by J. Enrique G. Saplala

In the late 1950s, a group of young French film critics led by their mentor, Andre Bazìn, burst into the filmmaking scene. Armed with all the theoretical know how of the language of cinema, these critics became first time filmmakers churning out creative films that defied mainstream cinema. Known as the nouvelle vague (new wave), these filmmakers were responsible for changing the landscape of film and influenced the attitude of people towards cinema.
This burst of creative energy appears to be also apparent among today’s psychology students. The thirst for more information and interaction has driven them towards action, looking for venues to showcase their ideas and creativity. I have been a fortunate witness to these changes, where a new generation of psychology students has become the impetus for radical movements in undergraduate psychology. Like Bazìn, the key appears to be the students’ mentor who, by his or her encouragement, can push them to unleash their energies channeling it to productive use.

Movements in the South
An example of this student-driven creative energy is an auspicious gathering of psychology students in Davao City on January 18, 2004. An organization of psychology students from the Ateneo de Davao organized the first All Mindanao Wide Convention of Psychology Students. Attended by undergraduate students in psychology from all over Mindanao, the young Davaoeños organized the congress on their own; including fundraising through door to door campaign and selling old newspapers and recyclable materials. Suzette Aliño, one of the student mentors responsible for the groundbreaking convention, encouraged the students to pursue their vision. She was amazed by how the students methodically planned the convention with sheer determination. Two years later, a group of Ateneo de Zamboanga students in psychology organized a workshop on deception of which I was invited as speaker. I was surprised to learn that the students were able to invite the local PNP and the marines stationed at the Southern Command with hardly their teachers intervening for them. And to think these were all organized by the psychology majors!

The growth of student conventions
Other than their teacher’s encouragement, their experience and extent of exposure to psychology gatherings play a role in the growth of these activities. For example, psychology students of Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro regularly organize and invite speakers to give talks in developing fields in psychology: A case-in-point is the brown bag session in forensic psychology last year where students and professionals from all over Mindanao went to Cagayan de Oro to attend and listen to the research presentations. A similar movement has happened recently in Iloilo. Organized by the various student organizations in psychology, several schools banded together to mount the Iloilo Students’ Convention in 2008. According to Pete Galeno, professor of Central Philippine University, more than a hundred students trooped to Iloilo to present undergraduate research papers and participate in workshops organized by the students and teachers.
Manila also saw the surfacing of significant student conventions. For example, the 22nd and 23rd PAPJA convention were mostly organized by students from De La Salle University and Miriam College. Other than the PAPJA, which seems to be the mother of all student conventions, similar professional organizations encouraged and assisted students in organizing similar student gatherings. PSSP’s Tatsulok, which was the steering committee behind the All Psychology Student Congress, was organized by a core group of student organizations in psychology. Not far behind is the Consortium of Women’s Colleges (CWC) which mounted the CWC Research Forum in Psychology, also in 2006, where students from Assumption College, Miriam College and St. Scholastica’s College helped organized a sharing of their research papers in a half-day forum. Quite recently, a similar group of students from the Laguna College of Business and Arts organized their first student convention, where students from neighboring colleges gathered for a seminar, a workshop, and a quiz bee.

Going beyond the PAPJA experience: The case of the UP Visayas Tacloban College
Unbeknownst to most psychologists in Manila, the annual PAPJA seems to give some impetus for students to jump start student conventions in the provinces. A classic example is that of the students of UP Visayas Tacloban College. Recently, inspired by their experiences at the 23rd PAPJA annual convention, the UP psychology students banded together to put up the 1st Regional Seminar and Convention of Psychology Students. Students and professors who attended the PAPJA workshops got the permission of the PAPJA facilitators through email and echoed these workshops to the participants. Not contended with mere copying, the students adapted the 23rd PAPJA theme to the region, Character Strengths of the Filipino: A Positive Response to Current Challenges especially in the Waray Setting, prepared their workshops and critiqued each other’s work before finally promoting the convention. The students exuded idealism and high energy managing the entire convention, tapping regional and national professionals and arranging the itinerary of their resource speakers.

Similar movements in the United States
The student movement appears not to be confined at home. For example, similar student movements can be seen across the United States where undergraduate students in psychology appoint convention chairpersons and organize the preparations and the proceedings themselves. In 2006, I went to an undergraduate convention for psychology students in Missouri, where my student presented her research paper alongside Midwesterners. I observed that the manner of planning these students engaged in is similar to how our students planned their conventions. Similarly, Miriam College students who have also attended undergraduate student conventions at Stanford informed us that the Stanford Undergraduate Psychology Convention was so organized that they could not believe that the core groups of organizers were students like them.
Likewise, students from the UP Visayas Tacloban College are mulling over the prospect of having a Visayan PAPJA because of how big groups of students from the different parts of the region responded to their invitation. They have realized the advantages of sharing their resources with other people. As one student organizer said, “It’s not about us what we can share or what others can share, it’s about a mutual give and take of ideas, of learning from each other…”

Perhaps, we have to start rethinking how we plan our conventions and allow our students to work on their own conventions. If we mentor our students towards a direction of independence and excellence, then this is most likely where Philippine psychology will go.

UP Tatsulok

UP Visayas Students

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