“Servant leadership is all about making the goals clear and then rolling your sleeves up and doing whatever it takes to help people win. In that situation, they don’t work for you; you work for them.”
Myka Reambonanza and Shem Barinaga are set to lead the student body for the next school year. The duo is about to take the challenge of leading Sillimanians to a better future, albeit with the current situation and uncertainties.
How will Myka and Shem lead the students? What can their constituents expect for the next school year? Myka and Shem, as president-elect and vice-president-elect respectively, have answered a dozen questions representative of the students’ questions about the future of Silliman University.
12 Questions for the Next SUSG President
- How do you feel right now?
I honestly feel a little bit overwhelmed. The moment the results of this year’s online elections were released, I did feel a sense of relief and happiness but immediately a day after, what heavily sunk within me were the numerous responsibilities, obligations, and burdens that I need to address for the upcoming school year. I guess until now I still feel a little bit overwhelmed, from the happiness of the results of the elections but also from the weight that I now carry as next year’s SUSG president. However, regardless of whatever emotions I will be feeling, I am determined to really deliver and function as the SUSG president.
- What is your biggest vision for the university as SUSG president?
Instead of providing a big vision, a single entirety, something that can be pointed out for the SUSG for the next school year, Shem and I instead, envision an SUSG that will have a multi sectoral approach. By this, I mean that next year’s SUSG will be remedy-driven. As early as this school year Shem and I have already identified multiple problems, concerns, and grievances that are in dire need of remedies. This is the main thrust of next school year. Before we can forward with additional events, programs and gimmicks, the SUSG needs to address first all the problems that the student body is currently facing especially in this set up. Simply put the biggest vision is to solve as many problems, as soon as possible, and as effectively as possible next school year.
- Is there something you’re really looking forward to doing next year that the students should be excited about?
The highly optimistic side of me hopes that by the 2nd semester of the next school year an increased number of students will be allowed to come back to the University and conduct limited face to face classes. Should this happen the “something” that I am really looking forward to do next school year is the year-ender party. I believe this is the first in a really long time and it would be really helpful to restore the Silliman spirit that the pandemic hast robbed from the student body. However, the realist in me really, and unfortunately, anticipates that the likelihood of this to happen is low. So should the majority of us still stay in an online setup I can honestly say that the most exciting thing that the student body can expect from the SUSG is the multitude of online events that will be spearheading. Further we really are pushing for a more systematic and less burdensome online distance learning set up. Our goal is to really alleviate even the smallest burdens that students experience on a day-to-day basis.
- Could you name three specific programs that you want to implement when you take the role as the new SUSG president for the school year 2021-2022?
The priorities the Shem and I have as of the moment are the platforms that we believe need to implement as soon as possible because they address urgent problems. These are: (1) the Health Emergency Response Team (HERT) which is a sole team that addresses student concerns that are directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, (2) the establishment of the Vulnerability Assessment Database under the The Sillimanian Initiative which aims to identify areas in the Philippines which are at high risk of natural calamities that possible also have Sillimanian residents. The goal of this database is to send aid to sillimanians who may possibly be affected by such emergencies in the future, and (3) the increase of scholastic subsidies which cover scholarships, data load subsidies, and other financial requests from the students which we can aid with.
- What is your leadership style?
The main thrust of my leadership style is really delegation. Once I have identified and really established the trust between me, Shem and the SUSG executive committee, I will not hesitate to really delegate the multiple tasks that the SUSG needs to attend to. I believe this leadership style is a product of the self-awareness that I believe to have. This is because I truly recognize the multiple weaknesses that I have and I believe these weaknesses can only be addressed through the workforce that the SUSG will be having.
- How will your leadership style help the SUSG advance its goals especially in this online set-up?
In this online setup the number of problems, responsibilities and tasks have only continued to vary and has increased in number. This means that the problems that we are facing in this online set up is more diverse than any other administration or school year in the past, because of this diversity of grievances and concerns I don’t think a single person will be able to think of solutions to all of them. That’s why I believe the leadership style of delegation that both Shem and I employ is crucial in the setup because the SUSG will be needing as many brilliant minds as possible to brainstorm on solutions for the problems of today’s time.
- What was your most difficult moment during your campaign process?
This seems trivial but from the bottom of my heart, this really felt like one of the most difficult moments in the campaign season: the inability to hug the representatives after a tiring day. I know how mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting the campaign season could get and it crushed my heart that Shem and I couldn’t be there for our representatives after a tiring day. I know that we really tried our best to compensate through having the day ender calls but I know deep down inside my heart that a hug could’ve been a 1000x better.
- How will you establish yourself as a mediator between the students and the university administration?
I believe that for a mediator to efficiently function, they need to establish effective communication between themselves and the different parties that they’re trying to mediate. Communication is one of the main thrusts of Shem and I’s administration. We have allocated an entire platform devoted to strengthening the communication between the SUSG and the student body, that is through the SUSG SOUL room-grievance channel, a convenient and easy way for the student body to simply type out their concerns that will be immediately received by Shem and I, and our team. As for communicating with the administration, Shem and I have committed to staying in Dumaguete and hopefully requesting for a university pass for us to enter the campus and easily approach the different offices of the University to strengthen our communication with them.
- How did the online setting shape you as a leader?
The online setting has really allowed me to strengthen my sense of urgency. In the past month multiple concerns were raised to the SUSG that needed to be dealt with within or even less than 24 hours. These concerns included emergency response to students who are affected by calamities in the past year but it also involved concerns regarding the day-to-day experiences of the students in their academic life that Should be addressed immediately and cannot afford delay.
- How do you plan on involving and hearing out the student body in your future undertakings?
Shem and I believe that the very platform that we proposed during the election, and of which we will hopefully be implementing as early as July—the SUSG SOUL room—will be vital in the process of hearing out the student body for our future undertakings. We believe that this direct form of communication will fast track the communications between the SUSG and the student body. On top of this we will still be holding consultative sessions that were already present during the first semester of this school year. This is our move to further reinforce the current mechanisms that we have so that our approach in communications will strengthen.
- What problems can you anticipate for next year that you wish to overcome?
Shem and I believe that instead of identifying a single enormous problem that we can anticipate next school year, we instead anticipate a multitude of smaller concerns that will be coming from the grassroots of the student body. By this we mean that we already anticipate a number of various concerns that require their own distinct solutions in this setup. We believe that if you gather all these small concerns, you will see the biggest challenge for the next year, challenges that we are still very much willing to address to the best of our capabilities.
- Why should the students trust you?
I believe that in order for trust to be established, a healthy relationship with proper communication should be founded first. Before asking for the student body to put their trust in me, what I can offer first, as I’ve said in the miting de avance, is my companionship. In these trying times what we need is more than just a regular leader with skills and experience. What we need are people that can empathize and are very willing to really offer their all in serving the student body. I believe that with the companionship that I offer, I am hoping that the student body will slowly put their trust not only in me but also in Shem, in our executive committees, and the rest of the SUSG.
12 Questions for the Next SUSG Vice President
- What did you feel when you found out you won as 2021 SUSG vice-president?
It honestly took time for me to sink everything in. It seems like I only said yes to running yesterday, and now I am the SUSG Vice President-elect. When the news came, I was out of words. I felt relieved because I was so nervous since day 1 and it never went away until the results came. Even now it has not fully sunk in yet, but I know I have a big responsibility in my hands and I just feel blessed and happy especially that Myka also won as the SUSG President, and that we can do more things for the students together.
- Why should the students be excited for your administration?
Almost nothing might actually excite students in this set-up, and we need to face it. However, Myka and I are for an administration that is solution-driven, persevering and is for trying. The students can look forward for a more informed and involved Sillimanian studentry.
- What are you most personally excited for the upcoming administration?
I am personally excited to be working with competent people that will be part of the executive committees that will be with us in this administration. I miss being in the executive branch and I also miss organizing events, engaging to the community, and the like.
- What do you look forward to in working with Myka?
I am looking forward for our platforms to happen and be implemented. Both Myka and I really value the sense of urgency and sustainability and when we were crafting our platforms, we were already thinking of ways to mechanize it. And I am excited to work with a purpose-driven individual as I am as well, and when we are in position we can then finally start working on our platforms and more as we widen our horizons for the Sillimanians.
- What is the biggest problem in the student body that you will address and how are you going to go with it?
Myka and I think that the biggest problem in the student body is the multiple problems existing that we need to combat. These problems might be individually not as big, but the accumulated problems create a giant we need to face. So, we should go about it one by one as we come up with solutions one step at a time. An example of this is the grievances we have in this set up, Myka and I will go about this through the SUSG Soul Room. Through the SUSG Soul Room, we can make certain that you have a platform to voice out your concerns and grievances for the SUSG to hear. The SUSG SOUL Room will also include “downloadables” of important documents that students will be needing in their college life.
- Can you share with us at least three (3) specific undertakings you are planning next year?
Myka and I have set a goal to really make happen next school year what we shared during the campaign season. One, is the establishment of the Health Emergency Response Team, to collaborate with the administration in maintaining the health and safety protocols of the university for the students who will be going back for the face to face set up and help them in the process, especially of travelling. The HERT should also be included in the sitdown meetings with the administration in any health-related discussions, especially if the vaccination program rolls out. Second is the full establishment of The Sillimanian Initiative in the SUSG. Should there be calamities, or any emergencies that will affect the students’ learning, this organization will be there to assist. Through establishing a vulnerability assessment database under TSI, we can then possibly provide assistance to those affected and also help those who need to be excused given their circumstance and help explain their situation. Third, is the possible increase of the financial scholastic subsidies. We aim to increase the number of the SUSG Scholars, internet load subsidy beneficiaries, and the like. These are some of the undertakings that Myka and I plan to do next school year and we hope for it to really happen.
- What was the biggest challenge you had to face during the virtual campaign?
With the lack of humanness in the virtual set-up, I found it really challenging to make the students feel whatever Myka and I were talking about. I was worried that they won’t feel the genuineness of our words, and that we are just one of those lectures they can hear on their screens. It was also a challenge to really relay the message we want to say given the time limit also. Since teachers are more particular in the time, they give to those who would campaign.
- How did the online set-up shape you as a leader?
It has taught me to be resourceful. I learned to reach out to the network of leaders to be able to create a bigger impact and still contribute something to the community even with the limitations we have.
- What was the most memorable moment in your virtual elections?
The election season is one of the most memorable experiences I can say in my college life. It was one of the moments where we get to bond with alumni when they visit the headquarters, also moments where we get to meet new competent people who will be part of our college life. Unfortunately, this time, we didn’t get to hug these people, and actually bond with them in that span of time. Sadly, this year’s election season left me with limited memories to hold for the future. In the stressful week, I would want to remember all of the moments I could possibly do because all of them are memorable. One of them were the clumsy moments of Myka and I during online campaigns. When we forget to mute ourselves while saying “1,2,3, go” as our cue to start, and when we need to stop ourselves from laughing when we see something funny on the screen while we are talking. Also, seeing everyone on screen from their homes supporting us was a memory I will always hold on to.
- What was your reaction and how did you deal with the situation of some students ranting or arguing in social media because of the elections?
I actually didn’t know much of the social media happenings because I stayed away from it during the election season to save myself from something that may affect my state. However, we know that things like this happen. It’s natural to see posts that may seem to be ranting but this also speaks how they actually care about the elections and that can be a good thing.
- What message would you like to give to the constituents that you will be serving?
First, I would like to thank each and everyone of you for persevering despite the circumstances and the online set-up. Despite the day to day battles we need to face. Next school year, we will come back stronger and will continue to persevere. Together with Myka, the executive committee, the representatives, and the students of Silliman University, we can make things happen.
- Complete the sentence: I am Shem Barinaga, the SUSG VP-elect, and I am _____.