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‘A Philippine Social Science Award in graduate education’


My column today provides a little window for my readers on what might be possible in the encouragement of scholarly work by young Filipino scholars. (I apologize, in part, because to some extent, the material is partly related to my family history.)

Rewarding good effort. I believe that the incentive of providing recognition in the form of modest monetary awards when undertaken with great care and under prestigious management of the process may have great consequence in the promotion of the sciences in our country.

The occasion is a lecture given (on April 25, 2024) at the Philippine Social Science Council (PSSC) Building by Ms. Denise Hyacynth Joy Musni, a recent graduate of the University of the Philippines Population Institute.

Her study won the Prize in the Social Science that was named after Dr. Loretta Makasiar Sicat by the PSSC. The prize for the award is equivalent to $5,500 (or converted at the current exchange rates, around P310,000). Although the prize might appear modest in international terms, it seems substantial in Philippine context.

The topic of the lecture is somewhat technical. But that is what scholarly studies are supposed to be. The study (that Ms. Musni undertook for her master’s thesis) used the data from the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey analyzes the relationship of prenatal care and facility-provided birth deliveries undertaken in the Philippines. This is an important topic in the maternal health care in relation to population dynamics.

A prize for the social sciences is a tricky proposition. There are many social sciences and each is complicated enough. It is also true that many social sciences are in their infancies in the country. And true further that graduate programs in the social sciences as practiced in the tertiary level need to be encouraged by incentives that encourage their students to do better when they graduate.

The story of the L.M.S. Prize. I gave a brief message on the occasion of the third year of the award of the PSSC’s Loretta Makasiar Sicat Prize in the Social Sciences.

Below, I quote fully the message I gave to the 3rd annual ceremony on the award of the Prize to explain how it came to be:

I am very pleased to give this message on the occasion of the 3rd year awarding ceremony of the Loretta Makasiar Sicat Award for the Social Sciences. As many of you might know, this Prize is wholly administered by the Philippine Social Science Council by virtue of a grant that was conceived in 2022 from my daughter, Michelle Sicat Powell.

This might be the occasion to give a background story on how the LMS Prize came to be.

Michelle was prematurely widowed by the early demise of her husband, Larry Powell, to cancer in 2019. Michelle (a UP alumnus and, once, an instructor at the now UP Virata School of Business) and Larry were both alumni of Northwestern University: Michelle with her MBA and Larry his PhD in Economics. They had met not as graduate students but later as professionals.

Frugal in her own life style, Michelle lives in McLean, Virginia in the house that Larry had left her. When she sold the house that she had lived in while working as a business consultant professional in the Washington D.C. area, she became able to support worthwhile undertakings in the country of her birth.

Most of all, Michelle had wanted to honor her mother whom she loved dearly, along with her other four siblings. She asked me how to do this with good effect. Loretta was a professional in her own right: PhD political scientist, UP professor and scholar, leader-administrator among professional peers. Loretta herself was a major figure in the history of PSSC.

Personally, I consider Loretta a model Filipina.

I suggested to Michelle that perhaps providing a prize in the social sciences to be administered by the PSSC would be one way. The prize should be generous. In fact, by Philippine standards, it might be considered substantial. The prize could serve as an incentive to help elevate the level of effort of graduate research papers submitted to Philippine universities.

The response of the PSSC to the idea of an LMS Prize, thru its executive director Dr. Lourdes M. Portus, was very enthusiastic. It took a year to agree on terms and on the rules of the LMS Prize so that PSSC completely takes responsibility for opening of nominations to all qualified schools and selects the awardees.

Today is the third year of the award. We hope that it is helping to raise the standards of graduate research in the social sciences in the country.

We also hope that there will be more years for the LMS Prize in the Social Sciences.

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