by Tomas Socrates

The year 2019 will be remembered as a significant year in the history of Universitas Foundation. Not only was it the first year in which Universitas had operated all year round; it was also a year in which many of its programs previously conceptualized were introduced and began to be offered. Among these is the Universitas Fellows Program (UFP).

In essence, the UFP can be described as a “Management Training Program” of Universitas. It can also be likened to a “spine” which unifies some of the main Activities, Projects and Programs (APPs) of the Foundation. In an organized and guided scheme, the applicants are provided with a list of activities to attend, such as the Principled Leadership Course, and the No Holds Barred course which is facilitated during Mentoring sessions. All of these are directed towards the aim of training the young applicants to become principled leaders. Critical to the program is its formative nature, as it requires from the participants responsibility for their own participation, and their personal willingness to be formed through the program.

UFP Fellow Atty. Lara Nicole Gonzales receives her certificate of recognition as one of the graduates

At the end of every year, a graduation ceremony is held to recognize the UFP Participants who have finished a certain level in the program.

On the evening of December 19, 2019, simultaneously with Universitas’ celebration of its Christmas Party, the first UFP Graduation was held. Fourteen (14) out of twenty-four (24) UFP Participants were able to complete the requirements for moving up to a higher level in the program. Along with them, three (3) distinguished persons were recognized by the Foundation as Honorary Fellows. 

The guest speaker for the evening, Dr. Jose Maria Mariano, is among these distinguished persons. An associate professor at and a former president of the University of Asia & the Pacific, Dr. Mariano is currently the adviser of the Foundation, with which he has already given a number of talks and lectures in the past.

During his speech, for which he preferred the more casual term “informal remarks”, Dr. Mariano encouraged the attendees to persistently promote UFP and emphasize its place in the Foundation. Dr. Mariano believes that the goal of Universitas would resonate even better through the UFP.

“We are all witnessing tonight an honest-to-goodness historic event, being the first ever UFP graduation,” he stated, standing behind a podium at the lobby of the V headquarters. “Many years from now, we will be looking back to this occasion – we should be – and we will hopefully marvel at that strong tree called the Universitas Foundation. I expect it to be a strong tree many, many years from now.”

L-R: Tomas Socrates, Dr. Jose Maria Mariano, Francis Perez

Nevertheless, Dr. Mariano noted that this historic event should not only be one that the Foundation would look back to, but more importantly, one that will make it possible for Universitas to extend itself well into the future.

“I believe that UFP, probably the most significant program of Universitas to my mind, is the single most important program as far as sustainability and continuity of our foundation is concerned,” Dr. Mariano remarked. 

“Why? Universitas Foundation will always be more than activities, more than outreach endeavors no matter how good these are, more than offshore seminars and courses that some of you have already attended. Universitas is, primarily, about persons. Not just any kind of persons. But persons whom we are describing as Principled Leaders. Leaders who are competent in what they do, with firm virtues, strengthened character and well-formed conscience.”

Dr. Mariano thus enjoined the people of Universitas to look to the future with hope and foresight. He touched on the need to start thinking about the ones who would succeed in running the Foundation. This is so as to ensure that it would be sustained as a venue for its advocacy even beyond the lifetime of its present members. 

In a word, Dr. Mariano spoke of the need to put down strong roots at present, so that the tree will live for many, many years. In consideration of this, he sees UFP as the “spine” of the Foundation — or, to use other metaphors, its “root” or “driver” — inasmuch as it is the element that would ensure the Foundation’s continued existence and its sustained efficacy.

Dr. Mariano delivering his remarks

He next directed his attention to the graduates. Addressing them, he remarked, “[y]ou must now carry yourselves as persons who have shown to have what it takes to be principled leaders.” He urged the graduates to inspire their fellow participants in the program. As they move forward through the ranks, which is good not to be delayed, they can also help the others by letting them realize that, sometimes, it just needs a little bit of sacrifice to sit down and put what needs to be put into its place, that is, to accomplish the requirements one at a time.

Although the graduation only happens once a year, Dr. Mariano reminded the attendees that moving up through the different levels in the UFP can happen at any time, whenever a participant finishes the tasks or requirements for each particular level.

Dr. Mariano also gave a brief overview of the structure of the program. “As you move forward, you will begin not only to practice Principled Leadership, but to enable Principled Leadership in other persons,” he noted. “You have to make other persons principled leaders. Your friends. People in whom you can discern a deep potential for competence, character, and conscience in service of our society, and also of our Foundation which exists only to serve the community/society.”

This is so because once they become Senior Associates, the participants will be expected to invite friends whom they think have a potential and interest to benefit from the formation being offered by the Foundation. Once they become Junior Fellows, their own potentials will be more formally actualized in that they will be the ones organizing the activities of the Foundation, especially the ones which are formative in nature. For instance, one component of the program is that the participants may engage in mentoring. 

Finally, as Senior Fellows, the participants will be nominating persons who can join the UFP, who will be the next set of individuals to carry out the Foundation’s mission and ensure its sustained existence.

More important than the structure and formalities of the program, however, is the fact that the UFP is a venue for meeting and building friendships – friendships in which each one helps and encourages the other to live the values of competence, character and conscience, and to propagate principled leadership. The speaker reminded the attendees that the Foundation is, in fact, a company of friends.

Fellows and Officers having their Christmas party dinner

To conclude his remarks, Dr. Mariano noted that it is very appropriate that the UFP Graduation is being held in the month of December, simultaneously with the Christmas party. It seems that as Universitas looks forward to the New year, it is also projecting itself into the future. But more importantly, it is appropriate that we lay our successes as an offering for our one true leader, the child who is born on Christmas. –

NOTA BENE: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and the speakers mentioned in the article, and not necessarily to the Foundation.