I once attended a conference hosted by the UP Filipino Department. I was genuinely surprised that Dr. Wilberto D. Monotilla, PhD from the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (NIMBB) was part of the speakers. I was asking myself, what does a NIMBB professor have to do with all the Language and Nationalism his contemporaries were talking about? This peculiarity drew my interest and I listened intently on what he has to say. And he didn’t disappoint. He was working in this university-funded project in using comics as a tool in teaching the complexities of Molecular Biology to high school students. He showed us few of the more creative work his students of the past semester have done. It had a plot line and was easy to follow while incorporating MBB concepts. Presented in that way, DNA and forensics didn’t seem as daunting compared to textbook fine-print.
His presentation offered a unique perspective into the creative use of language in teaching complex topics. This kind of inter-field collaboration is what the university needs to catch up with the rest of the world. Imagine engineers collaborating with linguists in constructing the perfect language tool, or fine arts people collaborating with engineers to create the perfect lantern float! The possibilities are endless really, yet many universities fail to utilize these ‘networking’ of sorts. For one, I think collaboration among scholars and professors in this university have been fairly limited. The scholars limit themselves to collaborating within their fields or across fields that have the most striking semblance to their field (like psychology is to economics) and offhandedly ignore the other outside fields. But these ‘outside fields’, is where the strangest, most unique connections could be discovered (like MBB is to Language). When conflicting, contrasting ideas are given leeway to collide with one another forming a chaotic intellectual environment, groundbreaking ideas could be formed. And as we discussed in class, it’s not in the number of nodes in the network, it’s how these nodes are well connected to allow this chaotic environment to form.
In line with this, I propose that the university gather all tenured UP professors from all over the country, classify them according to broad categories (natural sciences, social sciences, engineering, arts and humanities, etc) and mandate them to form a team (one from each category) and come up with a study. This could happen once every two to five years just to keep this ‘chaotic environment’ going. If the university had such a system, I guess we wouldn’t be so far behind Asian universities.
This kind of project doesn’t only produce inter-disciplinary works but it also produces inter-disciplinary connections that transcend the lifespan of the program, making our University a more-networked, more-connected intellectual center of the country.
Raphael Justin A. Jambalos