“Kailangan kapag usapang sustainability, ikaw ang unang maiisip ng mga tao.”
It was an ordinary Saturday when our beloved Dr. Brian Gozun, our former dean, jokingly told me this more than four years ago. I had just finished my first term and was still unsure why I had joined the doctorate program.
I initially came to De La Salle University for the campus cats―it may sound funny and unreal, but this was my main consideration for choosing this university. When I decided to take my doctoral studies, I was looking for a new “challenge” and didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into. But over time, I slowly found my place, and given the climate emergency we are in, I decided to focus on sustainable consumption.
Sustainability has always been my advocacy, and this is how I started looking into the SDGs in my coursework, which eventually became the lifeblood of my research work.
So what are my key takeaways from spending four years in the Doctor of Business Administration program? I share with you the three Cs.
The first takeaway is to CREATE.
You will have many chances to create great things, but start by creating a safe space for yourself. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them. The goal is progress, not perfection.
And so, I progressed from a clueless doctoral student to a serious researcher.
I made the most out of the opportunities that opened. Early on, I had the chance to learn from great mentors as I worked on research projects alongside several professors and school administrators. I was sent to Taiwan to be part of research on cyber security under the supervision of researchers from the Zurich Center for Security Studies and Virginia Commonwealth University.
My first Scopus paper was co-authored with the university’s research rockstars and the country’s key sustainability figures: Dr. Anthony Chiu, who is the only Filipino member of the UN International Resource Panel, Gokongwei College of Engineering Dean and Asia’s Rising Scientist for Environmental Research Dr. Kaye Aviso, and DSLU Vice President for Research and Innovation Dr. Raymond Tan, who is one of the top climate scientists in the world.
I was doing all these things and many more.
In my first two years in the program, I only aimed for perfection. I was a sponge, learning many things, pressuring myself towards excellence and spreading myself too thinly in the process. If you’ve ever done yoga, you know that you will be tight and rigid during the first sessions. You don’t force yourself to do advanced positions immediately, or you risk hurting yourself or breaking some bones. And that was my mistake. It reached a point in my doctoral journey when I almost snapped and found myself in a very dark place.
But as they say, light shines the brightest in the deepest dark, and I recognized that I needed to find the light. I sought help.
Which brings me to the next point: COMMUNE & COLLABORATE
As I learned, there is a great sense of community among my fellow doctoral students, and I relied entirely on this community of support to keep me sane. Whenever I was with my fellow sleep-deprived colleagues, we would have colorful conversations, from the mundane to the most meaningful. But it wasn’t just about the intellectual discourse―having them around meant that we understood each other’s struggles and that there will always be someone who will pull you up when you are drowning in anxiety or give you that extra push when you feel like giving up.
I also worked on expanding my network, starting with my colleagues and mentors, and eventually went beyond the borders for international collaborations. Thankfully, DLSU, a globally recognized research university, has partnerships worldwide, so I took advantage of this. Through this network, I was accepted into the Humanitarian Field Fellowship Program at Brown University, which opened more opportunities for me later.
And this leads to my third takeaway―CHANGE. Embrace CHANGE.
Our comfort zone often makes us feel so comfortable that we no longer want to move, explore or progress. In some cases, that’s okay; but in most, it may be stopping us from reaching our potential.
And I’m glad I chose to be uncomfortable, and I chose not to settle.
Despite having some bumps through my DBA journey, I grew so much, and I’m grateful that I’ve been pushed and stretched beyond my limits. Through the confidence and guidance of my DLSU mentors, I could carve my path, and I found myself transitioning into a new field. I realized that with my industry background in marketing and passion for research, I could make a difference in the nexus between sustainability and climate resilience. Working with international organizations such as the United Nations has always been a dream, and I’m fortunate to be allowed to do so. But that’s just the icing on the cake: more than that, I’m able to make a difference in the communities at the grassroots level. I have an impact on sustainability-related policy-making decisions at the macro level.
I am forever grateful to DLSU for all these blessings and opportunities opening my world to a wealth of possibilities.
As we leave DLSU to do good in the world, I hope we all remember to create, commune and change. CREATE things that matter, but aim for progress, not perfection. COMMUNE with people who inspire, so beautiful inspirations can lead to purposeful collaborations. And embrace CHANGE, so we can be the change we want to see.
The fourth C leads us to our commencement – and despite it being the end of our journey with our Alma Mater, to COMMENCE means to start. May we all begin a fresh odyssey into where we want to be, backed by our Lasallian education and values. Papunta pa lang tayo sa exciting part!
The author is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Asia Pacific Roundtable for Sustainable Consumption and Production and works as a consultant for various local and international organizations in sustainable consumption, renewable energy and climate resilience. This article was her speech during the 57th Recognition Rites of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business (RVRCOB) last September 21, 2022. She teaches part-time in the undergraduate and graduate programs of the Department of Marketing and Advertising, RVRCOB, De La Salle University. She can be reached at [email protected].
The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.