Formerly with a New York-based IT-outsourcing company, Dr. Patrick Alain Azanza came back to the country middle of last year as the 7th president of the Catanduanes State University (Population: 10,000).
“I was used to the fast-paced life and my tendency is to also work fast. In the US while I was company president, I did multi-tasking and saw no need to hire a secretary. We were into IT so we relied a lot on technology.”
Abroad, he approved leaves and payroll using his iPhone and conducted meetings via Zoom and Skype even before the pandemic. “When I came back to the island, I had to adjust to the environment. I realized that people here want to enjoy life and they value time with their families. I slowed down a bit.”
A graduate of MA Sociology, PhD in Educational Administration, and Juris Doctor (JD) at University of the Philippines, Dr. Azanza prioritized the reorganization of the school systems. He learned that former presidents spent time up to the wee hours signing voluminous documents. “I had to change that. I made a rule that all papers must be acted upon and must be released by the Office of the President within twenty-four hours. I delegated some signing authorities to my vice presidents. I want to have time to think and govern instead of reducing myself to just an armchair administrator who is stuck in his office signing documents.”
His formal investiture has yet to take place in March 2022 but already he has made ripples in the island in his first 100 days.
First, he did management audit and immediately identified areas that needed urgent reforms.
He uncovered a lot of inefficiencies and realized decision-making was slow. Papers were not moving and there were a lot of delays in transactions.
To top it all, he uncovered corrupt practices that resulted in many infrastructure projects in the university being abandoned.
For another, there was widespread injustice that caused dissatisfaction among employees and faculty members. Students especially those coming from poor families were neglected and with no democratized access to online learning.
Dr. Azanza pointed out: “With the pandemic, curricular offerings needed to be reviewed, updated, modernized and expanded. There were also no vaccination program and insurance coverage in place. I noted that the University was heavily dependent on government funding and was not harnessing its available resources.”
He streamlined the processes and procedures and causes of delays eradicated. “I opened student and faculty and staff portals and provided everyone email addresses so that transactions can go online. With the SMART Campus, we now have a learning management system. We created satellite learning centers all over the province to allow student from far-flung areas to have online access. More than 550 students were provided with tablets which we sourced from the private sector at no expense from the government. We raised almost half a million pesos for free internet loads for students who did not have online access.”
He also coordinated with local partylist, the congressional office and DSWD so that 5,000 CatSU students would be given P3,000 to P3,500 individual cash assistance and monthly stipends courtesy of the office of the governor.
To address abandoned university projects, he met with all contractors and appealed to them to continue with the project with the assurance that corruption inside the University would henceforth be a thing of the past. “We blacklisted contractors who did not return to complete projects. The abandoned projects like the university hostel and the grandstand have already been rebidded and awarded to new contractors. All infra projects are now back on track with no major slippage. Payments to contractors are also on time and the absorptive capacity (ability to spend government allocated budget) of the University is up. On the side of the employees, we have already promoted more than 500 faculty and staff, we expanded our employee incentives, we even have off-campus housing programs and we were able to distribute food packs during the lockdown in 2021.”
Azanza gives Vera Files an overview of what the job of a university president entails. “All it entails is to serve. When you are a university president, you are first and foremost a public servant. You have to be properly guided on how to become an excellent public servant. More than anything else, the university president has to be a visionary. You need to see the future of the University 10, 20, or 50 years down the road. You must plant the seeds during your term so that the University will be on track to getting there towards the end of your term. You have to be in control and create those opportunities for the University so that the institution will fly and not stagnate.”
For now, he believes his staff should not be stressed and must have time to enjoy serving others. “They know I do not like cordon sanitaire. We practice open door policy and anyone can access our office. For the first time, the union presidents and student body presidents are given free and full access to all information including financial details.”
In his book, he wants transparency, integrity and accountability to be a hallmark of his governance.
Dr. Azanza On Other Concerns:
On his latest meeting with VP Leni Robredo in the island:
“It was actually our third time to meet. I first met her when she was not yet a VP candidate, at the office of Ms. Judy Araneta-Roxas (JAR). I was then active in the Gerry Roxas Leadership Awardees Association. (GRLA) and she was one of the invited guests. Later on, she was named as a running mate of Senator Mar Roxas. The second one was when she was at the Quezon City Circle a few days before she became VP. The third one was during her recent visit here in island upon the invitation of Governor Joseph Cua in connection with her vaccination program. She said she got my name from a common friend in Congress thus she wanted to include CatSU in her itinerary. Our conversation was focused on our commonality in harnessing the private sector to access support for our advocacies. In my case to secure free tablets and free internet loads for students; expand employee benefits; implement vaccination program, and many others. When she learned that I am also from UP and a Gerry Roxas Leadership Awardee, she more or less knew I was serious in the reforms I am instituting here in CatSU.
The CSU as he sees it a few years from now:
“I see it as a globally competitive green research university with its own source of income courtesy of its thriving economic zones, with its colleges and departments being highly innovative and technology oriented. I am working at present on our Smart Agriculture by trying to integrate IT, Artificial Intelligence and nano technology with agricultural systems. I want our graduates to command higher salaries than their ordinary counterparts. And I intend to do the same for our other courses like nursing, engineering, accountancy and education.”
On What Guides Him As University President:
“I have my moral compass. I believe in God. He is my True North. Whenever I make decisions, especially crucial ones in the University, I pray. Every night before I sleep and while praying to God, I do a quick review of my actions and decisions during the whole day. So long as my conscience does not haunt me and I can sleep soundly at night, I am assured that I have done the right thing.”