A Beautiful Mind: Silliman University's Outcome-Based Education
By Dr. Betsy Joy B. Tan, Vice President for Academic Affairs

(Delivered for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost, June 30, 2013, at the Silliman University Church.)

“The Lord is my Light!” What a beautiful song!  Thank you choir, for the beautifully rendered song to inspire us in confronting the educational reforms and challenges given to us in the academic division.

Earlier, in the chapter of  Luke 2:52 we read  that   “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” He grew mentally in wisdom; He grew physically in stature; He grew spiritually in favor with God; and He grew socially in favor with men. 

I am reminded of a song which  I learned from our Daily  Vacation Bible School in Guihulngan with my Lola Dame Malahay as our teacher. She was the sister of  the  two Malahay brothers who were the first ones to be baptized by the Presbyterian missionaries in Silliman. They were the first cousins of my grandfather, Lolo Numeriano  Ymalay  Bustatmante.

In other places the Bible speaks of tripartite nature: Body, soul and spirit – our body, the physical self; our spirit, the image of God in  us; and our soul, our emotional nature.  As the first ones to be baptized by the Presbyterian missionaries in Silliman then, such tripartite nature of body, soul, and spirit just reinforced my family’s lessons from our Daily Vacation Bible then!

Rev. Harry Y. Pak, pastor of this University Church before, was appointed by President Quintin S. Doromal in 1974 as a member of the University Cabinet, the highest advisory body to the University president.  With Rev. Pak’s acceptance, one could almost hear Whitney Houston burst into her song, “One Moment in Time” for it was both an ecstatic personal joy for him and the University, an official recognition of how integral the University Church is  to the whole campus life at Silliman University in its curricular and  extra-curricular programs as well as its identity as a Christian University.  Thus, in 1975, Rev. Pak filed a report to the Board of Trustees where he wrote:  “Authentic education involves more than academic excellence but concerns the nurturing of the whole person . . . integrating classroom learning with questions of life, particularly as these questions deal with life’s meaning, ethical and moral choices on personal and social levels”.   

Fellow Sillimanians, clearly, Rev. Harry Pak was describing Silliman University education, the process.

Today, as we reflect on Luke 9: 62 when Jesus said, “Anyone who starts to plow and then keeps looking back is of no use for the Kingdom of God”, let us therefore continue Rev. Pak’s “authentic education” to focus on its outcome, “The Beautiful Mind:  Silliman University’s Outcomes-Based Education”

Via, Veritas, Vita – the Way, the Truth, and the Life – is our guiding light for living on campus that affords us to set the University’s  Vision always in sight as “the leading Christian institution committed to total human development for the well-being of society and the environment”.  There is no doubt either, that the goal of authentic education, the process,  is a beautiful mind, the product.

“A Beautiful Mind” may have been a 2001 multi-awarded American movie based on the life of a Nobel Laureate in Economics who was honored for his Game Theory; but a beautiful mind is most of all our Goal number 2 in our VMG:  a holistic and responsive educational program with a Christian orientation.  Thus, to achieve a beautiful mind, one must achieve an outcomes-based training and education, the knowledge work model whose time has come today!

In this model of teaching-learning, knowledge work on campus is not only assured of continuous improvement  but also of demonstrating accountability.  All knowledge workers then  – students, faculty, support staff, and administration – are perceived on  performance in a brain engagement that is much intangible because the brain, the seat of learning, is both an individual and very personal human activity.

In the daily routine of our knowledge work anchored on the objectives of our teaching, in the curricular programs designed for our students, or in the completion of  their course requirements, we always assume that when they have achieved passing grades on the standards we set for them, we then declare them ready for the world of work and send them on their way.  

An outcomes-based education goes beyond assumptions! In outcomes-based knowledge work, we start with identifying outcomes in knowledge, skills, and other attributes our Silliman University graduates should possess, evaluate what we have accomplished according to its effectiveness in enabling our students to achieve those outcomes.  In outcomes-based education therefore, we get the necessary data to complete our teaching-learning feedback loop . . .  before our students can move on to the next.

As a leading Christian University committed to total human development, a systematic and institutionalized outcomes-based education does not only make concrete Rev. Pak’s philosophy of authentic education; we also are always aligned with our VMG of a holistic and responsive educational program with a Christian orientation.

Outcomes-based education also always keeps us alert about one vital truth in knowledge work:  that although knowledge is renewable and changing, the individual but intangible brain engagements of imagination, creativity, intuition, discovery, memory, belief, and wisdom – all sources of our brain power – keep us attuned to Luke 9:62 while motivating us to look forward instead of looking back as we plow the seeds of knowledge in our knowledge work!  

On a recent visit to Manila, I was given a room where a poster about Ur hangs.  Ur was an important city-state in ancient Mesopotamia.  Once a coastal city near the river Euphrates that was once its source of economic stability and beauty, climate changes  have  pushed it inland. I would like to think that the lack of spiritual sufficiency has also driven that push; for like the great changes in our environmental and weather patterns today, there can be not much beauty and economic stability without looking into ourselves and our communities to  discover our potentials for growth and development as individuals and as a society in this Christian University.

Here’s then both a wish and a reminder,  that with outcomes-based education, we can lead ourselves  to the Urs of our lives by reflecting on this beautiful message for a beautiful mind:  Beautiful lives just don’t happen. They are made every single day with much love, prayer, and sacrifice. The many tasks we face each day can burden and oppress; but spending time with God each day can bring relief from stress.  Let us then be reminded that in the end, only three things matter: how fully we have lived; how deeply we have loved; how truthfully we have made our words into actions!