From humble beginnings in a rural ‘enclave’ to the summit of research at one of the country’s fastest growing universities in terms of knowledge productivity. This is the fairytale of Dr Ndivhuwo Luruli, who has been appointed as the Executive Director: Research and Innovation at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). Her appointment came after a rigorous recruitment process, which was supported through the processes of the UJ Council. In terms of UJ policy, the appointment term is for 5 years, commencing on 1 April 2022.
She joined UJ in June 2019 as Director: Strategic Research Support. In this role, Dr Luruli led a team that provides support to UJ academics across a range of activities, including applying for research grants from internal and external sources applying for NRF ratings, and also managed a range of programmes, including the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI Chairs) and UJ research structures. In October 2020, her team successfully launched a platform for online applications for research grants available through the University Research Committee (a committee of Senate).
Dr Luruli has worked in the higher education sector, particularly in Research Management and Administration, for 15 years. She holds a PhD in Science and Technology Studies from the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST), as well as an MSc in Conservation Ecology (cum laude), both from Stellenbosch University. Her past experience includes working at the National Research Foundation (NRF) as a Programme Officer and as a Consultant in Research Administration for a private university in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Prior to joining UJ, she was appointed by the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) in the role of Director: BRICS & Research. At the NIHSS, she was also responsible for the Institute’s Monitoring & Evaluation function, where she played an active role in assisting the Institute achieve two consecutive Clean Audit outcomes for the 2016/17 and 2017/18 fiscal years.
Commenting on Dr Luruli’s appointment, Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, said: “Dr Luruli has worked in a variety of environments and brings to the role multidisciplinary experience. Having worked for the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) where she was responsible for managing the DHET Research Outputs policy for a few years, I am confident that this experience will enable her to take UJ’s research productivity to greater heights, as we continue our efforts towards becoming the country’s top producer of research outputs.”
Said Prof Saurabh Sinha, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation: “We are proud and privileged to have Dr Luruli appointed as Executive Director: Research and Innovation; we strongly believe that her role will further our research impact, not least through the nexus between excellent research, innovation and commercialisation.”
Dr Luruli’s career growth is the stuff of which fairy tales are made. The eldest of four children, Dr Luruli was born and raised in the far flung village of Mauluma, Nzhelele, outside the outskirts of Thohoyandou in Venda. She matriculated from the local Nngweni High School in 1999. She had a typical rural upbringing living with her maternal grandmother and many cousins, and would walk long distances to school just like other children in the village. In her early years in high school, Ndivhuwo wanted to become a Chartered Accountant as she loved Accounting and Economics subjects, but changed subjects in standard 8 – to the Sciences.
In 2000, Ndivhuwo was a first-year student at Stellenbosch University registered for BSc Forestry. Ndivhuwo had no idea when she went to Stellenbosch University that this was an Afrikaans-medium university. She discovered this fact on arrival. Despite this challenge, she chose to stay at the Stellenbosch and study because going back home without a degree was not an option. She graduated with BSc Conservation Ecology in 2004. In 2009, she was recognized by the Mail & Guardian as one of South Africa’s top 300 young people with potential, under the category: Science and Education.
On her appointment, Dr Luruli says “I know this is the beginning of even more hard work than was ever expected of me in the past, but I am super excited and grateful for the opportunity to continue serving UJ”.
She is passionate about helping academics succeed in their research endeavors, and through her “hands on” approach to supporting the UJ academic community, Dr Luruli will continue focusing on building and strengthening relationships with a range of stakeholders including within UJ – with academics, faculty leadership, support divisions, and strategic partners.