(as of August 2016)
Towards the exercise and realization of its mission as the only Jesuit university in the Bikol region, the Ateneo de Naga University anchors and directs its research efforts to “the development of Bikol and the preservation and enhancement of its culture”1. To provide focus and guidance to its research efforts, the revised university research agenda identifies seven (7) themes as priority thrusts for research. The themes were conceptualized in consideration of the new context for mission of the Society of Jesus 1,2, the Commission on Higher Education’s National Higher Education Research Agenda-24, the revised mission/vision of the Ateneo de Naga University and its CorPlan 20203. Moreover, it also considers the prevailing discussions being raised in the local and global communities in responding to the needs of people in the 21st century.
These themes may be viewed and treated in two ways. First, they can be used as general topics or areas for research from which more specific or narrower topics or questions can be drawn or formulated. The general articulation of the themes and questions allows for research interests not exactly captured by the labels / titles.
Second, they can be used as lenses with which to view realities, questions, or perspectives from which to seek for answers and explain them. The researcher can use different lenses to ask differing yet related questions and view answers from multiple perspectives. This second treatment, in particular, facilitates multi-disciplinary and integrative approaches to research. As lenses, the themes represent the varied prevailing preoccupations, issues, or questions in the bigger academic and development fields. The themes are, thus, not mutually exclusive of each other. The formulation of the rationale and questions for each theme directs attention to its relationship with other themes.
1. Bikol Identity and Development in a Global Culture
The richness of Bikol culture and history provides many products and lessons to enlighten the present and guide the future. The Bikol region is a major ethno-linguistic group and it is now slowly becoming a multicultural society brought about by migration. As such, there is a vast expanse of cultural and historical wealth to recover, interpret, appreciate, showcase, and develop for the regeneration of Bikol arts, literature, philosophy, environment, identity, and governance. Some research questions that may be explored under this theme are:
- How can we promote understanding of Bikol languages and cultures? (g., Preservation of indigenous Bikol languages, arts, and literature; Exploration of rituals by cultural groups; Analysis of the reconfiguration of Bikolano identities; Development of theories pertaining to indigenous Bikol philosophy; Understanding indigenous health practices)
- How can we understand the causes and effects of events in Bikol history? (e.g., Discovery of the histories of Bikol; Contribution of Bikol history to that of the Filipino nation; Retelling of Bikol history from marginalized perspectives; Impacts of certain people or events who have contributed to the region’s development)
- How can the Bikol region develop through governance and policies? (e.g., Best practices in community engagement in the region; Government policies which promote or hinder Bikol development; Good governance and its impact on Bikol’s business and economic growth)
- New Evangelization and the Revitalization of the Catholic Faith
Saint Pope John Paul II in his Encyclical RedemptorisMissio published on December 7, 1990, describes three different situations for evangelization: (1) Mission ad gentes which involves proclaiming the Gospel to those who have not yet heard about Christ; (2) Christian communities which is about the on-going evangelization of those “fervent in the faith;” and finally (3) the New evangelization which is intended for those believers who have drifted away from the faith. Seemingly, it is not enough to be Catholics just by name or social habit. It is inviting the faithful to renew that intimate and personal encounter with Christ. A critical and creative examination of the exercise and structures of the Catholic faith within local realities is needed to guide and enrich evangelization work4. In the light of this call and given the reality that the Philippines is a predominantly Roman Catholic country in Asia, and with the Ateneo de Naga University’s unique context as a Filipino Jesuit university in the Bikol region, the following research questions may be explored under ‘new evangelization’:
- How do groups of people express their faith? (e.g., Bikolanos’ understanding, expression and exercise of the Catholic faith; Effects of the Bikolanos’ devotion to the Lady of Peñafrancia on their personal encounter with Christ; Profiles of people who actively participate in faith)
- What are the dimensions of evangelization?(e.g., Evangelization situation of different groups of people: classic evangelization; evangelization of Christian communities, or new evangelization; Impact of institutional programs to evangelization situation including those that have drifted away from the Catholic faith; Effects of dialogue with other religious traditions)
- What is the impact of the catholic faith on human empowerment / community development? (e.g., Relationship between religion and Bikol development; People empowerment through religion)
- Environmental Protection, Conservation, and Mitigation
Nature and human society are interrelated and interdependent. Neither one can be regarded as something separate from the other. While they are diverse and distinct, they affect each other as they interact. Thus, our concern for nature needs to be coupled with a commitment to resolving the problems of society. Climate change, environmental degradation, and the depletion of natural wealth brought about by the demands of a rapidly growing population, “throwaway” culture, unregulated industry practices, and weak law enforcement are placing more and more people, especially the poor, at higher risk of food, health, energy, and water insecurity. The enormity and complexity of these problems call for holistic and interdisciplinary researches aimed at improving the quality of human life while sustaining nature on which humanity depends5. These researches on environment include, but are not limited to:
- How are ecosystems preserved or disrupted? (e.g., Mapping and assessment of coastal ecosystems and their services; Ecology of freshwater snails; Economic valuation of ecosystem services; Indigenous food systems)
- What environmental policies can be implemented? (e.g., Effects of ecotourism on rural household welfare; Public policy innovations for local disaster risk reduction; Air pollution and land-use planning; Environmental impact assessment; Best small-business practices in reducing carbon footprint)
- How can communities develop resilience to environmental disasters? (e.g., Impacts of climate change on indigenous minorities; Indigenous and local climate change adaptation practices; Eco-system management for disaster risk reduction; Building resilient livelihoods)
- Service of the Faith through Social Justice
Social justice is broadly defined as promoting a just society by challenging injustice and valuing diversity. It is based on the notion that people share a common humanity and therefore should have equal opportunities to exercise their human rights and fairly partake in the community resources. Social justice is often equated with fairness and equality, whereby people willingly enter in a social contract to abide by and act in accordance with rules that benefit both the more and the less powerful or privileged sectors of society6. In the 21st century, however, social justice is seemingly becoming an elusive goal amidst global issues of capitalism, consumerism, cultural domination, and religious conflicts, to name a few. The Bikol region, considered as one of the poorest regions in the Philippines, specifically suffers from unequal distribution of wealth, resources, and opportunities. It is thus imperative that we encourage researches on social justice to advance positive social change in our region. ‘Social Justice’ research topics may be explored across multi-disciplinary fields. The following topics are only but a few examples:
- How can equitable practices be promoted? (e.g., Promotion of social entrepreneurship as a tool for poverty alleviation; Socially responsible business practices; Business leaders’ initiatives on fair trade; Conflict-resolution between and among warring groups; Improving educational access, inclusion and equity)
- How can unjust structures and policies be rectified? (e.g., How power is acquired, demonstrated and negotiated in organizations; Factors toward lasting and positive systemic and institutional change in government; Developing structures to minimize corrupt practices; Establishment of organizational practices which reduce discrimination)
- How can diversity be valued? (e.g., Impact of the mother-tongue based instruction to speakers of minority languages; Effects of Filipino diaspora on cultural enhancement; Contributions of people from foreign cultures in the cultural and economic development of the Bikol region)
- Technology and its Influence on Society and Culture
Created by humans, technology affects and is affected by society. It forms and changes culture, and is used to create, exhibit, and preserve creative work. Its effects on society can be beneficial or harmful, whether intentional or not. The introduction of new technologies can result in novel solutions to existing problems in fields such as ethics or law, but it can also create new problems. Thus, there is a need for scholarly works that lead to the production of new goods or services that improve the human condition, that creatively use technology to describe or explore culture, or that study how technology and society impact each other. These scholarly works on technology include, but are not limited to, the following questions:
- What technological innovations are possible to improve performance? (e.g., Solar charging station for electric tricycles; Effects of academic-industry partnerships on firms’ innovative performance; Patenting of inventions relevant to the needs of the community; Production of alternative medicines; Farmers’ use of technology to improve crops production)
- What creative products can be produced through technology? (e.g., Learning effectiveness of video-based multimedia designs; Production of digital animation or films that promote or criticize local / national culture and values; Development of new learning technologies)
- How does technology change the way people interact, work, or learn? (e.g., Predicting wellbeing of young adults from mobile phone data; Effects of social media habits on the moods of users; Implementation of online privacy laws; exploring blended learning in the classroom)
- Learning for Meaning through Holistic Education
Holistic education is concerned with the growth of every person’s intellectual, emotional, social, physical, artistic, creative and spiritual potentials. It encourages learners to critically approach the cultural, moral, and political contexts of their lives. It entails not only equipping students with skills needed to become functional in their lives and careers but also providing them opportunities to become ethically responsible members of society in the 21st century. The principles of connectedness, wholeness, and being emphasized by holistic education will help address the educational changes happening that are brought about by globalization7. Some topics that can be explored that focus on ‘Holistic Education’are8:
- How do the university curricula meet the needs of the whole person? (e.g., Inclusion of service learning in the curriculum; Creation of a special curriculum for the gifted or persons with disability; Applicability of differentiated instruction; Impact assessment of the K-12 curriculum; Education, skills, and job matching; Provision for lifelong learning opportunities)
- What new forms of innovative teaching address 21st century skills? (e.g., Possibilities and challenges of teaching with technology; Authoring of books that teach 21st century skills; Teaching in multicultural contexts; Design and utilization of alternative teaching practices that address changing labor markets)
- How does the university address the needs of the community? (E.g., Community immersion experiences; Development of literacy programs for marginalized public schools; Cross-cultural learning experience; Cross-sector collaboration; Academe-industry linkages; Developing educational programs that promote inclusion and equity)
- Leading Quality Lives through Human Development
Human development is about expanding the richness of human life, rather than simply the richness of the economy in which human beings live. It is an approach that is focused on people and their opportunities and choices. It is “the expansion of people’s freedoms to live long, healthy, and creative lives; to advance other goals they have reason to value; and to engage actively in shaping development equitably and sustainably on a shared planet”9. Amidst the valorization of economic stability and prosperity in this globally competitive world, we may forget that the wealth of an organization or a nation lies foremost in its people. Therefore, before making decisions, organizations should first consider how their decisions will impact the welfare of their members and the quality of their lives. The University encourages scholarly work on topics which dwell on how people pursue wellbeing and practice agency in their respective lives and careers to maximize their human potential. Some topics that can be explored under this theme include:
- How can the quality of life be improved? (e.g., Development of intervention programs to enhance physical, psychological, and spiritual health; Promotion of healthy lifestyles; Advocacy for responsible natural family planning; Impact assessment of health and nutrition programs; Use of integrated care approach to healthcare; Access to health and income benefits)
- How can individuals’ capabilities be enhanced? (Design and outcomes of professional development programs; Competency building and employability of Bikol graduates; Implementation of professional development programs)
- What conditions can be created for human development? (e.g., Promotion and protection of people’s rights; Supporting gender equality and empowerment; Developing livelihood programs for economic stability; Nurturing employees’ wellbeing; Intervention programs for victims of abuse, neglect, and violence)
The new university agenda aims to give priority to research works that address any or a combination of the seven themes: 1) Bikol identity and development in a global culture, 2) New evangelization and the revitalization of the Catholic faith, 3) Environmental protection, conservation, and mitigation, 4) Service of the faith through social justice, 5) Technology and its influence on society and culture, 6) Holistic education and learning for meaning, and 7) Leading quality lives through human development. Over the next few years, these seven themes will be given support by the University in order to respond to the changing needs of society, as well as promote collaboration and engagement with the local community, and other private and public agencies. It is hoped that this revised research agenda will motivate more members of the Ateneo de Naga community to engage in research that will impact the Bikol region and the nation as a whole.
1 Tabora, J. (2016, May 15). Philippine province roadmap 2016.[Web log comment]. Retrieved from https://taborasj.wordpress.com/2016/05/15/philippine-province-roadmap-2016/
2 Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus. (2008). Documents of the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus: 7 January – 6 March 2008. Quezon City: Philippines, Kadena Press.
3Ateneo de Naga University CorPlan 2020 Document. (2013). Naga City, Philippines: Ateneo de Naga University.
4Commission on Higher Education. (2009). National higher education research agenda-2.Retrieved from http://www.ched.gov.ph/index.php/home/researchers/nhera2/
5Pope Francis. (2015). Laudato Si’: On care for our common home[Encyclical]. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html
6Rawls, J. (1971).A Theory of Justice. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
7 Holistic education network of Tasmania (2011).What is holistic education? Retrieved from http://hent.org/Intro1.htm
8UNESCO (2015). Education 2030: Incheon declaration and framework for action towards inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002432/243278e.pdf
9United Nations Development Program. (2012). Human development report: The real wealth of nations. Retrieved from http://hdr.undp.org/en/reports/global/hdr2010