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AC Dean Eduardo T. Gonzalez:
Primus inter pares
By Mariamme D. Jadloc, UPDIO
Leonardo A. Reyes and Jefferson Villacruz, photographers

Dr. Eduardo T. Gonzalez with UPD Chancellor Caesar A. Saloma at the Office of the Chancellor on August 2.

(August 7)—A primus inter pares.  The first among equals.

Modestly describing himself as such, Eduardo T. Gonzalez, PhD said being Asian Center (AC) dean is both fun and challenging.

Gonzalez, who took his oath on August 2 at the Office of the Chancellor, assumed office on June 1.

“Signing vouchers!” was the first thing he did in office, he said with a laugh. Gonzalez is not new to administrative duties having served as president of the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) from 1998 to 2006. 

Managing his fellow faculty members as dean, however, is another thing.

“In a sense I am only the primus inter pares—the first among the equals so this is very much unlike my previous experience.  At DAP, everyone was my subordinate.  Here, it is collegial.  I have to take that into consideration,” Gonzalez said.

A man with words that pull punches, the AC Dean was quick to emphasize that research is the top priority in his agenda for, “That is what we value,” he said.

Gonzalez credits his predecessor, professor Carolyn I. Sobritchea, along with the AC team as a collective, in laying the groundwork for initiatives in research at AC. 

The Dean and the Chancellor with the AC faculty and Staff (from left to right): Milagros Dumlao, Felipe Nario Jr., Lilia Marquez, Porfirio Liwanag, Prof. Matthew Santamaria, Dean Gonzalez, Chancellor Saloma, Prof. Joefe Santarita, Glennis Uyanguren and Gonzalo Sanchez Jr.

One in particular that UPD can look forward to meeting is RISA, pending the Board of Regents’ approval.

RISA is the Research Institute for Studies in Asia designed to house the researches of the AC.  Part of RISA’s functions is to generate policy researches to assist the country’s foreign policy makers.

“Basically what we want is to craft a niche.  For a start, we will research on foreign policy, for we feel that foreign policy is not well articulated, and the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) we feel needs assistance.  Then of course we can expand to the whole Asian theater, so (there is) the ASEAN.  And it could also be researches along other disciplines, like migration.  RISA will be much more practical in nature,” Gonzalez said.

RISA will not repeat AC’s research function as the Dean said AC will deal with more academic research, while RISA will be more policy-oriented.

The new dean added with AC as the only UPD unit with regional specialization recognized here and abroad, AC is currently gearing for the ASEAN 2015.

In addition, Gonzalez said the College will start putting together a possible PhD in Asian Studies in the AC agenda this year.

“After all, the Asian Center is about Asian Studies and only secondary about Philippine Studies.  In fact, (in the tri-college program) we want to project the Philippines as the Philippines in Asia.  We do not want to compete with CSSP and CAL, on their disciplinary approaches,” Gonzalez said. 

AC presently has a strong graduate program on Philippine Studies in collaboration with the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP) and the College of Arts and Letters (CAL).

The Dean said it is one of AC’s obligations to upgrade the store of wisdom as far as Asian studies is concerned.  Gonzalez said AC is currently revising their 30 year-old PhD curriculum to make it more relevant.

“It is really about time that we fashion out a new curriculum for the PhD program.  Early this year we had a workshop featuring the Philippine Studies stalwarts of the past, then those who are currently managing the program and those who we feel (will be) the future beneficiaries of the program as far as the faculty side is concerned.  We were able to get them together and they had some good inputs.  Later this year we will hold a national conference on Philippine Studies,” Gonzalez said.

The Dean also shared that AC is in the upswing: it sent more participants to conferences and undertook some researches, slowly making a dent in the issue of foreign policy particularly on the West Philippine Sea, where the AC aired sides that are non-DFA.  The AC also saw an increase in enrollment and issued more invitations for additional faculty members.

The Dean’s wife Nora (standing, right) and daughter Hannah (standing, left) were also present at the dean’s signing of his oath of office.

A primus inter pares he may be, but Gonzalez is not lacking on exceptional qualifications: an expert of policy research/development, institutional analysis and strategic planning among others, Gonzalez holds an MA and PhD in Public Policy from the University of Pennsylvania, and a BS in Geodetic Engineering and Master in Urban and Regional Planning from UP.  He holds office as AC dean until his retirement as a UP faculty but not later than May 31, 2014. 

At his OC oath-taking Gonzalez was accompanied by his wife Nora and daughter Hannah, College Secretary Joefe Santarita, Prof. Matthew Santamaria, and members of the AC staff.