‘To experience depth—learn in depth, form relationships in depth’

June 24, 2021

"I think that often when we want something, it is only because we are already in a position to achieve it. For me, there was no other dream but to teach, “ says Czarina 'Bopeep' A.Saloma-Akpedonu. And she did become a teacher, stepping into the role soon after her college graduation in 1991. Yet her life is not meant to be limited to being in front of the classroom. Her interest in Sociology led her to teach, write, conduct research, and now, a new mission as dean of the School of Social Sciences (SOSS) at the Loyola Schools.
"It is often said that many of the shortcomings of past and current solutions to the many problems of the times are due to the absence or the lack of social science perspective in these solutions. The legacy that I hope that we in the SOSS could contribute to is to be part of these solutions through the promotion of the problem-solving mode in the social sciences," she says.
Lessons from Bohol 
As a young girl growing up in Baclayon, Bohol, Saloma-Akpedonu spent many fun afternoons "combing the shallow waters for sea urchins and edible seaweeds." It was an idyllic life spent amidst a scenic background where one could see the Bohol Sea, Panglao Island, Siquijor, and even Mt. Hibok-Hibok in Camiguin. 

I hope to earn their trust that I will decide in the best interests of the SOSS to which we are all a part of,” says Dean Czarina' Bopeep' A Saloma-Akpedonu (contributed photos).

"What struck me most about growing up in a provincial town is how fewer the symbolic boundaries are; how wider are the horizons of togetherness that incorporate class differences," she recalls. Philippine towns, after all, are made up of mixed neighborhoods, and some of her playmates had small and rickety houses.  

When not playing or beachcombing, Saloma-Akpedonu read magazines not typically picked up by children. These included company magazines on power plants [brought by her father who worked as manager of the Bohol Diesel Power Plant of the National Power Plant Corporation] and teacher's magazines, courtesy of her mother, a public elementary school teacher. The exposure widened her reading horizons, but Social Sciences had already left an imprint on her. 
After obtaining her BA Sociology degree from the University of the Philippines in Diliman, she followed in her brother's footsteps, who was already teaching in UP Diliman. Knowing that a master's degree would come in handy for her academic tenure, she applied for a World Health Organization scholarship in China's Peking University, graduating with an MA in Population Science in 1994.  
Upon returning from China, Saloma-Akpedonu joined Ateneo de Manila, researching at the Institute of Philippine Culture (IPC).
"I had learned about the IPC being a pioneer in organized social science research through its monograph," "Second View from the Paddy" which I read for a class in my second year in college. After two years of doing pure research at the IPC, the idea of unity between research and teaching beckoned. The timing was auspicious: there was a vacant position for a full-time Instructor at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology."
She was already teaching at SOSS, contemplating pursuing doctoral studies, when she read an article about Sociology’s theoretical advancements in Europe. Excited by the prospect of expanding her knowledge, Saloma-Akpedonu applied for a doctoral scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service, embarking on a six-month language course in Universität Muenster in 1998. In 2002, she finished her doctoral degree in Sociology from Universität Bielefeld in Germany.
Boundary-pushing sociologist
Saloma-Akpedonu’s penchant for expanding her horizon did not go unnoticed.  In 2006, she published her first book entitled “Possible Worlds in Impossible Space: Knowledge, Globality, Gender, and Information Technology in the Philippines." She served as IPC's director from 2007-2013. As chair of the Commission of Higher Education's Technical Panel for the Social Sciences and Communication, she led a team that prepared the learning resource material and teacher's guide for the Grade 11-course ‘Understanding Culture, Society, and Politics,' now being used in public schools. In 2007, she was the recipient of the Outstanding Young Scientist in sociology from the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST)—the second sociologist to be recognized by NAST. In 2011, together with her husband, she wrote a book "Casa Boholana: Vintage Houses of Bohol." It received the Loyola Schools Outstanding Scholarly Work Award in the Social Sciences the following year. A self-described epicure, Saloma-Akpedonu contributed to the book "Food Consumption the City: Practices and Patterns in Urban Asia and the Pacific," co-writing the chapter 'Eating in vertical neighborhoods: Food consumption in Metro Manila's Condominium.’

At the launching of her first book, “Possible Worlds in Impossible Spaces: Knowledge, Globality, Gender, and Information Technology in the Philippines.”

Scanned image from the Loyola Schools Bulletin (June-July 2007) when Saloma-Akpedonu (third from left) received the Outstanding Young Scientist Award from NAST. With her were her fellow LS awardees- Dr. Paulito Palmes, Dr. Fabian Dayrit, Dr. Regina So, and Dr Antonette de las Penas. (Photo from University Archives)

Two of Saloma-Akpedonu’s publications.


Charting the SOSS landscape

The new dean stepped into the role during a difficult moment, but Saloma-Akpedonu is more than ready to help chart the landscape ahead.
"The use of online platforms has widened access to resource speakers and experts as well as expanded the SOSS's extra-academic audiences. The challenge is guaranteeing the depth of teaching and learning," she says. "We can meet this challenge by, among others, encouraging collaboration among faculty members in the review of the course syllabus and learning resource materials, and supporting the faculty to enact their role as life models to students through regular formative programs.”
Drawing on her experience as a sociologist, Saloma-Akpedonu hopes to lead the school into the future while preserving the lessons and best practices of the past. 
She is applying her life's rich experiences to her new role. 
"I want students to know that I am from the province and that we should not tire of doing 'boundary work' in the sense of challenging symbolic boundaries such as the Metro Manila- probinsya divide and many other cultural divides that live on in university spaces. I hope that our undergraduate and graduate students in the SOSS will go on to experience depth which, according to Jesuit Superior General Fr. Adolfo Nicolas might be a better translation of the Ignatian magis— to learn in depth, form relationships with depth, and so on and so forth."

For more news and stories on Loyola Schools, visit http://www.ateneo.edu/ls/loyola-schools-bulletin.