GGU News
International students in San Francisco
April 3, 2023 |

Filipino Students Gain Opportunity and Inspiration at GGU

By Jenny McKeel

In January, six Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA) students arrived on campus from the Philippines—through the new GGU-Philippine University Consortium partnership with Ateneo de Zamboanga University (ADZU). An additional three students are attending online from the Philippines with additional students arriving on campus by Summer and Fall 2023. A total of 23 students have been admitted to date from three Consortium partners. 

“Ten Philippine universities are members of this Consortium that provides discounted tuition at GGU for degree-seeking students in the Philippines, an extension of our mission of affordable, accessible education for all,” said Professor Jay Gonzalez, Vice Provost for Global Affairs. 

 This unique partnership is supported by both governments of the Philippines and the United States as part of the two countries’ commitment to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal of equitable education for all.  

Students enrolled through the partnership with ADZU will earn a dual degree—the EMPA from GGU and a master’s in government and development from ADZU. They will complete part of their coursework on campus at GGU and part of it in the Philippines. These students will also receive cultural immersion opportunities through GGU, a year-long F-1 working visa, and employment opportunities on campus. 

“When I arrived here it was quite an amazing experience,” said Consortium student May Bulanon, who landed in San Francisco on Jan. 12. “My course on Resilience, Livability and Sustainability exposed us to diverse student experiences with climate change. I hope that in the courses I take here this spring I will continue to immerse myself in the diversity here and take that experience and apply it to the Philippines.” 

The first group of six students studying on campus will take four courses this Spring followed by an in-person internship in the San Francisco Bay Area before returning to the Philippines for more coursework there. This diverse group of students includes five women and LGBTQIA+ students, one of whom has served as a three-term mayor and one who is an elected youth councilor in the Philippines.  

“I come from a tropical country where it’s either rainy or hot. When I arrived here it was the first time that I experienced heavy rain plus cold!” said student Mack Labriaga. “But when it comes to adjusting to the culture, it’s not difficult because there is a larger Philippine community here in San Francisco, which makes it feel like home.” 

An LGBTQIA+ student, Mack is thrilled to study in the LGBTQ capital of the world. 

“This opportunity provides not only educational and professional value but also cultural.  I’m a fan of RuPaul’s drag race and there are a lot of drag queens here,” said Mack. “Just visiting the community in the Castro is really amazing for me, and I am reminding myself to enjoy the culture of San Francisco while earning my degree.” 

As students enrolled through the partnership with Ateneo de Zamboanga University, May and Mack are thrilled to earn two degrees—the EMPA from GGU and a master’s in governance and development from ADZU. Both universities agreed that they will count each other’s courses toward total credits that apply to the degree. 

“In the Philippines, if you finish a master’s degree people really look up to you but if you finish your master’s degree in the United States you attract greater opportunities,” commented Mack. 

GGU’s scholar-practitioner model is also especially valuable to international students. 

“You can have all the theory but if you don’t have a teacher who is experienced and can translate that textbook into laymen’s terms let alone for students coming from outside the U.S. it’s not as helpful,” added Mack. “In our courses, everything is understandable and comprehensible because our instructors are practitioners themselves and that’s one of the greatest benefits of GGU.” 


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