NEW YORK - A Filipina from an indigenous tribe received the greatest gift on her birthday Friday: graduating with the highest honors at the prestigious New York University (NYU).
Janelle Micaela Panganiban finished summa cum laude at the American university with majors in global public health, public policy, and sociology.
She also snagged the Alexander L. Shluger award and the Founder’s Day award for excellence in sociology.
Only top-ranking baccalaureate graduates receive the NYU Founder’s Day award and have the honor to wear a gold tassel on graduation day.
"I really learned to love learning, parang sabi ko po talaga, only in college na ma-experience mo 'yung like the sense of wonder and curiosity sa world and like being at NYU, they were able to provide that," she said.
(I really learned to love learning. Only in college will you experience a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world. Being at NYU, they were able to provide that.)
Panganiban is the daughter of ANAC-IP Partylist Rep. Jose Panganiban Jr. and Angadanan Mayor Lourdes Panganiban of the Gaddang indigenous tribe from Isabela.
While there is a whole new world out there for Panganiban to explore and conquer after graduation, the idealist in her wants to give back, teach and possibly make a change in her home country.
"The idea that there’s so many Filipinos who are not at home, to me like that was, I felt I had to contribute something and that’s what kind of tied me to the Philippines, in a way [that] I really don’t want to forget [the] idealism of wanting to do something for the country," she said.
One thing she learned at NYU, she said, is to think critically, and she hopes more Filipinos could do the same.
“Learn how to engage and really just be critical with everything. The professors encourage that here and I think that’s what I appreciate because it doesn’t seem like they're doing it to make me feel like I’m wrong but for me to [really] grow," she said.
Panganiban will also receive the Northern Star Award from the Philippine Consulate General for her excellent academic achievement among Filipino-Americans graduating in 2018.
On June 9, new graduates may march with other Filipinos in a ceremony at the Philippine Center Kalayaan Hall to receive a PGRAD 2018 medal, a Filipino diploma, and a citation from New York Assemblyman Brian Barnwell.
NYU is one of the biggest universities in the United States with enrollment of nearly 60,000 in 2017, compared with Harvard University's 20,000 students and Columbia University's 32,000.
NYU also has the highest number of international students, with enrollees from at least 83 countries, including the Philippines.
NYU graduates tend to get a job within six months after graduation with an average salary of $61,487 dollars annually.