Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Of Nitches and Nutches

(With Apologies to Dr. Seuss)

By Elena M. Ragragio

One basic concept of life is species' niche. Biologically speaking, a niche or ecological niche is a species' way of life or functional roles in an ecosystem. The concept encompasses everything that is involved in a species' survival and reproduction.
What is NSTP's niche in a student's life? In informal interviews, biology students gave different opinions on NSTP. To some, NSTP was boring and a waste of time because the activities they were asked to do included long waiting periods with them doing nothing. To others, NSTP was exciting because they got to build houses and do community work. When asked if they found NSTP relevant, again opinions differed. Some students took NSTP because it was a requirement and would have not enrolled if it were not. Some found relevance in doing community service, seeing it as a way of doing something for others.
So what is NSTP's functional role in the BS Biology curriculum? Is it to serve others? Is it to contribute to the betterment of poor communities? Is it to assist in charitable works?
These questions lead us back to the objectives of NSTP. NSTP is a national program on service and training. It is assumed that service to the nation is an important aspect of this program. On the other hand, a niche represents "traits that enable the members of a species to survive and reproduce more effectively under a given set of environmental conditions" (Miller, 2004). How can NSTP develop these traits among Biology students so that they can survive college life? More importantly, how can NSTP equip Biology students, as future professionals, with the zest so that they become compassionate, critical, and resilient human beings in service to the nation?
Along the same vein, what is the Department of Biology's niche in the scheme of things in CAS? DB has the largest enrollment in the college. Almost all the graduates of the BS Biology program proceed to medical school. Most of our students belong to the top of their class, and many graduate with honors. The department has developed a mission-vision of developing and nurturing its students by providing them with quality education that is holistic and consistent with the goals of the university.
Which brings us to several questions. Who will establish the direction the department will take in the coming years? What is the basis for establishing quota on student enrollment? What is the basis for hiring and firing faculty members? Who decide the tracking of the graduate studies of faculty members? What is DB's niche? These questions are relevant, especially with the start of the term of the new president of the University.
In nature, no two species can occupy the same niche. It is because each species has its own needs and requirements and each is unique. Likewise, what could be the parameters for determining a department's "niche"? Suggestions and opinions are most welcome!


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