Dr. Fidel Nemenzo, along with the rest of the executive staff of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, was formally invested with leadership of the UP constituent university on June 7, 2021, after they took the reins from the administration of Dr. Michael Tan in March last year.
UP President and UP Board of Regents Co-Chair Danilo Concepcion led the investiture ceremonies, titled “Pagpapanday sa Panata at Pagsinta (Forging Vow and Love)”, that turned over symbols of office and authority, the University medallion and mace, to Nemenzo who was elected 11th chancellor of UP Diliman.
After his acceptance, Nemenzo formally swore in his executive staff composed of: Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Maria Theresa Payongayong; Vice Chancellor for Administration Adeline Pacia; Vice Chancellor for Research and Development Gonzalo Campoamor; Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Louise Jashil Sonido; Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs Aleli Bawagan; and, Vice Chancellor for Planning and Development Raquel Florendo.
Accompanying Nemenzo and serving as witnesses to his investiture were members of his family, Dr. Maria Victoria Raquiza and Julio Anton Mulawin Nemenzo.
In his investiture speech, he spoke of the anchor of his governance, his administration’s response to the pandemic, and his administration’s thrusts of academic excellence, operational efficiency, and the community’s health and well-being.
Having been nurtured by UP Diliman from his childhood to the present, he accepted the call to serve it as “pag-aalay” to the institution. “Everything that we have done in the past year and everything that we plan to do for the rest of my term are anchored on my vision for UP Diliman as a vibrant and diverse academic community, a partner in nation-building, and one which plays a role of social critic through evidence-based scholarship and moral courage,” Nemenzo said.
Barely two weeks into his term, however, he was confronted by the COVID-19 lockdowns. One of his first responses was the formation of a multidisciplinary task force which meets once a week to plan, implement, and update the University’s pandemic response. The administration provided accommodation to its frontliners, strengthened the University Health Service, and provided free testing and facilities for quarantine, testing, and vaccination.
“Today I am proud to say that we have put into practice what I had envisioned for UP in the context of the pandemic: to make our University an academic center of excellence providing an interdisciplinary hub that works with government, industry, and civil society in protecting the UP Diliman community and our people’s health,” Nemenzo said.
With the sudden shift to remote learning, UP Diliman strengthened its University Virtual Learning Environment, crafted guidelines, and conducted webinars to help the students and faculty cope. “We saw this as an opportunity to reimagine our classrooms and learning spaces as social laboratories to innovate and test new ideas mindful of the principles of inclusivity and compassion. . . . This remains an ongoing challenge,” Nemenzo pointed
Beyond the pandemic, a major thrust of the UP Diliman administration is the strengthening of the General Education Program. It aims “to equip students with imaginative and critical faculties that will enable them to deal with complexity and change and provide them the cultural and ethical moorings in this fast-changing world”.
Nemenzo spoke of launching a tri-college PhD program for Data Science and Analytics; and of establishing a Data Commons, which is a computing hub, data repository, and archives to serve the entire UP System.
He also envisioned greater collaboration with other state universities and colleges in developing disciplines such as space engineering.
“Key to our efforts toward operational efficiency is the development and integration of various data management systems,” Nemenzo said. He announced the recent launch of a human resources information system called PUSO or Personnel Unified System Outlook and a similar system for finance offices.
He reported the launch of at least two online platforms for consultations between the administration and individual constituents.
To encourage research, creative work, and publications, his administration was working on easing the procurement process, and providing additional support staff, mechanisms, and incentives, he said.
“We have been training our staff to improve processes and procedures,” Nemenzo added.
Health, environment, nation
Another major thrust of his administration is the health and wellbeing of the community. “I have created a task force that will integrate our University health and wellbeing services and programs from medical services to psychosocial support, from prevention to treatment, whether for the sick, the vulnerable, or for the well,” Nemenzo said.
“One of my priority programs for UP Diliman is to turn the campus into a safe, smart, resilient, sustainable campus,” he said. On environmental sustainability, Nemenzo spoke of the transformation of the campus into an incubator of environment-friendly practices.
For nation-building, he formed a multidisciplinary team “to hold policy dialogues and bring UP expertise to bear on the key policy areas that will shape the national conversation leading up to the 2022 national elections”.
He also reaffirmed his administration’s defense of academic freedom, an essential element, he said, for UP’s dual role of knowledge producer and social critic.
Prior to chancellorship, Nemenzo, a professor of Mathematics specializing in Number Theory, served as UP Diliman Vice Chancellor for Research and Development. He was a student of UP Diliman from pre-school to college. Nemenzo is also known for having been a musician, an activist and a runner.