May 3, 2023 (9:52 PM)

5 min read


A DECADE AND TWO. After 12 years as the University President, Fr. Joel Tabora of the Ateneo de Davao University will be taken over by a new president in September 2023. Photo by Jerachris Megaela Rosal

After 12 years in office, Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, bids goodbye to Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) as the new university president will take over office in September 2023.

In an exclusive interview with Atenews, Fr. Tabora expressed that ‘much has been accomplished’ during his stay and responsibility as the AdDU President. 

“When I came here 12 years ago, it was not so clear whether the Jesuits could stay here. Ateneo de Davao was, at that time, was plagued with internal conflicts because of our unions. I was told to give it our best shot and if it doesn’t work then we [would have to] pull out,” Tabora said during the interview.

Tabora added that his determination to work on better college operations made Ateneo de Davao stronger over the years he worked as the university president. 

Tabora also shared that during his term, the university established a strong identity that was not only limited to being a teaching university but a ‘Catholic, Jesuit, and Filipino University’, tied to the AdDU’s mission and vision. He highlighted that his legacy in AdDU is achieving a certain clarity about the university’s mission and vision. 

“The idea of university was something we have to clarify among our people because university implies not only instruction but it implies research, it implies looking for new truth, it implies being able to contribute to the world of knowledge. The mission is not only to teach but to research and all are also mission to serve the community,” Tabora said.

Throughout Tabora’s career at AdDU, he put a premium on a Catholic, Jesuit, and Filipino University, especially the commitment to serving Mindanao.

“So Filipino [in Filipino University] has a distinct Mindanao thrust, a Mindanao finality. Just like our internationalization program, it’s an internationalization program for Mindanao. So I think that became clearer even as our mission statement, our mission activities became clearer,” Tabora said, explaining the reason behind the university’s updated mission and vision statement.

The mission and vision statement was updated five years ago to give specificity to the university’s vision as a Catholic, Jesuit, and Filipino University to contribute to the development and peace-building in Mindanao, according to Tabora.

In the course of his term, the integration of the K-12 Program and the adaptation of remote classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic were some of the leaps that the education system had to pass. 

Tabora noted that building AdDU Senior High School’s 5-hectare location was a major decision to make as it is a preparation for a bigger intake of the student population. 

“More important than just the physical [location] was rethinking the whole academic program from the beginning of grade school all the way up. We have to redesign the program so that it was vertically or horizontally articulated. Each step had to be able to contribute to one another based on the mission and vision,” he added.

The outgoing university president also said that the pandemic challenged the university’s standing on finances, sharing that AdDU could only survive on a 2-month salary for its employees. This led to the university being the first in the country to transition to full-force online classes in June 2020. 

“I asked our treasurer with the financial resources that we have, how many months salary did we have. He said we can survive for two months. Thinking of our employers and employees, etcetera, I just told people we have to transition to online. We have to convince the students that we can teach it and we have to take on the online instruction and we have to convince our students that this is the way to go.”

“As we progressed, we had to learn. And as we progressed, we had to understand the problems of the students. As we understand the problems of the students, we had to help improve the teaching of the teachers. That became the order of the day. We have to change different policies based on our dialogues with the SAMAHAN,” Tabora said during the interview.

Consequently, it can be recalled in 2020 that Tabora’s rejection of the new school calendar starting in August resulted in numerous student petitions, arguing on the issues of “financial difficulties of their students and their families.” 

Amid student petitions, the university administration has not followed the postponement of the starting of classes in August 2020. However, after 2 years, AdDU has officially moved its school calendar, where courses start in August. 

AdDU’s new president

Fr. Karel San Juan, SJ, the outgoing President of Ateneo de Zamboanga University, will assume the presidency beginning September 14, 2023.

Tabora described the incoming president as an ‘excellent, professional leader with difficult administrative experience.’

“He’ll be able to work with different groups very easily. I think he’ll be a consensus leader, he will be consultative. He understands quality assurance. He knows what to extract, what to expect from different groups and he’ll hold the groups accountable.”

Fr. Karel San Juan is currently part of the AdDU’s Board of Trustees and will assume the presidency for a 3-year term.

This article was published in the April 2023 Issue of Atenews. Read it here:

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