In simple ceremonies at the Downtown Campus Chapel, Fr. Narciso A. Cellan Jr., SVD, D.Comm. (photo) assumed today, June 1, 2020, as the eleventh President of the University of San Carlos even as the global coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of easing.
Fr. Cellan was elected by the USC Board of Trustees on February 15, 2020 (see related story) to replace Fr. Dionisio M. Miranda, SVD, S.Th.D. who had successfully shepherded the university at a time when the Philippine educational system underwent its most radical change ever, introducing the Senior High School Program and the New General Education Curricula, among others. As a result, the university is now ranked fifth by Quacquarelli Symonds this year in its list of seven leading universities in the country.
The new president faces equally challenging times as the country reels from the impact of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) forcing the temporary closure of educational institutions as a precautionary measure. Fr. Pres. Cellan is expected to hit the ground running preparing the university for the so-called new normal in the teaching-learning process. This will be carried out as far as possible through the use of the Internet through online teaching platforms until a vaccine will be found.
In his acceptance speech, Fr. Pres. Cellan shared his initial thoughts and views in light of the pandemic. While he said that his discourse should not be considered as directional or as policy statements, Fr. Pres. Cellan stressed that flexibility is necessary in our present circumstances. He alluded to the end of teacher-centric education, which is “outdated and archaic,” and urged the use of multi-modal approaches.
Flexibility may require “redesigning our current curriculum, rewriting our syllabi, embracing constructivism, and transactional distance education.” Fr. Pres. Cellan said that teachers have to partner with “students as knowledge builders… who use their experience, interactions, and observations as sources of information and understanding.” He said that teachers have to “share the responsibility of learning with their students,” and that “for education to be authentic and life-impactful, it must be holistic.”
Addressing the faculty and returning to his main point, Fr. Pres. Cellan pointed towards faculty development++, where “positive attitude towards lifelong learning (and) dexterity meaning the ability to think, innovate, experiment, and explore novel ways of learning” are required. He ended his acceptance speech by quoting Pope Francis who said that the “pandemic can be a place of conversion.” Fr. Pres. Cellan said, “We hope to continue working together to heal as one, serve as one, and dream as one.”
Fr. Pres. Cellan holds a doctorate degree in communication from the University of the Philippines Open University in 2015. Before joining the university as Assistant Vice-President for Academic Affairs in 2018, he was, like his predecessor, a Divine Word missionary, working among the people in the SVD Kenya-Tanzania Province for 17 years. It is expected that his missionary experience, coupled with his academic qualifications, will be of vital importance as he continues the reforms initiated by Fr. Miranda, with the guidance of the USC Board of Trustees.
We wish Fr. Pres. Cellan all the best as he begins his three-year term at the helm of the University of San Carlos
by Jose Eleazar R. Bersales, Ph.D. and Patrick John Y. Lim, Ph.D.