“Everything we do in UPLB is public service.” These words, by former UPLB Chancellor and UP President Dr. Emil Q. Javier, during Part 2 of the 1st UPLB Public Service Forum, encapsulate what public service is in UPLB.
With the call of the UP System administration to intensify the university's public service function, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension (OVCRE) conducted a two-part public service forum. It aimed to define and create the framework of UPLB's extension and public service.
As a constituent of the national university, UPLB is mandated through Republic Act 9500 to "lead as a public service university by providing various forms of community, public, and volunteer service.”
This may not seem new, considering that 107 years ago, UPLB—then the UP College of Agriculture— was created not only to instruct the brightest students of the country, but also to disseminate technologies and teachings beyond the walls of the academe through one of its three core functions—extension.
Loosely considered as UPLB's brand of public service, extension has evolved in its scope and role. Still, UPLB continues to staunchly provide public and extension services to communities and individuals all over the country and the world.
UPLB experts’ views
Eminent extension experts were invited last 12 March to the first part of the forum to discuss UPLB's brand of public service in the context of extension initiatives.
Dr. Virginia R. Cardenas, professor of extension education at the College of Public Affairs and Development (CPAf) and Deputy Director for Administration of SEAMEO-SEARCA, first clarified the difference between extension and public service. “Public service by definition,” she said, “is the service provided by the government to help the people, rather than profit, within its jurisdiction, either directly or indirectly in the form of financing. Hence, all activities of UPLB can be categorized as public service by nature of its being a government institution.”
On the other hand, Cardenas referred to extension as "a system that facilitates access of farmers and other market actors to knowledge, information and technologies; facilitates their interaction with other partners in research, education, agri-business, and other relevant institutions; and assists them to develop their own technical, organizational and management skills and practices.”
Dr. Enrico P. Supangco, former director of the UPLB Center for Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship (CTTE), recalled that from direct contact with individual farmers, extension programs now involve other market actors and partners, such as government agencies and the private sectors. “This evolution,” he said, “furthers the need to improve UPLB's extension delivery systems at the individual, organizational, and system-wide level.”
Former Vice Chancellor for Instruction, Dr. Rita P. Laude, emphasized that although UPLB's main contributions to public service are excellent manpower, outstanding research, and implementation of extension programs, its bigger public service responsibility lies in the training of other SCUs in the nation.
Prof. Maria Teresa DV. Arejola was also quick to point out that UPLB now has capability to serve clients beyond the borders of agriculture. As director of the Office for Initiatives in Culture and the Arts (OICA), Prof. Arejola introduced the different programs and activities of the university dedicated to culture and arts.
During the second part of the forum, which was held last 7 May at the ICOPED Auditorium, former Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension Dr. Ma. Victoria O. Espaldon described extension as “the face of UPLB on the ground." “From the beginning, it has been UPLB’s role to create impact on the lives of the underserved and underprivileged communities,” Espaldon said. She also added that the end goal of extension projects and activities is the sustainable development of communities.
Interestingly, Dr. Rogelio V. Cuyno differentiated public service and extension in simple terms. "Public service is our mission and extension is the delivery system." Cuyno, former head of the Office of the Director for Extension added that “Without extension, public service becomes a lip service." He also discussed the importance of coordination between research and extension personnel and the reconciliation of production and business aspects of agriculture in UPLB.
Definition and function
Part II of the forum laid out the definition for UPLB public service as “referring to all activities of the University and its units including but not limited to capacity building, technical assistance and service, and provision or sharing of knowledge and technologies in response to the needs of partners, stakeholders, and society in general, imbued with the values and spirit of professionalism, honor, integrity and excellence towards the goal of inclusive and sustainable development."
However, special guest former UP President Dr. Emil Q. Javier said that, “regardless of the terminology, the most important question is how to play up extension as a function.”
He stated that with very limited manpower and resources, doing direct service is not a comparative advantage for the university. Working and connecting with intermediaries and multipliers such as government agencies would achieve more impact than by doing direct approach.
He suggested that university-wide programs should focus on research and extension, which will generate external support. The creation of a continuing education center which will coordinate all extension activities and provide central direction and visibility to the extension function of UPLB, was also proposed.
In the service of the nation and the world
In the end, speakers and participants agreed that public service, particularly extension, is innate to UPLB, regardless of the definition; and that the public service enshrined in the UP Charter is more or less equated to the extension function of the university.
However, a change in how we look and approach the extension function is needed to heed the call of the UP System to put the university at the forefront of public service; more so for UPLB.
For UPLB to achieve the status it desires nationally and globally, it has to first look at and improve on what it does best, and the rest will follow.