Alum Profile: Emilyn Cabanda - A Student Of The World

October 19, 2004

Emilyn Cabanda, MA '92, a lecturer in business and economics at the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines, is a testament to the benefits of international education. The native Filipino has earned degrees on three different continents and has lectured in seven countries over the last two decades -- and she's done it all for free.

Last June, Cabanda returned to Baylor to deliver a lecture on privatization of telecommunications companies -- her dissertation topic -- to a political science class. She also shared the timeline of her extraordinary experiences as an international scholar.

Cabanda's first came to Baylor in 1991 on a Fulbright scholarship to study political science. She already had completed a bachelor's degree at Central Philippine University, the largest Baptist school in her home country. The daughter of a Baptist minister, she wanted to attend a university that would challenge her intellectually and spiritually. "I said, 'I will go to the U.S. but not purely for academic reasons,' I wanted to strengthen my spiritual life and get actively involved in community projects," she says.

In addition to academic pursuits, Fulbright Scholars serve as goodwill ambassadors on behalf of their countries of origin, so their time must include community pursuits. While in Waco, Cabanda spoke at city gatherings and sorority meetings on social justice, the role of women, the Philippines and international travel and education.

The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 by former Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas for the purpose of providing grants for scholars, professionals, teachers and administrators interested in studying abroad. Baylor has hosted six Fulbright Scholars during the last 10 years. About six Baylor faculty members also have traveled abroad as Scholars, many of them more than once.

Cabanda says that she learned valuable lessons at Baylor and grew in character through her experience abroad. "I developed these traits: patience, perseverance and accepting difference regardless of your culture or race. That is the merit of international education," she says. Her favorite quote from Sen. Fulbright expresses the transformation she experienced as a student: "The essence of intercultural education is empathy, empathy to see the world as others see it, and to allow for the possibility that others may see something we have failed to see or may see it more accurately."

Being away from home and in another country for the first time had its challenges, she says. "When I entered Baylor, there was this program of assigning host families. I really appreciated that." Cabanda remembers visiting Dallas and Houston, going to ballgames and rodeos and eating Texas cuisine with her host family Luther and Nell Lavender, who are Waco residents and Baylor supporters. "If you don't have to worry about how you are going to deal with [American] people and the community and other students, you can concentrate on your studies," she says.

Lyle Brown, professor emeritus of political science, her academic adviser, and his wife, Sylvia, also helped acclimate Cabanda to American styles of scholarship. "Baylor was what turned me on to research, actually," she says. "I think my expertise was really honed and developed here."

The Browns also supported Cabanda in other ways. "They were like my second parents in America," she says. The couple still communicates with Cabanda every week. "It's gratifying to know that she has benefited form her graduate study here at Baylor and that she desires to stay in contact with me and my wife--they became good friends," Brown says.

Cabanda's good research skills were crucial during her tenure as a PhD student at Australia's Monash University, where she studied after graduating from Baylor. At Monash, class was oriented heavily toward writing individual and group reports. Cabanda soon became involved with a Filipino-Australian foundation where she designed project studies on her area of study - business economics. She traveled extensively, giving talks and studying in London, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia during the four years she was at Monash under a postgraduate research scholarship.

It also was important for Cabanda to cultivate interests outside of academics at the research-heavy school. "In Australia, if I was stressed out I did much cooking and baking. You cannot survive purely on academics," she says. She also enjoys playing badminton and hosting parties for friends.

After graduating from Monash with her doctorate in 2002, she tried consulting and realized it wasn't for her. She moved back to her home country and became a professor. "I love research. In teaching, I combine teaching and research. ... I really love interacting and sharing ideas with my students," says Cabanda, who prefers a mentoring approach in the classroom.

Cabanda looks back on her international study with fondness for the challenges and lessons learned at Baylor and elsewhere. "You need to survive in the world. It's not a matter of being really gifted intellectually. It's a matter of having faith in yourself," she says. "Of course, all these things are nothing without the help of the almighty God. All this would be possible only if you have faith in the Lord. That's what I have learned at Baylor."