Vanessa Tanco wears many hats. A former national athlete, an Ateneo graduate with a Masters Degree from the University of Southern California, an executive director, and currently iAcademy’s President and CEO, she’s carved an exemplary path at just 41. Leading Makati’s tech and design school only seemed like yet another adventure to add to her glowing list of achievements. Then again, no job in the world nor trophy in her name could have prepared her, or anyone for that matter, for a sweeping pandemic that would inadvertently derail the educational system altogether.
Amid the threat of COVID-19, schools all over the nation have had to adapt quickly, turning physical classrooms to online video calls, and finding solutions, if any, in consideration to students without the means to attend lectures on the internet. A clamoring for mass promotion has spread across social media as well, inciting added pressure on institutions to respond to their students’ grievances.
In light of the current situation, for Vanessa and her team the motto seems to be quality in sympathy. “We are an institution of game changers and we cannot let this most game changing event lower our guard and standards. We must adjust and keep on going with the smallest compromise to the quality of graduates as possible," says the CEO, as they also seek to provide leniency in the time of a crisis.
Setting up for the new normal means creating innovative means of learning be it through a virtual classroom or real-life job experience doable indoors. For instance, Vanessa and her team at iAcademy have partnered up with global online learning platform Coursera to cater to their senior high school and college learners with no additional cost on them. Aside from this, the school itself has reached out to private companies in collaboration to provide part time jobs for their students in need. Included in their list of partners are Sunnies Studios, sustainable fashion design company Rio Taso, design app Canva, and creative institution Cornerstone Entertainment, among others.
Subsequently, as a collective anxiety blankets the globe, the young CEO has made sure to place value on looking out for her students’ mental health. For the school that she leads this means offering free online medical and psychological counselling consultations.
As for kids with no capacity to conduct work online, iAcademy is reportedly proceeding with the option for “face-to-face learning," promising minimal contact in compliance with physical distancing rules once the “new normal” rises from the lockdown. “We would like our students to come out of the institution as well-trained and skilled individuals, who will make a difference as professionals and leaders in the future,” Vanessa reiterates.
With the vow to maintain iAcademy’s reputation as a top tech and design school amid the new normal, the success of these measurements remains up for debate. Nevertheless, it’s a hopeful active start.