Championing Student Partnership and Welfare as Mandate: Vice Chancellor Silva shares vision for OVCSA

3 November 2020 | DAManzano and CMM Sayuno |

As Chancellor-elect Jose V. Camacho, Jr., takes the helm in forwarding a future-proof UPLB, Dr. Janette Malata-Silva of the Department of Humanities joins the new administration as the appointed Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs (VCSA).

With an endorsement by the UPLB University Student Council (USC), the highest governing student institution that represents the UPLB studentry, Dr. Silva's commitment in prioritizing the interests of the students is said to be an ideal character for a VCSA. USC Chairperson Jainno Bongon writes: "As head of her sector, she championed the rights of her colleagues and helped to further the struggle for students' rights and welfare."

Joining VC Silva in the new OVCSA Administration are Asst. Prof. Jickerson Lado as Assistant to the Vice Chancellor and Head of the Office of Scholarships and Grants; Asst. Prof. Dan Paolo Yema as Head of the Office of Guidance and Counselling; Prof. Ma. Rowena Beatriz Inzon as Head of the Office of Student Activities,; Asst. Prof. John Mervin Embate as Head of the Office of Student Housing; Asst. Prof. John Emmanuel Encinas as Head of Research, Communication, and Information Technology; and Asst. Prof. Jea Agnes Buera as Head of International Student Relations.

Testament to Dr. Silva's passion to serve various stakeholders of the University is her leadership background, which includes being the President of the All UP Academic Employees Union since 2018; member of the Academic Personal and Fellowship Committee from 2019 to 2020; CAS Extension Committee Chair in 2019; the UPLB Grievances Committee Chair in 2018; the CAS Adhoc Committee on Education Courses Chair in 2018, and other DHUM committees.

Dr. Silva holds a PhD degree in Education Technology from Atlantic International University, a postgraduate certificate course in Intercultural Dimensions of English Language Teaching from Australian National University, an MA Education (Language and Literacy Education) degree from UP Open University (UPOU), and an AB Communication Arts (Major in Speech Communication; cum laude) from UPLB. She is currently an Associate Professor at DHUM and has been teaching at the department since 2007. She has also been an Affiliate Associate Professor at UPOU since 2012.

She has also engaged in many volunteer and extension activities throughout the years, including participating as a member of IBON Foundations' Educators Pool; lecturer at the Ugnayan ng Pahinungod and LP4Y Foundation; workshop facilitator at ATIKHA, Inc.; and paralegal trainer at the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines. She has also actively supported student initiatives, including the recent Serve the People Brigade Task Force Community Unit Response (STP TF CURE), a relief effort that started during the community quarantine.

She has also been a consultant at the Save Our Schools Network since 2017, reviewer at the ASEAN Journal of Community Engagement since 2018, writer and content expert at IBON Foundation since 2017, and member of the Asian Teachers of English as a Foreign Language and the Philippine Association of Language Teachers since 2014 and 2016, respectively.

As new VCSA, Dr. Silva plans to address the issues of maximum residency rule (MRR) and readmission appeals, provision of remote learning assistance to underprivileged students, and crafting more programs that will best address the needs of the students as the University's primary stakeholders. She also hopes to refine guidelines that affect student learning in today's pandemic, such as psychological assistance, gadget subsidy, salaries for student assistants for March and April 2020, and requests to return to student dormitories. She hopes to ensure that serving students continues to be the primary mandate of her office.

We interviewed incoming VC Silva and asked what her plans are for the OVCSA and how she intends to keep her promise of ensuring the welfare of UPLB students.

Q: What are your plans for OVCSA?

VC Silva: One of the urgent concerns is reviewing the MRR and readmission appeals. We want to make sure that students will be given another chance for their education. Another urgent concern is the provision of remote learning assistance to our underprivileged students. There have been restricting guidelines that resulted in the disapproval of several applications in the System's Kaagapay Program. We want to review these guidelines to ensure that deserving students will receive the assistance they need.

As for the long-term plans, we have to streamline processes in all offices under the OVCSA to ensure that the services will be delivered in a timely manner. Chancellor Camacho's "future-proof" vision will also be considered in crafting more programs that will best address the needs of our primary stakeholder, the students. With the recent elevation of the Office of Student Affairs to the OVCSA, there is a need to expedite elevating units under it to become offices so they can better fulfill their mandates.

Q: What do you think is the most important change OVCSA has to undergo considering not only the change in administration but most importantly, UP's recent shift to remote learning?

VC Silva: The pressing concerns based on initial meetings with the outgoing directors and with Vice Peralta are the following: 1) the provision of psychological assistance to our students who have gone home; 2) timely provision of gadget subsidy and internet connectivity for remote learning; 3) granting of SA salaries for the months of March and April; and 4) students' (especially those who need to finish their lab experiments for their theses) request to return to UP dorms.

So, the urgent change that we must prioritize is crafting policies to ensure that the current pandemic is considered to be the context of our guidelines.

Q: The UPLB community expects a pro-student administration under your term. What does this look like for you?

VC Silva: For me, being a pro-student administration is prioritizing the mandate of the office to serve the students. More than anything, the welfare of our students must be our primary consideration. We have to treat them as partners especially in crafting policies that affect them and we can achieve that by listening to what they have to say.

Q: Do you have specific projects in mind which you wish to start or complete during your term as the VCSA? How will you implement these projects?

VC Silva: There is a program we have started with the help of the Office of Scholarship and Grants, Office of Public Relations, and Office of Alumni Relations: the UPLB CARES or Connectivity Assistance for Remote Students. The goal of the program is to pool resources from our alumni in order to somehow level the playing field for our underprivileged students under the remote learning setup. We have received pledges from alumni who are members of the UP Open Tambayan FB page. The program will be launched formally on November 4.

There are other projects in mind but I want to discuss them first with the OVCSA family so we can all agree to the track we will pursue.