The School of Humanities welcomes a new dean

August 08, 2008

Dr. Ma. Luz C. Vilches now heads the School of Humanities. After a well-deserved sabbatical leave last year during which Dr. Benilda Santos served as SOH Dean, Dr. Vilches, known to all as Marlu, is ready to get to work, with plans of continuing the Humanities tradition and of invigorating the Ateneo community with awareness of our cultural past, commitment to scholarship, and passion for teaching.

The tasks may be formidable but for Marlu, deanship is not merely about getting things done. “Leadership is really about working and dealing with people. It’s more about people management than program management,” says Marlu, who is accustomed to dealing with different kinds of people, from fellow members in the diverse standing and adhoc committees of the school, colleagues from the British Council, CHED, and the World Health Organization, to fellow faculty members, being the former chair of the English Department and the Faculty School Forum.

Although, she is not new to the demands of leadership, Marlu believes that nobody is really prepared for deanship. “One can rely on similar experiences in the past, but of course, in the end one treats the work of a dean as an opportunity to grow and learn,” she reflects.

One of the first activities initiated by Marlu was to get SOH faculty members together for a seminar-workshop which allowed them to get to know each other better and to set realitistic expectations and goals for the school over the next two years. For her, it is important to have a sense of collective in work and activity. She believes that by tapping key people in the school and inspiring them to work as a team, the school takes on form and becomes visible and recognizable.

“It is important for every faculty member and student to have a feel of what the School of Humanities is,” she says. She is banking on everyone’s good intentions for the school, and believes and that it is just a question of channeling efforts, recognizing successes, and seeing mistakes as opportunities for improvement. Committees have been drafted with the aim of improving conditions for the faculty, staff, and students.

One of the committees’ mandates is to gather data so that any policies, principles, and strategies formulated will have a solid basis. In response to the problem of the SOH’s dwindling student population, for instance, Marlu has commissioned a survey of SOH alumni. The data culled from the survey will be presented to a faculty forum in order to determine how the SOH’s courses and programs can be made more relevant, and therefore more attractive, to students.

To provide a venue for consultation and idea-sharing, she plans to hold regular faculty forums. In addition, the dean is already working on an apprenticeship program for SOH students. This so-called “attachment program” is patterned after attachment programs in British schools and will help students situate their humanities backgrounds in a real-world context.

Barely three months into her deanship, Marlu is predictably kept busy with the school’s many concerns. At the end of the day, however, she acknowledges that one can only do so much. To put what would seem a daunting workload into proper perspective, she keeps in mind that not everything is in our hands, that one must learn to trust that God sees and acts upon all things in His own time. Whenever there is an opportunity to pray at any time of the day, Marlu retreats into silence and centering. At times she is surprised that things are revealed in a better light through constant communion with God. Marlu, both in her constant dialogue with colleagues and in her introspection, senses that the year presents great challenges and opportunities for all.

Photo: Rani Jalandoni
*Article from the Loyola Schools Bulletin