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University of San Carlos Dean Explains How to Produce Bar Topnotchers

Setting the bar high.
ILLUSTRATOR Jas Serrano
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The University of San Carlos in Cebu City has produced a significant share of the country’s bar exam topnotchers in 2016. Not only is the highest performing examinee, Karen Mae Calam, from USC’s College of Law, three other USC alumni also made it to the Top 10.

The College prides itself on its excellent staff and student exchange programs, working with Stockholm University in Sweden and the Australian Catholic University, offers a Supreme Court-accredited Clinical Legal Education Program and provides Mandatory Continuing Legal Education.

We asked Dean Joan S. Largo of USC’s College of Law to what she attributes the success of her students.


Which factors do you believe contributed to USC’s excellent results in 2016?

The school has since produced topnotchers, and as early as in 2011, has been cited by the Legal Education Board as among the top law schools in the country. I would like to attribute this to a confluence of factors.

The quality of students that grace our classrooms is truly commendable. The best ones enroll in USC Law and they are not just from Cebu City, they come from other parts of the country as well. Our faculty members remain extremely dedicated, passionate and committed.

The administration has been very supportive. Our requests for world-class facilities were routinely approved by them. And we cannot discount the equalizing effect of the internet. Now, more than ever, we are given access to world-class materials at the click of a mouse. The wealth of information and knowledge that has been opened to us helped a lot in further enhancing the quality of our teaching-learning in USC.

We have active exchanges with Stockholm University’s Department of Law and this helps improve the culture of research in the College; we have a faculty study program with Australian Catholic University where we see firsthand outcomes-based legal education.

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How does your school support students in their exam preparation? 

We prepare them from Day 1 of their entry into the law school.

What advice would you give students preparing for the bar exam? 

Trust in the preparations that you made in the College of Law. Express yourself well and concisely. Pray hard.

Could you tell me more about ‘Excellence with virtue’ and how it shapes the education you offer?

USC Law believes in an outcomes-based education. We declare our intention and craft all learning strategies around this vision. We have said that we will not only be competent professionals but that we will be incorruptible servant leaders. Our courses are taught with ethical dimensions. For instance, Legal Ethics class has six sessions about what it means to be Carolinian, to be "Witness to the Word".

What does it take to become a topnotcher?

It is always a combination of IQ and EQ. You need to have a sharp mind and a brave heart. Karen is a product of our public school system. Her basic education was obtained in public schools in her small hometown in Bukidnon. She graduated with honors in Accountancy in USC, and worked full-time while taking up law in USC. She embodies all the "secrets" to success—hard work, determination, perseverance, faith in one's self and in God.

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Christopher Puhm
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