A student from Saint Mary’s University is a member of the winning team during the South Intensive Program 2023 held in Pili, Camarines Sur, on Jan. 30, 2023 – Feb. 10, 2023.

Isaac Divina, AB Political Science 3, was one of the six students who were chosen to represent SMU in the SIP, a short and intensive study program that brings together students and educators from West Flanders and Philippine higher education institutions to work together on topics with impact. Based on the concept note, SIP aims to help students find solutions to 21st-century challenges rooted in the local communities of the Philippines and West Flanders in international and interdisciplinary teams.

The SIP was participated by 24 students from the Philippines and 24 from Belgium, who were distributed in 6 cases comprised of 8 members each, 4 Belgian and 4 Filipino students. Each group was guided by one Belgian coach and one Filipino coach.

The six Marians were distributed in cases preassigned by the organizers. Each group had to work on problems given by partner organizations, which are cooperatives or industry partners in the locality. To solve the problem, the students immersed themselves in the cases through field visits, local tours, and interviews with experts and administrators/proprietors. After the field visits, the groups were provided with tools they used to work on their prototypes, which were displayed during the final presentation in the second week. They were also required to prepare a 10-minute pitch in front of an 18-member jury composed of the coaches, representatives from the Province of West Flanders, and Synergy Pilipinas.

After the 2-week intensive program, the case of the stingless bees was proclaimed the winner after the 18-member jury unanimously chose their facemask prototype made out of propolis debris as the best among the 12 prototypes proposed.

The winning team was coached by Clara Gonzales from SMU and Joke Calcoen from Vives University of Belgium.

The SIP allows Marians to level up their internationalization experience through intercultural immersion and interdisciplinary dialogues with local and foreign students and coaches.

According to the concept note, the collaboration between higher education institutions in the Philippines and West Flanders started simultaneously with the Synergy Programme. Under this partnership, the first IP took place in February 2019 in the Philippines (organised by Howest, Isabela State University and Saint Mary’s University) and the first IP in February 2020 in Kortrijk in West Flanders. These IPs are short and intensive study programmes in which students and teachers from Philippine and Belgian higher education institutions collaborate on development-relevant topics, specifically on the three central themes: sustainable agriculture, entrepreneurship, and climate change.

In the academic year 2023-2024, an Intensive Programme will be organized in Belgium on the campus of VIVES University of Applied Sciences. 

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