New Tricks for an Old Academic Dog

Key activities to keep moving.

November 24, 2013

My life as an academic never gets boring. Working in the same institution for twenty odd years, one could easily slide into the comfortable niche of being a tenured Professor. But being not that type, I sum up what activities has moved me up until now and will move me through 20 more years:


  • organize enriching co-curricular, voluntary (unpaid) activities


I put together the first UP Visayas book drive overseas in 2000; it continues to draw donors and it has been recently expanded to allow for collaboration with the local Philippine Army unit for distribution to conflict areas. I just put together my fifth conference panel presentation; two carried out in Laoag and Bangkok; another forthcoming in Kyoto. I have brought in caliber speakers to Miagao at little cost to my University, patiently securing funding from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and capitalizing on connections with the US Fulbright alumni. I was a one-woman host committee for a study tour by Malaysian students; I also singularly packaged my University’s bid to host an international Political Science conference in 2014.    

These activities involve the same fundamentals, which through constant practice, I have mastered: I can confidently prepare written proposals, secure funding, figure out logistics, implement professional activities and even write a piece or two for publication on our University website or newsletter.


  • internationalize-- find ways to connect your academic work to a broader foreign audience

Perhaps due to my graduate school roots abroad, I preternaturally gravitate towards outside linkages in my work.  I got involved in two international comparative projects, obtained research grants from foreign finding agencies, and worked with foreign academics and researchers. They provided my most valuable learning experiences as an academic: the work ethic, the seamless treatment of theory-based research and publication, the usefulness of a comparative lens in understanding my own country’s dynamics.


Under a Fulbright grant in 2009, I attended lectures at US academic institutions as part of my dissemination agenda. From these, I learned about the warm reception to Moro Studies in Philippine-centers like U Wisconsin-Madison and Northern Illinois U at Dekalb. US service academies have parallel interest in my research on Moro conflict, giving me opportunities to guest lecture in classes. Later, I expanded this network by meeting with Filipino-American groups in California and the Chicago area. Now, I endeavor to make every trip abroad include lecture/s at academic institutions and/or with Filipino-American community.


  • ​fraternize-- always be nice but don’t forget to “sell” your ideas and forge potential partnerships


You are only as good as your last publication, or whatever comes up when others Google you and your work. But these activities mean nothing unless you prove yourself reliable and intellectually engaging. At international conferences, I deliberately set out to network: chatting up those who asked substantive questions about my presentation and seeking short conversations with authors whose work parallels mine. I usually prepare small tokens (Philippine handwoven scarves; dried mangoes) for my academic hosts, and send thank you notes pronto as well as copies/links to derived articles/write-up from the activity. Cases in point: (a) American Professor approached me after presentation at conference in San Diego and expressed interest in inviting me to speak at their center, an offer I followed up intermittently until I was finally able to take it up after two years; (b) I spent some time talking to a member of an international research group on reintegration, highlighting my current project on ex-MNLF and ex-communist rebels; hoping that down the road she’ll remember me in their future projects as that “expert” from the Philippines.


Teaching alone does not get me up and running every day.  I crave a variety of purposes, mobility. These three things—organize, internationalize, fraternize— are skills that help me get the most of my academic position.



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