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On the evening of 30 July 2016, about a thousand people assembled at the headquarters of UP Open University, expectant of the glorious evening that was about to unfold – UPOU's fourth Chancellor will be invested by the UP President, in time with the 20th Commencement Exercises of the University.

Three hundred sixty-one graduates were conferred degrees with 9 graduates on the Chancellor's list and 12 making it to the Dean's list. Fifty-three undergraduate students and 308 graduate students were conferred their degrees, 11 of which were doctoral program graduates.

Honorable Alfredo E. Pascual, the President of the University of the Philippines, was the event's commencement speaker, to address both the graduates and the new Chancellor. He applauded the graduates' choice to study and finish via distance education through the UP Open University, while juggling between work, family and personal development. "Open distance education is not an easy option," he stated, "Your graduation today is not just a celebration of your success but a testament of your hard work, resolve and perseverance." He exhorted the graduates to transcend ideological impulse and social vigilance. "Instead of simply being critical voices, I urge you to work instead to make change possible."

To the 4th Chancellor of UPOU, Dr. Melinda dela Peña Bandalaria, his message was continued success in the performance of her responsibilities. He assured her the support of the entire UP Administration as she leads UPOU to higher levels of achievement. "We count on you, Dr. Bandalaria, to give full commitment to your important role to further stimulating and promoting open and distance e-learning."

In her investiture speech, Dr. Bandalaria's call was to break the boundaries instead of just democratizing access to UP education and to make UP inclusive, instead of exclusive, through OpenUP – a direction that UPOU has started to take even before her term. She also emphasized the need to strengthen the internal organization to be able to lead effectively and to provide service to the country as the ultimate articulation of open and distance e-learning (ODeL). "UPOU is in the position to take on the leadership in ODeL in the region. The stage has been set and all that is left for us to do is claim this space and seize opportunities." In the end, she did not ask for the support of everyone, but said "Rather, I am requesting that we be PARTNERS in the various undertakings that we had identified."

Senen Niño Pineda II, a graduate of the Diploma in Social Studies Education program, was chosen to deliver the message to represent the graduating class of 2016. He shared experiences in being a UPOU student and the survival "amidst the superhuman challenge of juggling work, school, family, friends and socio-civic pursuits." "We are now bolder, more knowledgeable, and readier than ever to share to the country and the rest of the world the insights, comprehensions and awareness we gained after several semesters in UPOU," he stated. "We are sons and daughters of the premier state university that values honor and excellence, love and service to our country." His call to his fellow graduates is to continue on the trails blazed in UP.

Fireworks punctuated the twin events after the ardent singing of UP Naming Mahal. (Anna Cañas-Llamas)

Professor Asha Kanwar, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), will deliver the keynote address at the opening plenary at the 30th Annual Conference of the Asian Association of Open Universities (AAOU) to be held on 26-29 October 2016 in Manila, Philippines.

Professor Kanwar is one…

Read more: Commonwealth of Learning President Asha Kanwar to address AAOU2016

21st Century Education in an Open World