UPOU Top Graduate: "Openness is Offering Ourselves to the Country and the World" “I hope that in the future, we attempt to open and offer ourselves – our knowledge, abilities, and skills – to our country and even to the world – an actualization of Oblation’s selfless offering of oneself to humanity.” Reflecting upon the value and essence of ‘openness’ and how it allows achieving academic success was the quintessence of this year’s valedictory address. Mr. Ericson Peñalba, the top graduate of the Masters in Development Communication (MDC) from the Faculty of Information and Communication Studies (FICS), delivered his valedictory address during the University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) 21st Commencement Exercises focusing on the ‘Education in the Age of Openness’. For Peñalba, studying in UPOU was a unique and rewarding experience. He particularly enjoyed being an independent learner. In an interview, he said that the rigorous training from a distance mode of learning helped him gain more confidence in performing his job as a state university instructor not only in the field of instruction but also in research and extension works. As he looked back at the years of his struggles and triumphs in his academic journey, he described the two and a half years as both moments of frustrations and satisfaction, a love-hate relationship with the MDC program. For him, being able to survive all those complexities lies on what he considered as the “most essential characteristic of UPOU--openness”. “I believe that the benefits we derived from the openness of the UPOU education became possible due to the culture of sharing it adheres to. In particular, the sharing of knowledge, which is now beginning to transform the landscape of learning, has led to a realization that knowledge could also become a common good, not just a commodity.” He also believes that openness is not just a practice but also a virtue that should be exercised by every organization, academic institution, practitioner, teacher, and student. With this, he challenged his fellow graduates to also acquire the same virtue, “... as we reflect on the selfless act of giving back, may we realize our value and worth as graduates of UPOU – as mga Iskolar ng Bayan who possess the virtue of openness to play an active role in advancing the culture of knowledge sharing.” He also asked fellow graduate to self-reflect. He asked “What are we willing to offer for free? What can we open source so that others may benefit from us? Are we really open to the possibility of working with and for others? Handa ba tayong magbahagi nang walang hinihinging kapalit?" (Cherry Bundalian, FICS).