Sister Merceditas O. Ang: Embracing Future-Proof Education

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 “As we create and traverse new educational pathways in the 21st century learning to reach greater heights, SPUP will Lead, Innovate, Grow, and Serve.”

St. Paul University Philippines (SPUP) has an awe-inspiring and long-lasting impact on students and teachers. For more than 25 years, the university provides a wide range of undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate programs that promote intellectual inquiry and independent thought. Sister Merceditas O. Ang, SPC, the university President, is a visionary and transformational leader with compelling ideas beyond frontiers. Consistently honored with local and international awards, SPUP is unleashing its promising landscape of advanced education.

Teaching and Learning Support

Trailblazing a future-ready and sustainable holistic education to make a difference globally was a lofty goal and giant leap for St. Paul University Philippines (SPUP) in 2015. Globalization and diversity called for re-thinking and reforms in the education sector vis-à-vis the ASEAN Regional Integration and the K to 12 transition in Philippine basic education. Rising up to the challenges of contemporary times, SPUP launched its internationalization programs and initiatives as a vital component of high-quality education and global competencies of Paulinian students and graduates. 

A strategic roadmap was crafted on six key areas:

1) quality teaching-learning and student services 

2) research and innovation

3) resource mobilization and human development 

4) internationalization

5) creative evangelization 

6) community services and sustainability 

Accordingly, the traditional programs and structures were revamped and enhanced. Relevant and innovative new programs were offered with an interdisciplinary approach across borders. Research and STEM education gained momentum. Local and international partnerships and collaborative endeavors with the academe, industry, government agencies, and other stakeholders remarkably increased in a number of partners and levels of engagement. Community outreach and services were provided to the poor and marginalized, and the state-of-the-art physical and digital infrastructures of the university were built along with the human capital investment.

Response to the Crisis

Within a span of five years, SPUP has undergone massive transformation and advancement, which abruptly took a turn in 2020 with the COVID-19 outbreak. The SPUP administration, under the dynamic leadership of Sister Merceditas, prioritized care for people and ensured the health, safety, and well-being of the students and employees. Learning modalities catered to the needs and context of the students. Advance technologies facilitated the delivery of holistic quality teaching and learning with high student engagement. No retrenchment was made and all employees received full monthly salaries and benefits despite the financial constraints. Amazing results happened with the value-based, people-centered, positive mindset, technology-driven, agile and resilient approach to survive during the pandemic. 

In generously and humanely translating challenges into opportunities, SPUP registered a big increase of more than a thousand new students in 2021 and its international students and partners doubled in number. Moreover, local and international recognition and awards were garnered by the university in the fields of social services and human development. Indeed, manifold blessings keep SPUP thriving despite the pandemic complemented with faith and hope for a better tomorrow.

The Ideal Place for Knowledge

St. Paul University Philippines was founded on May 10, 1907, in Tuguegarao City by the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres (SPC). It was established with humble beginnings as a small school for basic education spurred by the missionary zeal and sacrifices of the pioneer SPC sisters and lay collaborators. In 1941, the school buildings were used as a military garrison during the war and ravaged during the liberation. The reconstruction and growth of the school had met another catastrophe in 1965 when its buildings were razed to the ground by fire. Like gold tested in a crucible, SPUP had overcome setbacks to flourish and expand into tertiary education and graduate school. In 1982, it was hailed as the first university in Cagayan Valley, in the northern part of the Philippines.  For more than a century of existence, SPUP has proven its tradition of excellence and untarnished reputation of providing high-quality education. 

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education recognized SPUP as an autonomous university, Center of Excellence in Nursing and Education, Center for Development in Information Technology, and Center for Teacher Training. The University was also cited as Most Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Campus in the Region, Outstanding Student Services in the Philippines, Outstanding Library in the Philippines, Top 3 in the Philippine Higher Education Internationalization Award, and included in the World Universities with Real Impact (WURI). Its global engagements exemplify inclusive and intercultural education, embracing unity in diversity with its more than nine thousand local and international student population.  This year, SPUP celebrates its 115th founding anniversary true to its vision-mission as an internationally recognized institution dedicated to the formation of competent leaders and responsible citizens of their communities, country, and the world.  In setting strategic directions, Sr. Merceditas inspires with wisdom and forward-looking perspectives.

Establishment and Achievement

Sister Merceditas O. Ang, SPC believes that “the bottom line of success is not gauged by external rewards but felt as an inner fulfillment, and eventually in the scheme of things it is a life of integrity and service that will have a lasting legacy on humanity.”  She joined the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres in 1994 as a lawyer by profession. Also, she has a degree in Psychology and work experiences in human resource training, counseling, banking, taxation, and corporate law. As a religious sister, she immersed in the spirituality of consecrated life and served in the education ministry. In 2003, Sister Merceditas obtained a Master’s degree in Educational Management and a Ph.D. degree in Educational Leadership and Management in 2005. She wrote and published a paper on Servant Leadership which was presented during the Greenleaf International Conference on Servant Leadership in Indianapolis, USA. She was appointed as President of St. Paul University Surigao in 2006, and as Provincial Assistant for Education in 2009-2014.

The mission of forming the young as responsible future leaders appealed to her inner calling. She believes that education is a potent factor in national and global development, sustainability, and social transformation. In 2015, as the incumbent President of St. Paul University Philippines, Sr. Merceditas spearheaded the internationalization program of SPUP incorporating global education and technology integration in the curriculum and instruction. She is an advocate of quality education, breakthrough innovations, sustainable development, and strategic growth and networking. She has extensive professional experience and competence in the fields of education, law, research and innovation, internationalization, sustainable development, peace, and social justice advocacy, environmental stewardship, and socio-civic organization. She is also affiliated with various national and international organizations and has dedicated her life to the mission of “love and service.” She has trailblazed innovative programs on holistic human development and published research papers on 21st-century learning, leadership, global education, and education for sustainable development.

In 2017, Sister Merceditas received the Education Leadership Award by CMO Asia held in Singapore and the Global Education Leadership Award during the World Education Congress in Mumbai, India in 2019. The UNESCO Philippines conferred on Sister Merceditas the Outstanding UNESCO Club Educator of the Philippines Award in 2019. These awards recognized her leadership that fosters future-ready and sustainable global education, specifically citing service-learning engagement, livelihood projects, implementation of the UN SDGs, scholarship programs, health and wellness programs, child development centers, ecological conservation, cultural heritage conservation, functional literacy for adult learners, peace education, global citizenship, family-based disaster management, and commitment to uplift the quality of life.

Passport to the Future

The COVID-19 pandemic steeped the flexible and hybrid learning modalities and ushered an immersive virtual learning environment using 3D simulations, artificial intelligence, AVR technologies, adaptive learning, robotics, deep learning, and other educational technologies. Sr. Merceditas envisions SPUP’s future learning environment as a fusion of humanity and technology, thus harnessing the power of the 4.0 technologies to enhance the quality of education and form responsible innovators, change-makers, and solution providers to real-life problems. SPUP is developing its Education 5.0 which is human-centric and technology-driven to hone the future-ready competencies and soft skills of globally competitive graduates. Gearing towards becoming a smart university, SPUP has embarked on its “Digital Transformation with Data Analytics System.”  “We leverage the integration of data science, artificial intelligence, and advanced educational technologies in SPUP’s digital transformation, moving towards a smart university,” quips Sr. Merceditas.

Engaging the Wider Community

The basic principles of respect for individuality and uniqueness highlight the policy of inclusivity, interculturality, and diversity of student population transcending differences of culture, nationality, race, religion, and ethnicity. Our students come from different localities in Cagayan and other places in the Philippines, with various cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Also, we have international students from 16 countries, so there is a mixture and integration of socio-cultural orientations. What is interesting and heartwarming is that there is peace and unity despite the diversity among our international and local students, anchored on mutual respect and support for one another.

Charity and generosity abound in the scholarship programs offered to qualified students especially to the poor, bright, and marginalized. The scholarship is granted to those who excel in academics and athletics, and those who are economically impoverished but deserving. Children of tenured employees are given full scholarships from Grade One until College graduation. Working students are provided with accommodation and food allowance. The tuition fee is low and the payment scheme is flexible to ensure financial affordability. Promissory notes from hard-up parents are accepted and miscellaneous fees are accepted.

Match Heating Times to Building Future-Ready Society

Good academic facilities will have a positive impact on the teaching and learning process, student engagement and learning outcomes, health, and wellness. SPUP provides excellent educational facilities and services which are accessible in person, online or offline like the library, guidance, and counseling, computer and science laboratories, ICT, canteen, dormitories, boutique, sports complex, culture and arts center, university chapel, robotics and AI laboratory, and center for research and innovation. Moreover, services are provided on peer-tutoring and collaborative learning, remedial classes, telehealth and counseling, family-based evangelization, teacher consultation, tutorials, and mentoring.

Holistic education with character formation is embedded in the curricular and co-curricular activities. Our students are immersed in project-based learning related to real-life problems and community issues, service learning to benefit the poor and marginalized sectors in society, and advocacies for social transformation and sustainable development. We develop academic excellence propelled by research and innovation, technology-enabled, enriched with spirituality and social responsibility.

Spaces to Support Opportunities

Aptitude test interpretation and career placement program is provided by the Guidance Office as part of the comprehensive student services. A job fair is regularly conducted. The University has an Entrepreneurship/Employment Center that covers start-up innovations, business incubation, training facilities for entrepreneurship, and future-ready job skills. Competencies for a diverse workforce is enhanced with student internship program in local and international industries. 

Self-awareness, Exploring educational opportunities, and Commitment to become successful against all odds, are primary steps and springboards in college/university studies.

First, engage in “know thyself” reflection to discover the deepest passion and inner motivation and aspiration as to what you want to do in life which you consider as most meaningful. Second, match your personal and professional goals and talents with the programs and opportunities offered by the university of your choice. Third, commitment and determination to be successful in any profession or calling in life.

SPUP provides career counseling and placement to prospective and current students and monitors their academic performance and development of life and career skills as lifelong learners and responsible citizens. 

Read More: Arungalai Anbarasu: Delivering Breakthrough Technology And Digital Transformation

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