After two decades at the helm of the University of Cebu (UC), it would come as a surprise that Yvette Candice Gotianuy did not want the job in the first place.
The lady chancellor has successfully turned the private university into one of the largest in the country, with an average of 50,000 students yearly across its four campuses.
The lone heiress of the Gotianuys, she was left with not much choice on the matter as she was handed the job right after her college graduation in 1994, armed with a Political Science degree from the Ateneo de Manila University.
And yet, even under such circumstances, Gotianuy managed to turn around what was once deemed as a minor institution into a producer of topnotchers for engineering, maritime studies, nursing, accounting, education, and law. In 1974, the UC had only one topnotcher. In 2015, it had 29—although the highest was in 1990, when the university produced 69 topnotchers.
Here are some things that entrepreneurs can learn from this education maven.
1. Keep things simple.
When Gotianuy came in to the UC, the institution was getting students with grade school level reading and math proficiency. It was, in her words, “insane,” thus, she developed reading programs for students every weekend, and organized a system for all campuses to work together.
She also introduced the Breakfast Club, or the UC’s program of giving free breakfast meals for the first 100 students who come in, to motivate and give them the nutrition they need.
“I’m very driven. I have an innate drive to make things better. Problems are like puzzles. I enjoy finding solutions,” Gotianuy told Forbes Philippines in its March 2016 issue. (Editor's note: Forbes Philippines is published by Summit Media, also the licensee of Entrepreneur Philippines.)
2. Be decisive.
The maritime school of the UC faced a crisis in 1996, after the Philippines was in danger of not making it to the White List, which is the list of countries fit to produce masters, officers, and watch personnel on ships as assessed by the International Maritime Organization.
The maritime school, then headed by retired sea captains, were uncooperative toward Gotianuy’s efforts, but she faced them head on.
“If we [the University of Cebu maritime school] don’t get on the White List, you would lose your jobs and I would lose my school. We’re in this together. We invested heavily in equipment and teacher training programs,” Gotianuy added.
3. Make time for yourself.
Gotianuy is an equestrienne, who spends much of her downtime with her horses at a private stable. But she had to put her horseback-riding on hold when she suffered from a back injury last year after a bad fall. The incident gave her the much-needed reflection to notice the small things amid her fast-paced lifestyle.
“I think it was a way of telling me to listen a bit more, re-prioritize…. There’s a saying that goes, ‘When it is all finished, you will discover it was never random,’” Gotianuy said.
4. Invest in people.
The lady chancellor believes in quality education, while still keeping it affordable to students and profitable for the business. With most of its students coming from the lower to middle class, Gotianuy maintained easy payment terms for tuition and fees and implemented a policy of “no tuition increase until the student graduates.”
“They [the students] come to us because they want to get a diploma, to get a job, and earn for their families. If I.m able to give them the technical know-how and the expertise so that they can get a job, that, to me, is fulfilling,” Gotianuy said.
The 43-year-old university head also said that 10% of UC’s gross income is allotted for scholarships. A quarter of its law students are scholars, and are even provided with law books and other school supplies.
“We seek talent and invest in talent because that will draw more enrollees. When our students ace board exams, it’s a big come on to employers and to future students,” Gotianuy added.