Latest News List AdZU commemorates July 2016 fire; Fr Pres reports on the year that was and the years to come

Gratitude and greater resolve pervaded the “State of the University” report by Ateneo de Zamboanga University (AdZU) president Fr Karel San Juan, SJ, to the faculty and staff during the annual institutional convocation held Friday July 7, 2017, at Garden Orchid Hotel.

Using as take-off point for his President’s Report, the first year anniversary of the July 7, 2016 fire that razed to the ground AdZU’s iconic Brebeuf gym, Fr San Juan reported that the University has a lot to be thankful for in spite of the devastation brought about by the fire. He also related how the community has made a turn-around from that fateful day, narrating the series of events during the past year to the present, exactly a year later.

“The fire has given us a tremendous opportunity to build and to rebuild better,” Fr San Juan related.

Despite the many challenges, the most adverse of which was the fire, Fr President said that everyone continues to be steadfast in their resolve to rise from the ashes and to rebuild. “The fire has energized the community to work even harder to rebuild the University,” he said, as he commended everyone present for their resilience and cooperation in seeing AdZU through. He said everyone did their share, adjusted to the changes, and for those who were displaced, put up with the inconveniences of being temporarily sheltered in various spaces in the campus. Recall that aside from the Brebeuf gym, nearby structures such as the Gonzaga Hall and Sauras Hall which housed classrooms, offices, computer laboratories and cafeteria, were also severely hit by the blaze.

The solidarity shown by the community outside AdZU, he cited, is laudable. Friends, partners in mission, alumni, and parents gave donations and extended support in various ways to help the University recover from the tragedy.

Along with the challenge posed by the fire, the University also experienced other difficulties due to the constant security threat from violent extremism, the competition for both students and faculty from government schools, and the transition brought about by K-12. But through it all, the University managed to pull through and bounce back, turning the challenges into opportunities, he reports.

He cited that establishing the Senior High School, a daunting task in itself further compounded by the fire, has for this SY 2017-18, almost a thousand enrollees for the new batch of Grade 11. Related to this was the smooth management of staff displaced by the introduction of the additional years in high school by assigning them to the SHS or to different offices. Overall, enrollment for this school-year has exceeded projection, he added.

He also related the transitions that have taken place - the purchase of new instruments for the university band; the renovation and re-occupation of the Gonzaga Hall; and the retrofitting of the five-story Sauras Hall and re-opening of Café Atenista on the first and second floors. He then announced the inauguration of the other floors next month which will house refurbished classrooms, newly converted seminar facilities, and a fitness center.

The new building for Senior High School is currently being constructed, starting with a groundbreaking ceremony last April. He said that this construction project will last for a year and is targeted to be inaugurated in SY 2018-2019.

For the displaced College of Law, the JMR building was renovated. Fr President recounted that the COL, after losing its administrative office, classrooms and the library to the fire, had a tough time relocating. But against all odds, it rose from the ashes of the fire. He then enthused over the 100% passing rate of the COL during the 2016 bar exams. Success rates in the board examinations of other programs were also noted, including the 2017 Nurses Licensure Exam, with AdZU landing as the Top 5 performing school with two topnotchers; and the board exams for Accountants, Electronics Engineers, Elementary and Secondary Education teachers, Psychometricians, and Physicians (Medicine).

On the University vision of the transformation of Mindanao toward pace, healing and progress among diverse communities, Fr President reported on the various social development engagements in community empowerment through education, health, leadership training; cultural empowerment; advocacy, research, environment, and emergency relief operations, in partnership with indigenous peoples (IPs), internally-displaced peoples (IDPs), students, civil society, peace advocates and local government.

In particular, he cited the establishment of the school for IPs, the assistance extended to IPs and IDPs in education, livelihood, health; the culture and arts programs, and leadership and governance program for municipalities in the Zamboanga Peninsula.

Other things to be thankful for, he mentioned, were university level achievements such as PAASCU accreditation and CHED autonomous status; and students’ and faculty awards in film and computer animation, youth leadership, debate, and sports.

Fr President also highlighted the role of AdZU in this part of the country, stating that the University has earned respect as an educational institution, as a leader in education - in instruction, research and community engagement in Western Mindanao. This is one of the best features of the University, a crucial factor that has kept the University buoyant.

With its strong tradition of excellence, service and spirituality, AdZU plays a crucial role in the work towards peace through education in the region. This, he said, is made manifest in the University - in joint religious celebrations, crisis response, peace education and advocacy, service and outreach, professional life, intra and inter faith and religious dialogues. He added that this is also made possible by the spirit of community which is evident among the faculty and staff in both work and relationships – in inter-unit cooperation and synergy, in friendships; and in the communal commitment to rise together.

As the new school year has commenced, Fr President pointed out that the new challenge now faced by the University is the implementation of the University strategic plan. And a major component of the stratplan is the capital fund campaign to finance the rebuilding program.

The Ateneo de Zamboanga University Strategic Plan for 2017-2022 or AdZUSTRATPLAN17/22 is in itself, he said, an achievement for it was participated in by all members of the community. It started with planning sessions in each unit and office then culminated in the university-wide framing of the Vision, Mission and Identity Statement of the University.

The capital fund campaign dubbed #rise, he said, is tasked to raise funds to finance the construction of new buildings and facilities such as the New Brebeuf gym. Aside from infrastructure, there is also the need to turn in fresh ample funds for scholarships, research grants, and employee compensation and benefits, among other things.

Finances, Fr President stressed, are needed to carry out the University’s responsibility as a leading educational institution. He said AdZU must reach out to make its “excellent, socially responsive and spiritually formative” education accessible to more students through scholarships. “All employees, faculty and staff, are part of the Mission, the Mission of educating and forming students,“ he said, enjoining all to take active part in the campaign for college freshmen in 2018.

Lastly, Fr President expressed confidence on the leaders of the University - those who sit in the Board of Trustees and form part of the President’s Council – that they will direct AdZU into accomplishing its mission. He added that AdZU is also supported by a vibrant Jesuit community, and is guided by a spirituality as expressed in the daily celebration of the Mass and special Masses the whole year round.

Other highlights in the convocation include the introduction of new faculty and staff, together with new MA and PhD degree holders in all units, and the presidential appointees. Before the convocation was a recollection, with the theme, “Building and Becoming: Reflections on the Task of Building,” with Fr Patrick Vance Nogoy, SJ, as recollection master.

The convocation ended with the highly spirited community singing of El Animo Ateneo.  

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