Today is a memorable day for me. After eleven years, I will finally be joining some 1,800 students graduating from the most prestigious academe in Mindanao. Many of you, readers, would have wondered why it took me eleven years to complete my masters. Yes, the journey was long and and the end is somewhat ominous.
Ominous because today is also April Fool’s Day. As though, completion of requirements for a three- to five-year course is a laughing matter, which it is not, I believe the date was chosen by the university administrators to accommodate the hectic schedule of the commencement exercises’ guest speaker. This day, moreover, signals the commencement of job seeking for majority of the new graduates of batch 2009. This is, unfortunately, the year of world economic crises which pundits predict to last two or three years beginning from the last quarter of 2008.
Yesterday, the College of Business Administration which the MBM program is attached, a pre-commencement exercise was held. Aside from the hooding ceremonies for graduate students, a recognition of academic and co-curricular excellence for undergraduate was conducted.
My long journey to this day began in June 1992, back when I was a Line Supervisor of National Steel Corporation. What I wanted at first was to take M.S. in Electrical Engineering, but there was no university offering it nearby. After soliciting a former Area Manager and a former General Supervisor for letters of recommendation to take the entrance examinations, I was accepted to the MBM program on June. I opted to major in Production and Operations Management, with the belief that it was somewhat closer to getting a MSEE degree.
Most of my former MBM classmates then were Senior Managers and Senior Supervisors of NSC, executives of the local companies as well as senior professors in local colleges. Some of my Engineering Management Training [EMT] batch mates were also my classmates. A former house mate, also an EMT 11, was on his second year in the MBM program.
I was able to finish all the required 48 units of the MBM program by 1995 and being in a supervisory position in a shifting schedule, a non-thesis option looked like a much easier route for me then. On March 1995, I took the required comprehensive examinations for the six subjects: Accounting, Quantitative Methods, Economics, Marketing, Finance and Organizational Theory. Unfortunately, I failed one subject: Economics, which I took a remedial examinations and the economics professor gave me two points less than the passing score.
In 1995, NSC underwent its first retrenchment since 1974. I was also transferred from Operations to Maintenance Planning. When my former house mate graduated from the MBM program, he then became a lecturer for its Production and Operations Management. A year later he convinced me to write an appeal for a reconsideration to the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, but to no avail. The simple reply: re-enroll in the MBM Program.
In June 1995, I also became a lecturer in a local college teaching Electrical Engineering subjects to third- to fifth-year students. I was still a lecturer when NSC closed in 1999. Being a lecturer helped me at least financially, until the NSC Liquidator re-hired me on contract basis in July 2001. When I became the Team Leader of Technical Planning for NSC-Liquidator, work schedule became hectic enough that I had to give-up my lecturer post by March 2002. My contract with the Liquidator, although renewed every three months, finally ended on 24 September 2004.
GSII came to the Philippines late in 2003. I was hired as Analyst, Business Strategy on 23 November 2004. While on this assignment, during the job interview the former President of GSII suggested that I should reconsider pursuing my MBM degree for good chances in movement for higher positions. Although I was planning to do so after I have given up my lecturer post, I was apprehensive re-enrolling for MBM because of the volatile times as well the the precarious state the company was in. In 2004, GSPI—the renamed GSII—was operating intermittently.
I asked my former superior, the Resident Manager of NSC-Liquidator, and a GSPI’s Shift-in-Charge of Finishing Mills, previously referred as Engr. G. who would later become my thesis content adviser, to write recommendation letters for my second try in the MBM Program. Took the admission examinations and was accepted on June 2005. This time around, some of my former Electrical Engineering students became my MBM classmates, yet was happy to see familiar faces.
Having finished 48 units in the old curriculum of the MBM Program, I applied for advanced credits on 20 October 2005. The Office of the Registrar granted me nine equivalent units for three subjects, namely: Accounting, Marketing and Organization Theory, in exchange for four credit units for each equivalent subjects from the tri-semestral (old) curriculum.
After a hiatus of nearly ten years between 1995 and 2005, I was back in school again; not as a lecturer but a graduate student. The MBM program was designed to be completed in two years for full-time students and on the average three to four years for working students.
Conspiring circumstances seemed to block a sure path to my graduation by March 2008, my initial estimate. Not wanting to repeat my experience on comprehensive exams in Economics, handled by the same professor as before, I enrolled for thesis writing in the first semester, 2006-2007, then had to re-enroll the same course for the succeeding four semesters. On the second semester, my Ph.D. adviser who was teaching at the College of Engineering vanished through thin air, even brought along with him the first draft of my thesis with corrections from the thesis guidance committee. For both semesters, I was not given any grade, even IP for In Progress.
On my third semester (first semester, 2007-2008), I could not find a suitable replacement as my thesis adviser even with the help of the MBM Coordinator. Most professors I approached begged off because they believed they do not have the expertise on Production Management, while others recused themselves due to my thesis’ inclination to Economics. During this semester, I already written the concluding parts of my thesis based on the recommendations of the other guidance committee members.
The fourth semester (second semester, 2007-2008), the MBM Coordinator successfully persuaded a Doctor in Management to become my thesis adviser. Although I finished thesis revisions in March 2008, the committee even scheduled its defense and hopefully I was to graduate that month, yet I successfully defended it only on 26 September 2008 (my fifth semester of thesis writing) because of conflicting schedules with the thesis guidance committee members as well as the new revisions and additions by my thesis adviser even within the week of the presentation. My experience with the latter is the subject of a seven-part series of posts on writing. My thesis was finally approved in October 2008. From first enrolment in June 2006 to its approval in October 2008, it took me two years and four months in writing a 293-page thesis!
Counting from my first enrolment in June 1992 to this April Fool’s Day, that’s a very long 17 years. Maybe the joke was on me? Should I have instead opted for comprehensive examinations?
In retrospect, it was worth it all! During the graduation march, seemingly a closure of sorts for me, I walked with my head proudly held-high and an indelible smile on my face. This episode is now complete, I have yet to make another journey!
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