THE Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Catholic University of Leuven), or KU Leuven, has been engaging with the Visayas State University (VSU) since 2013.
In the aftermath of Supertyphoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan), KU Leuven was one of the first overseas institutions to provide financial donations to VSU which amounted to P2.2 million. On top of that, several of the latter’s faculty members have also obtained their graduate degrees in the Belgian university.
While both universities have been working together for the past years, a formal partnership has yet to be sealed. As such, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed in July. Dr. Edgardo E. Tulin, president of VSU and Dean Dr. Philippe Muchez of KU Leuven’s Faculty of Science finally put into paper an agreement that formalized the longstanding relationship between the two learning institutions.
The said agreement involves conducting joint collaborative research, benchmarking of curricular offerings, and the provision of graduate scholarships—including short-term exchange programs open for both faculty and students of VSU and KU Leuven.
VSU will benefit from this partnership by further strengthening its international presence through overseas mobility of its faculty and students.
Dr. Anabella B. Tulin, VSU Graduate School dean, laid the initial groundwork for partnership with Belgian Universities in 2019. The University of Ghent invited her in July 2019 through the Asean Plus Regional Platform Fellowship and made a proposal for funding. During her stay in the Belgian City, she had the opportunity to meet Belgian scientists from the University of Hasselt and Vrije University of Brussels for a possible collaboration with VSU.
When KU Leuven’s International Course Program (ICP)-Master of Science of Sustainable Development reached out to VSU earlier this year through Gina Delima, a VSU alumna and now its faculty member, to explore opportunities for linkages, Dr. Tulin’s research-led project: the Development of a Smart and Sustainable Disaster Risk Management, served as the takeoff point of the MOU. Dr. Muchez expressed enthusiasm in the operationalization of the partnership.
“This notion of understanding is indeed a start for further operations within many more projects—both regarding research, but also education, which I think is really important,” Dr. Muchez explained.
Dr. Constanza Parra, KU Leuven director of the Master of Science of Sustainable Development program, added ways in which the partnership can be harnessed in the future: “We sincerely hope that from [this point] onward, we will be able to build together in education, in research, and in outreach. We are now passing the second phase of our ICP Master program, ICP connect, and we want [VSU to be one of] our core partners to accommodate mutual needs and expectations. I would like [to] work together on research about climate-change adaptation, disaster resilience and sustainability.”
The VSU president assured KU Leuven officials of mutual cooperation that will benefit the two institutions. He also highlighted the way the Belgian university was an enabler for them “like a dependable friend that can be counted on, especially in difficult times.”
“I have no doubt…this will bear significant results for both VSU and KU Leuven in terms of instruction, research, extension and innovations,” the VSU official shared. “KU Leuven has always been a generous institutional partner for VSU even in our most difficult times…Our faculty who graduated from KU Leuven are also now contributing to VSU’s overall development because of the training quality they obtained from their international graduate experience in Belgium.”
Dr. Beatriz S. Belonia, VSU vice president for Academic Affairs; Dr. Juliet C. Ceniza, VP for Research, Extension and Innovation; and Dr. Ana Marquiza Quilicot, head for International Affairs witnessed the virtual MOU signing, while Dr. Klara Claessens, program coordinator of the Master of Science in Sustainable Development, joined the KU Leuven delegation.
Invited guests included KU Leuven alumni who are current faculty members of VSU: Dr. Rotacio S. Gravoso of the Department of Development Communication; Dr. Ivy Emnace of the Department of Food Science and Technology; Kyza Ramoneda of the Department of Biotechnology; and Delima, who represented VSU’s Institute for Strategic Research and Development Studies.