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Harlan Dureza's position as an education administrator in the Philippines is proving to be his greatest career challenge yet.
Harlan has worked in the Philippine education system since graduating from Deakin antecedent institution Victoria College Rusden campus in 1990. Harlan manages 2650 students and 122 staff as College Administrator of West Visayas State University Lambunao campus in the southern Philippines.
"It is very challenging to manage a school with such a big population considering that it is quite far from our capital city. The school has minimal resources and many of the students are quite poor, making it very hard to develop the school," he said.
"The local people here are very hard working and come from varied cultures. Many are mountain people and belong to different tribes with different beliefs and traditions. To help them grow and prosper has proven very difficult indeed."
Harlan came out to Australia in 1990 as part of a federal government-sponsored aid package to the Philippines to develop its teacher education programs by providing the opportunity to take part in student exchange programs.
Harlan says this experience has been invaluable to his work developing university programs at West Visayas.
"When I arrived back home in 1990, things did change. At that time we introduced action research here in the university and we introduced a family orientated mathematics and science program that brought us closer to the parents of the students. This encouraged the parents to become partners in the growth and development of the students and the school," he said.
Harlan has held various positions at West Visayas, including chairman of the Physical Science department, associate dean of the College of Arts and Science (with a three-month stint as dean), president of the Faculty Union and he also served as Faculty Regent for three years before he took up his current position in 2002.
Harlan has fond memories of studying in Australia-he was actively involved in the student community while at the Rusden campus.
"Deakin offers fantastic curriculum and teacher education courses. During my time there, I was amazed by the work of Stephen Kemmis, the late John Atkinson, Noel Gough, Robin Matthews and the rest of the Deakin staff. I enjoyed the companionship of my Aussie friends-Deakin was fantastic, difficult, enriching, soul satisfying and it was fun," he said.
"My course paved the way for me being a school administrator. My direction and vision for the school I work with involves a lot of challenges and responsibility. If I was not given the opportunity to study there in Australia, I would have not been able to grow in the way that I have as a person. What I learned there in Australia changed my outlook towards schooling and its role in the development of the people and the community."
"Deakin University is a fantastic institution as it prepares young people to achieve great things in their career. Successful professionals must have a very strong foundation in their college education-Deakin is so good at providing this," he said.
Harlan has set himself some lofty goals for the future.
"Nobody knows what will happen in the future but what I learned from Deakin is to invent the future in the present. Therefore I intend to become vice-president of the University or even president one day. I don't find this ambitious-it is my vision for myself and for my family," he says.
Harlan recently won a Rotary Club Service Award and the West Visayas State University Plaque in recognition of his outstanding service in the local community of Lambunao.