USJ Alumni Stories | Norman B. Mendoza — "The Transformative Power of an Educational Journey at USJ Macao"





Norman B. Mendoza’s educational journey at USJ in Macao exemplifies the transformative power of higher education. He gained valuable knowledge and developed crucial skills through the MCP programme. Exceptional professors, engaging campus life, and USJ’s unique educational model all played a crucial role in his personal and professional growth. His story is a testament to the importance of making bold choices and seizing opportunities for lifelong learning and growth.

“I think USJ is so underrated in its ability to expand your worldview.”

Dr. Norman Biliwang Mendoza, currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at The Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK), embarked on a transformative educational journey as a graduate of the Master of Counselling and Psychotherapy (MCP) programme at the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) in Macao in the Academic Year 2013/2014. Reflecting on his memorable experience, he now shares the reasons behind the decision to study at USJ and how it has shaped his career development and personal growth. 

A Path to USJ, Macao 

Driven by the support of his family and influenced by his relatives based in Macao, Dr. Norman made the courageous choice to pursue further studies abroad. Despite having a part-time teaching position in the Philippines after completing his Bachelor’s degree and receiving an offer for a full-time position, he was determined to continue his education in Macao. 

His primary motivation for choosing USJ was the interesting curriculum of the MCP programme. The programme offered a diverse range of subjects, including counselling and therapeutic alliance, addiction counselling, and family and marriage counselling. Eager to deepen his knowledge in the field of psychology, he saw USJ as the ideal institution to strengthen his knowledge in the field. He was also amazed by the international community in USJ, which ultimately made the decision to enroll even more compelling.

Valuable and Impactful Learning Experiences and Inspirational Professors 

During his two years in the MCP programme, Dr. Norman not only acquired knowledge but also gained invaluable skills which are applicable to both his professional and personal life. He highlighted the practical strategies, concepts, and interpersonal skills he learned at USJ, emphasising their significance in dealing with people within and beyond the workplace. The academic life at USJ provided him with a holistic learning experience. In 2018, Dr. Norman co-founded “LifeRisksPH, a non-profit youth organization in the Philippines, which is focused on youth well-being and mental health, specifically in destigmatization of mental health and suicide prevention. The organization currently have a following of over 25,000 community members in the Philippines, and overseas, and has reached over 20,000 youth, since its founding. Norman attributes his knowledge on well-being and mental health to his studies in USJ.

Dr. Norman expresses his deep appreciation for the exceptional professors at USJ who have made a significant impact on his life, especially Prof. Imelu G. Mordeno, then head of the MCP programme, and Prof. Miranda Mak. In Prof. Mordeno’s classes, he participated in engaging counselling role-play exercises. He recalls the time when they were role-playing a situation from cognitive behavioral therapy and every student was immersed in and intrigued by it, treating it like a real-life scenario. These experiences profoundly transformed them and truly enhanced their counselling skills, training them to become better counsellors. Prof. Mak, who was Dr. Norman’s first professor at USJ, not only taught with professionalism but also provided unwavering support and encouragement.

Dr. Norman once shared his graduate student testimonial in 2014, “The MCP programme did not only further my knowledge in Psychology, it also gave me the skills necessary to become a good counsellor and a therapist.”. 

Engaged Learning at USJ 

Dr. Norman’s enthusiasm extended beyond the classroom as he actively participated in various activities on campus. He became a student ambassador at the Office for Student and Alumni Affairs (OSAA), which allowed him to gain deeper insights into the university community. Additionally, he engaged himself in extracurricular activities such as the Walk for a Million, in which he was one of the representatives of USJ. When he was holding the USJ banner, it was one of his proudest moments to be a USJ student. He also joined the university’s basketball team, fostering lifelong friendships in the USJ community. The team’s international training in Dr. Norman’s hometown in the Philippines (i.e., Pampanga), remains a wonderful memory he always looks back to.

Dr. Norman draws a comparison between the educational models of USJ and universities in Hong Kong. While Hong Kong places a strong emphasis on achievement and assessment, USJ stands out for its holistic approach. At USJ, students not only achieve academic excellence but also actively participate in diverse activities, collaborate with different individuals, and gain a broader worldview and perspective. Dr. Norman believes that USJ’s unique and student-centred educational model provides students with a distinct advantage. 

Looking back on his decision to study at USJ, Dr. Norman affirms that it was the right choice. Even after ten years, he remains convinced that his time at USJ was a transformative experience that continues to shape his professional career path.

Dr. Norman Mendoza currently serves as an RGC Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Curriculum and Instruction of the Education University of Hong Kong. His post is a 3-year government-funded fellowship for promising PhD graduates. In July 2024, he will begin his appointment as an Assistant Professor in his current department.