US Ambassador Kenney Inaugurates WMSU’s JEEP


WESTERN Mindanao State University (WMSU) President Dr. Grace Rebollos lauded the Job Enabling English Proficiency (JEEP) project of the United States government which was launched in the university yesterday (July 6) as a continuing “legacy” of the American people to develop Mindanao through education.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney visited the WMSU campus yesterday to formally inaugurate the project, along with Mayor Celso Lobregat, Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCO) Chairman Virgilio Leyretana, and Dr. Rebollos and other university officials.

During the program preceding the ribbon-cutting, Ambassador Kenney told WMSU students assembled in the Social Hall: “This is a project of the United States to help you get jobs by learning English. We are investing in you, so it’s up to you to use that investment.”

“Never ever settle to being less than by your best”, she urged the students, “(Learn English) so (when) people hire you for jobs they can pick you because you are the best that you can be.”

In her welcome remarks, Dr. Rebollos told the ambassador and other American officials present that the building where the ceremony was being held was built by the US colonial government in 1914 at a cost of US$200,000. The building, now a national heritage site, housed classrooms and administrative offices to train the first native-born teachers in Mindanao, who later spread out from Zamboanga to serve in public schools set up throughout southern Philippines. The building continues to house the university’s College of Education.

JEEP is a project sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and is implemented simultaneously in six State universities and colleges in Mindanao. Aside from WMSU, which received the biggest logistical allocation, the Zamboanga State College of Marine Sciences and Technology (ZSCMST) is also a recipient. ZSCMST President Dr. Milavel Nazario was also present in the ceremony.

WMSU received 40 computer units and licensed software from USAID for use in the Interactive Learning Solution (ILS) instructions. The two-year JEEP course consists of 400 training hours for third and fourth year college students who chose to take it along with their other regular course loads.

WMSU’s Language Development Resource Center Director Prof. Julie Cabato and Office of the President Chief of Staff Dr. Ma. Socorro Yvonne Ramos are the project coordinators.

In his message during the same program, Leyretana revealed that business process outsourcing (BPO) companies are slated to operate call centers in Zamboanga City sometime soon. The JEEP project will prepare the human resource requirements for the BPOs, he said.

Mayor Lobregat emphasized that English communication ability is key to the city’s economic competitiveness. Local residents who also speak Chavacano enjoy an edge because there are BPOs who also hire operators who can speak in Spanish, to which Chavacano is closely similar, he said,

Others who attended the affair were USAID Mission Director Jon Lindborg, Commission on Higher Education Regional Director Dr. Emmylou Yanga, and Philippine Call Center Alliance President Joji Ilagan-Bian. (Rey-Luis Banagudos/PAO-WMSU)