration could rot away and could be toppled down by earthquakes, fires and other calamities. However, our integrity and character should be solid rock and anchored deep in one simple principle – love of the Alma Mater and service for others. Sabi nga ng ating CMU Hymn: “we shall strive to uphold your honor; we shall try to give you boundless fame; we shall strive to work with mind and true heart…”

CMU is good. There is no debate that it is very good. It is one of the top HEIs in Mindanao and in the country. This fact is cemented in the recent licensure exam for Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and another 100% passing for Nutrition and Dietitians. Two of our DVM alumni placed second and sixth. And they all deserve our applause for bringing pride to their Alma Mater and for affirming the excellent quality of our education.

And we can do more! To do this, we have to regularly pool our brilliance to rethink, review and re-strategize how can we further propel our university to greater heights, to become a giant. Doing the usual things we do have done us good, but these will only bring us this far. After 109 years since our humble beginnings, here we are. We need to remind ourselves that complacency is the antithesis to progress.

So for example, the University Palaro is one of the most-awaited events every first semester. But we have not optimized sports and the physical talents of our students and coaches to further launch CMU as a sports powerhouse, Sports could help us cultivate more school pride and it could be one very sound strategy for resource generation.

It could also become a sincere and powerful instrument to help build lasting peace and friendship among the peoples of Mindanao. We have not yet heard the halls of the university shook, resonate and resound with cries of “gold and green” to cheer for our varsity teams against other school teams. The question I submit is: could CMU be the nucleus of a possible University Athletics Association of Mindanao? UAAM? An association that believes that sports and athletics are critical additional bricks, blocks and steel for building a better Mindanao?

Is it not better to see opposing teams battle with a ball rather than seeing Mindanaoans battle with guns? Is it not better to see people shake hands, do fist bumps and hug even after a furious game? Some traditions we need to honor and observe but as part of the current and future community, we also need to create new and better traditions.

Our continued relevance as a state university also depends on building harmonious relationships with our neighbors and stakeholders, and to work well with the LGUs of Maramag and Valencia City, and the province of Bukidnon. The infinite game and goal for progress and development is not for the impatient. It is for those who have faith that there is always something we can do to contribute within our lifetimes. Because we always say, we build today for a better tomorrow.

As your steward, I don’t have to look far and wide for a model of servanthood. I was named after one of the greatest servants in human history. It would be a great shame to dishonor my namesake. But I am not infallible. I make mistakes. The past is past and it cannot be undone, but it can be truly learned. A good servant learns from it to live in the present better, guided with wisdom gleaned from the past, and envisions and toils for a future that honors the opportunity of a longer life for service. 

And so I pray for wisdom, for courage and strength, for clarity and enlightenment. I pray for guidance and leading. I pray. And, please pray for me, too, because there is temptation in power, but there is more power in prayer. You and I need to pray that I would be a good navigator and steward of CMU. That I could handle the storms that may threaten us.

The physical storms could pass by in a day, but the spiritual battle and harassment could be more challenging. Life had given me blows that tested my character. I had failed some but I had also passed plenty. Every day is indeed a constant opportunity for refinement and for purification of intentions.

In sincere and humble supplication to God, pray for this servant to be always empowered by the God of the universe, for this servant to be always grounded and anchored in his presence. Pray for me and all the servant-leaders, because there is great power in the collective prayers for our beloved CMU and how it should further become.

There may be decisions I will make that you do not agree or do not understand. Trust that I will not make them without consultation, deep thoughts and prayers. One of the difficult jobs of a leader is to make difficult decisions. Always give me the benefit of the doubt that there would always be a logical, rational, and purposive reason for such decisions. And whenever there is a chance and time, ask me why.

Again, leadership for me is service and responsibility. I am responsible for you. It is my duty to take care of you the best I can. And this duty would be done with love, compassion, courage, strength and with toughness, too. To my co-servants in the university, especially to the next-in-command, the four vice presidents, deans and directors: you are my first line of responsibility and I will trust that you would be equally responsible to the people you work with. They are your co-workers and not people to be bossed over.  Our primary clients are the students. So, my dear faculty, be the best mentors and academic parents. No sane mentor teaches the wrong things inside and outside the classrooms. No sane parents desire the worse for their kids.

Finally, I believe that my heart is in a good place. My faith in God is strong. I have the willingness to serve. I have a vision of more victories for CMU. And lastly, I have you. These are the five most important things I have. I believe I would do a better job with your prayers, help, ideas, cooperation, and most especially, your trust and confidence. Together, we can do better.

However, I know that for your trust and confidence, I need to earn those, and I need to be deserving. Similarly, dear CMU employees, please be deserving, too, of the opportunity and blessing to work here. Make each workday count, then go home happy and fulfilled of your contribution; even when you are the janitor, the storekeeper, the field laborer, the messenger, or the book-binder. Often, only the faculty are subjected to extreme evaluation. I would like to remind us all of this: let’s not settle to be just good employees, let’s settle to be excellent employees  — with dignity and integrity, that even when nobody sees us, or evaluates us, we do our work the best we can.

Before I end, I would like to share this less-known quote from the great Dr. Jose Rizal. “It is a useless life that is not consecrated to a great ideal. It is like a stone wasted on the field without becoming a part of any edifice.” Ladies and gentlemen, I have laid bare my thoughts and heart at your feet. Please help me do my duties and responsibilities well. Let us work together anchored on the same goals and aspiring for more.

Lastly, I am most humbled and grateful for the presence of everyone today: my family, friends, mentors, my role models in public service, the esteemed members of the CMU Board of Regents, my fellow public servants in the local government units and in the CMU Administrative Council, the faculty and staff, the friends and supporters of CMU, our many stakeholders especially the indigenous peoples of Bukidnon, the wonderful alumni, and the current students of this great state university – I am Jesus Antonio Garnido Derije, the elected 9th president of Central Mindanao University. I am your servant and I am grateful to the Almighty for the second chances in my life.

Magandang araw po sa ating lahat at mabuhay ang CMU!

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