December 7, 2022

Another Year of Harvesting Academic Leadership – The United Board Fellows Program celebrates its 20th anniversary


Dr. Normandy Dujunco got his first taste of teaching as a sixth grader. It was Teachers’ Day at his school, and one activity was for the students to try running the school. He chose to lead the English class.

“It was a complete disaster,” he recalls, “but it sparked something inside me.”

The grandson of a supermarket chain proprietor and the son of a noodle manufacturer, the Filipino boy seemed destined to be a businessman himself, only to then become a theologian. He did in fact study business as an undergraduate, but it was also then that he felt the need to change course.

“I saw the entire spectrum of business, from people who’d follow their passions to admittedly the uglier side.” He witnessed a classmate being cheated out of business by another classmate. Disturbed, he reflected on what the good life really is about.

“If we’re to earn money, it’s equally important that we keep our humanity.”

“Balance” is the word. Having had his fair share of exposure to the business world, he turned to religion, starting as a postulant under the De La Salle Brothers, then going on to study for a master’s and PhD in divinity. He studied how faith can be taught using stories. All those years since that English lesson, he remained passionate about education—

An education based on none other than the idea of balance.

Dr. Dujunco (second left) with Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, receiving a special citation from the Cardinal Sin Catholic Book Awards for his comic book Johnny’s Big Secret


Advocating Equality

Dr. Minnie Go (left) grew up in Korea and remembers how her childhood got her thinking about empowering minorities.

Naturally curious, the political scientist has been a voracious reader since she was a little girl. The more she read about different cultures, the more she wanted to go abroad and understand them, especially how they are shaped by different institutions.

So after her undergraduate years at Ewha Womans University, she pursued a PhD in political science at the University of Chicago. Having learnt Chinese for years, she was going to specialize in Chinese politics, but then she shifted her focus to minorities in America.

“The US is one of the most developed countries in the world and also the most powerful, but the ways they treat minorities are sometimes very unfair. I wanted to know why this happens in a democracy.”

Dr. Go (third row, middle) spent a year as an exchange student at Massachusetts’s Smith College in 2001. It was the first time she was in the US, and it was then she decided to pursue a graduate degree


She is not unfamiliar with being marginalized. As a child, she spent time in a small city, having moved from an affluent neighbourhood. At school, she was never quite at home, feeling like an outsider among her peers.

“This feeling was all the more intense when I moved to the States as an Asian woman.

”Driven partly by her own experience, she investigated the condition of African Americans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; now back at Ewha, she is researching minority rights in other democracies.

But as she researches and teaches diversity issues back in Korea, she finds herself on another mission: one to diversify the Korean academia itself.


Golden Ponderings 

There was a personal dimension to Dr. Xue Bai (right)’s work as a gerontologist, too. Growing up in mainland China, she was very close to her grandparents. By the time she was in university, however, their health had begun to fail

“I hope I can do something to add to the lives of older adults,” she said.

She started by examining ageing-related issues as she did in her final-year project, where she investigated selfimage in older adults. But as she went deeper into the topic as a postgraduate student and later a researcher, she saw that ageing is never quite a solitary affair.

“I broadened my scope to see how one’s family, community and society intersect to play into their experience and quality of later life.”

For her, research and practice on ageing should be a team effort, where society as a whole—not just social workers and nurses—can work alongside older adults. Now an advocate of ageing education in Hong Kong, she is getting students in all fields to learn how to work with and for older adults by bringing older adults into the classroom and engaging them in intergenerational co-learning.



To Lead and Be Led

Dr. Dujunco, Dr. Go and Dr. Bai have come a long way in carving out a path for themselves and each is taking off in their respective pursuits of scholarship and services. Then they met at the 2022-23 United Board Fellows Program. Dr. Dujunco has become the Vice Chancellor for Mission and Development of the University of St. La Salle, overseeing a host of units from the university museum and the outreach office to the campus ministry and a youth centre. His role is, however, first and foremost to ensure that students are morally upright as well as knowledgeable.

Dr. Go has recently taken on the role of Ewha’s Associate Vice President of University Planning and Coordination.

Dr. Dujunco (right) in a training session as the principal of a small mission school with some of the teachers

Ewha, a long-time partner of the United Board in cultivating and promoting women’s leadership in Asia, has set as its mission to nurture in the spirit of Christianity women leaders in a traditionally patriarchal society. Dr. Go is working with various stakeholders to ensure the university has the infrastructure to realize its vision for a more diverse campus.

As the Director of the Institute of Active Ageing (Research Centre for Gerontology and Family Studies) at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and serving on the Social Welfare Advisory Committee and Elderly Commission of the HKSAR government, Dr. Bai strives to promote ageing education and use research evidence to assist policy and service development for older adults and their families. She has teamed up with her colleagues, NGOs, and other universities to develop various innovative and theoryguided programmes, which she hopes will encourage active ageing and raise students’ awareness of the ageing society.

The trio is only a small sample of the diversity of talents and aspirations in the 2022-23 cohort of the Fellows Program, one of the United Board’s flagship programs in leadership development. A total of 30 of the region’s most promising academics hailing from 27 universities in nine countries/regions joined this year’s program, designed to answer the needs of leadership development for mid-career faculty and administrators from Asian colleges and universities. This is also the 20th anniversary of its offering. Through this program, the United Board has for 20 years been developing dynamic leaders who advance whole person education at their home institutions.

Like the rest of the cohort with their own different backgrounds and motivations, Dr. Dujunco, Dr. Go and Dr. Bai are all hoping to be inspired and become more effective and efficient leaders.


A Year of Expectations

“I believe in trying new things, but I also have respect for those who adhere to traditions,” said Dr. Dujunco.

“In one of the Program’s lectures, I was struck by the idea that you can be supportive of new ideas without causing chaos to the existing system. Can we keep those ideas in a small focus group? Can we get, say, 40 students to try them out first?”

He also noted the opportunities in the Program for university leaders across the region to know one another and compare notes, which is also what Dr. Go is looking forward to.

“As a Christian institution—one that the United Board has given much support—Ewha wants to know how others in the region approach education in the spirit of Christianity,” Dr. Go said.

“Also, our school is trying to reach out to international students. We’d very much like to expand our network, and we want to know how other universities diversify and globalize themselves.”

Being the leader of a growing team, Dr. Bai wishes to hone her management skills in the Program.

“As we keep getting bigger with more and more funding, I’d like to know how I can make my team more efficient. I also want to learn how to motivate my team,” she said.

“So far, the Program has delivered more than what I had expected.”