Bernardo M. Villegas
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Rebalancing Strategy
published: Mar 31, 2017



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The Adventure of Institution Building (Part IV)

           Putting up the CRC College of Arts and Sciences from scratch was an uphill climb.  With absolutely no track record in undergraduate education, it was difficult to attract quality high school graduates who all gravitated towards the leading universities such as the University of the Philippines, Ateneo University and De La Salle University.  It was very difficult to avoid a reputation of being a dumping ground for those who were not able to qualify for admission into these universities.  In fact, the sick joke that we had to endure was a play with the initials CRC that were interpreted by some unkind souls to mean Center for Retarded Children.  The management team and faculty of CRC-CAS were not deterred and responded by giving their all in putting up a college that was patterned after the ivy league colleges in the US like Harvard and Yale.  Inspired by the experiences that Jess and I had as teaching fellows at Harvard College, those who designed the curriculum of CRC-CAS gave the highest importance to the study of the liberal arts and the humanities as a foundation for any specialization.  The Harvard experience also led to the institution of a mentoring system in which every student was assigned a mentor who was concerned not only with the academic side of education but focused on what is now commonly referred to as integral human development.   For this reason, CRC-CAS had one of the highest faculty-student ratios among the undergraduate schools in the Philippines.  Among the founding officials of CRC-CAS, I want to especially cite the late Corazon Aseniero and Virginia Olano who served as College Secretary and Directress of Admission, respectively, until their untimely death.  They contributed significantly to the corporate culture of excellence that we have always tried to nurture in our young university.

          I would like to give a special mention to an innovative program that, in all modesty, I was personally responsible in creating.  It is the called the Entrepreneurial Management Program, the first undergraduate program in the country that transformed high school graduates into entrepreneurs or initiators of small businesses.  This is a prime example of converting a problem into an opportunity.  I had always been convinced in my work with the youth that there are teenage boys who are challenged academically (they get poor grades in high school) but are cut out to be entrepreneurs.  Even while still in grade school, they already had been selling consumer items to their respective classmates.  Together with a small staff of experienced business people, we interviewed these male high school graduates who fail admissions tests but manifest qualities that are associated with entrepreneurs, i.e. creativity, risk taking, persistence, etc.  Since this is a phenomenon more common to males (girls in their adolescence are generally more mature and academically advanced than their male counterparts), we decided to limit the program to male students who in the first two years of the program had to be given remedial classes in English, math and science as they were already being guided in starting  a “new business venture” that they were required to bring to a profitable stage in their fourth year as a condition for graduation.  This intensified the criticism that we were admitting “retarded” children.  Well, I have news for those critics.  Products of this EM program have proven to be more financially successful in their entrepreneurial undertakings than some of our cum laude graduates who have remained as corporate employees.   Today, the EM program is already open also to female students after much pressure from the advocates of “women’s liberation.”  I do not regret having limited the program to male students in the first decade or so of its existence.  It helped us prove the hypothesis that academically challenged boys can be helped to reach high levels of professional success if given special attention and training. 

          After two years at the helm of the College of Arts and Sciences, I returned to the School of Economics as Dean and helped in the expansion of SBEP and Applied Business Economics Program (ABEP) to further enhance the economic literacy of business and government officials.  The SBEP expanded to Cebu which became the site of an extension program that catered to entrepreneurs in the Visayas and Mindanao. I am especially grateful to Dr. Ramon Quesada who pioneered in bringing SBEP to the regions in the same way that he is a Philippine pioneer in the development of small and medium-scale industry, having led government agencies focused on SMEs, both before and after he  worked at CRC.  Like Dr. Celerino Tiongco and Dr. Thomas Aquino before him, who were at one time or another Program Director of the SBEP or its predecessor program, Dr. Quesada can be credited with the institutionalization of one of the most innovative programs to have come out of CRC-UA&P.  I am sure that in whatever stage of development the Philippine economy will be in the future, there will always be a need for imparting economic literacy to senior executives of both private and public enterprises.  In fact, the more complex the economy becomes, the greater the need will there be of economically literate leaders. Even more important than economic literacy, however, is the strong foundation on business ethics that is imparted to the participants of the SBEP who are exposed to a significant dosage of Christian anthropology and the social doctrine of the Church (To be continued)