LLM alumnus serves as University President in the Philippines
An advocate of global citizenship, Emmanuel "Mickey" Ortega, LLM '20, passed the California Bar Exam in 2021. One year later, he was elected as the president of the University of Saint Anthony (USANT), a 75-year-old non-profit educational institution with over 8,000 students and 450 employees.
"Iriga City, where USANT is located, couldn't be more different from Sacramento," Ortega said. "But the disparities, especially in resources and technology, strongly motivated me to support fellow Filipinos who were aspiring to think and live as global citizens.”
Ortega was born in Iriga City and earned his undergraduate degree from USANT. He subsequently pursued and obtained a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) in Metro Manila, a megacity that requires 10-12 hours of land travel from Iriga City. Realizing that breaching geographical barriers can enrich one's higher education, Ortega set his sights on McGeorge School of Law.
"Although many of my peers thought that I had to be crazy for aiming far and high, I had to go for it because I felt the need to personally grow further, and hopefully, also demonstrate to others that audacity can be an asset rather than a liability,” Ortega said.
While at McGeorge, Ortega learned that he passed the Philippine Bar Exam in 2019. This was an accomplishment achieved by only 27 percent of examinees.
Though pleased with his performance, Ortega tried to shut out the hype that surrounded it. By reminding himself that the Feb. 2020 California Bar Exam's pass rate for all test takers was 27 percent, Ortega was able to focus on his studies and his preparation for the 2021 bar exam.
"By the time I had to answer the exam's first questions, my knowledge and confidence were sufficiently high that the answers came quite easily," he shared. Ortega also generously thanked the professors from the LLM program for helping him take his can-do attitude to the next level.
After graduating, he began working his way up the ladder at an LA-based law firm. However, his father unexpectedly died in the Philippines in February. Shortly after the funeral, Ortega was prevailed upon to stay in Iriga City to serve as the president of USANT.
"Imagine jumping from a moving train to a truck going in the opposite direction," Ortega remarked.
Yet he made the leap, hand-in-hand with his wife, a Californian who had never been to Iriga City before.
34-year-old Ortega remarked that youthful bravado played no role in their decision.
"We had actually planned to grow roots in the U.S., where life would be less challenging and work more financially rewarding, but we could not turn our backs on the opportunity to go where we could make a greater difference," he said.
He also credited UA&P and McGeorge for forming his mindset that, "a lawyer's success would be more meaningful and satisfying if it is driven by a deep desire to be an agent of change."
When asked what advice he could give current McGeorge students, he encouraged them to, "go outside your comfort zone, embrace new challenges, and enjoy the community."
Ortega fondly recalls the time that he spent at McGeorge, including animated discussions inside the classroom, exemplary mentorship outside regular hours, efficient administrative support, and bonding with a diverse set of friends on and off campus. At USANT, he has endeavored to foster an environment similar to that which he experienced at McGeorge. It was therefore not surprising to him that, less than a year into his presidency, he has been receiving substantial acclaim from students, teachers, non-teaching personnel, and other stakeholders.
"I take my job very seriously because USANT is a portal for people in search of a better future," he emphasized.
Ortega hopes that these people will emerge from the institution not just appropriately equipped for success, but also able to contextualize their local undertakings within the global community.
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