Echaves: Opportunity losses

I HAD my first meeting with my graduate school students last Saturday at the University of San Jose-Recoletos.

And I confirmed once more how lucky residents working in Cebu City or Province can be!

Here in this class are professionals crossing sea, land or air just to pursue studies to finish a masteral or doctoral degree.

My class of twenty-four includes school presidents and principals from Davao City, college deans from Aklan, teachers from Maasin and supervisors from the Commission on Higher Education, Region 8 in Tacloban.

What impressed me greatly is the sacrifices they make to obtain their degree. From Leyte to Cebu means two hours of land trip and twelve hours by boat. That’s one way, course.

Aklan to Cebu takes eleven hours. And because Mindanao is just too far away, the others just have to shell out more for a Davao-Cebu-Davao round trip by plane.

Naturally, they have to take the early rides to avoid being late for the eight o’clock morning classes.
Because I’ve always been a night person, that kind of regime would be downright impossible. But here they are, braving this hectic schedule for, as one student put it, “ambition and promotion.”

Or pure obedience to their religious orders. Such is true for three students, all top holding top positions in their academic institutions.

I wish their contemporaries living in Cebu City could learn from them. In a city holding many schools offering graduate education, there’s just no excuse for standing still and pining endlessly for a graduate degree, purportedly for “lack of time.”

Clearly, every opportunity snubbed is an opportunity loss.

Those working in a state college or university, or a government agency, can depend, at least, on a mechanism or system in place for rewarding educational/academic achievements.

In some private academic institutions, salary increments can be small. But psychological rewards can compensate, like camaraderie and environment.

Their counterparts in some US schools may be as ambitious for promotion, but not as lucky.

A recent study reveals that ten percent of graduate and professional students at the University of California at Berkeley had contemplated suicide. More than half of them admitted feeling depressed most of the time.

Moreover, a greater percentage (47 %) of the doctoral students admitted feeling depressed than 37 % of the master’s students.

As to fields of study, those in the arts and humanities fields marked a higher percentage (64 %) than those in the biological, physical sciences and engineering (46 %), the social sciences (34 %), and business (28 %).

The feeling of depression is attributed to how the students view their lives. Ten factors have emerged as relevant mental health issues. Foremost are career prospects, overall health, living conditions, financial condition, academic progress and preparation, sleep, and adviser relationship.

This recent study reinforces an earlier study in 2005. The findings have reportedly alarmed many experts, particularly because Berkeley is known for educating future Ph.D’s and professors.

(lelani.echaves@gmail.com)
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