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UJ celebrates distinguished individuals at the 2024 Autumn Graduation ceremonies

A distinguished scholar and scientist, a trailblazer in the accountancy, and an internationally recognised football manager. These are some of the illustrious individuals who will be conferred with honorary doctorates at the University of Johannesburg (UJ)’s autumn and winter graduation series. Honorary Doctoral degrees are reserved for individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and contributions in their respective fields, showcasing contributions that extend beyond conventional norms.

More than 10,700 UJ students will graduate during these graduation sessions, which begin on Thursday, March 14, 2024. Of this number, just over 7,500 undergraduate qualifications will be awarded, alongside postgraduate degrees, including 250 Master’s and 101 Doctoral degrees. These achievements not only symbolise personal triumphs for the graduates, but they are also a significant milestone towards enriching the well-being of their families and their communities and society at large.

Among these students are students from the College of Business Economics who were the first to walk across the stage at the Sanlam Auditorium on Thursday morning-marking the official begging of graduations.

BCom Information Management graduate Rifumo Siwele, 23, felt amazing as he walked the stage for his graduation. “I didn’t expect for it to be such a wonderful day, but I feel grateful and happy.” It has been quite the journey for Rifumo who has had to balance his studies with his flourishing career as a DJ and producer.

“It worked out in the end, and I am now doing my Honours. You need to work hard and smart. Push your abilities and leave the naysayers behind. Focus on you because you are all you have.” He said that he was excited to use his degree in the future as Artificial Intelligence has taken over. He loves technology and wants to use it to increase his skill base for both his current creative career and when he enters the corporate world. “UJ was a great choice for me, and it is close to home. The education here is good, that is why I came back for my Honours. I think I will come back again for my master’s degree.” Rifumo encouraged other students to never stop learning. “Education never stops, you have to continually build yourself.”

Equally excited was 22-year-old Vhudi Nengwekhulu who graduated with her Honours in BCom Honours in Information Management said she is speechless and immensely grateful. The Vhuwani in Limpopo native said she hopes to do her Masters at UJ. “UJ is the only institution that will allow me to explore the topic I am interested in. So I will definitely be continuing my academic journey here. “ Vhudi was accompanied by her mother Rosina, who expressed great pride in her daughter’s success.

During this graduation season, the university will also bestow honorary doctoral degrees upon exceptional individuals who represent diverse realms of expertise and embody UJ’s commitment to excellence, innovation, and societal impact. The recipients of the honorary doctorates are as follows:

1. Mr Thebe Ikalafeng – Honorary Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa)

Mr Thebe Ikalafeng holds a BSc (Marketing) cum laude and a Master of Business Administration (Strategy and Marketing) degree from Marquette University in the USA. Additionally, he holds an LLM (Intellectual Property Law) degree from the University of Turin, Italy, in collaboration with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Switzerland. With a career spanning over 30 years, Mr Ikalafeng’s leadership in branding and marketing communications has garnered numerous accolades and awards, including being named one of the ‘100 Most Influential Africans’ by New African Magazine, and receiving the Financial Mail AdFocus Lifetime Achievement Award. His commitment to nurturing talent, promoting African brands, and championing sustainable development underscores his role as a thought leader and mentor. The awarding ceremony is scheduled for Tuesday, March 19th, at 16:30, during the College of Business and Economics graduation session.

2. Ms Nonkululeko Gobodo – Honorary Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa)

Ms Nonkululeko Gobodo is celebrated as a trailblazer in the South African business and accounting professions. As the CEO of AWAKENED Global, Gobodo’s journey from becoming the first black female Chartered Accountant in South Africa to her current role exemplifies resilience, excellence, and commitment to societal change. Her leadership as the Founding Member and Executive Chairman of SizweNtsalubaGobodo, now SNG Grant Thornton, highlights her vision of establishing one of South Africa’s largest accounting firms. Gobodo was also the first black female Chairperson of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA). Her contributions have been recognised through prestigious awards such as the Forbes Woman Africa Businesswoman Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award at the SA Professional Services Awards. Gobodo’s commitment to social justice is evident through her significant impact on transforming the accounting profession in South Africa and advocating for race and gender equality. The ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, April 4th, at 13:00.

3. Prof Raphael Kaplinsky – Honorary Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa)

Professor Raphael Kaplinsky’s academic tenure is marked by a distinguished record of publications, including nine sole-authored books, co-authorship of seventeen books, and numerous articles and book chapters. He has held influential roles at the University of Sussex and the Open University, guiding and influencing generations of scholars and policymakers. Prof Kaplinsky’s commitment to capacity development extends beyond academia, with substantial contributions to policy support and development across continents. His pioneering work on Global Value Chains (GVCs) and sustainable development practices reflects his forward-thinking approach to interdisciplinary research and policymaking. The ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday, April 17th, at 09:30.

4. Prof Huang Wei – Honorary Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa)

Professor Huang Wei, a distinguished scholar and scientist, holds a BSc, MSc, and PhD degrees in Chemistry from Peking University. His academic journey began with teaching Physical Chemistry at Peking University and conducting postdoctoral research at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Prof. Huang’s leadership extended to roles at Fudan University and Nanjing Tech University, where he played pivotal roles in establishing institutes and research centres. With over 900 papers published in esteemed journals and more than 360 patents secured, Prof. Huang’s contributions to organic optoelectronics and flexible electronics are widely acclaimed. His commitment to education, global collaboration, and social service aligns with the values of the University of Johannesburg, making him a deserving recipient of the honorary degree. The ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday, May 30th, at 09:30

5. Mr Pitso Mosimane – Honorary Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa)

Mr Pitso Mosimane has achieved notable success as a football player and national and international coach. He won the South African Football Association Coach of the Year Award, was awarded the PSL Coach of the Season Award on five occasions and was named the CAF Coach of the Year in 2016. Such accomplishments demonstrate his exceptional leadership, strategic acumen, and ability to motivate and inspire a team to perform at the highest level. Mr. Mosimane has been vocal about the potential and quality of African football and has consistently advocated for African players to receive equal opportunities and recognition in global football. His outspokenness has helped shed light on the talent pool in Africa and the need for increased investment and development in the continent’s football infrastructure. He continues to excel in this avenue with the development of the Pitso Mosimane Soccer Schools. Mosimane’s success has broken barriers and shattered stereotypes, demonstrating that African coaches and players can excel at the highest levels of the game. The ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, July 25th, at 16:30

Professor Bettine van Vuuren, Registrar at UJ, emphasise that the true measure of success in education extends beyond the mere quantity of graduates. “Rather, it lies in the quality of intellect and character they bring to the wider community,” she says. Further stressing the significance of Honorary Degrees, Prof van Vuuren said, “An Honorary Doctorate serves as recognition for individuals who have made substantial contributions to a particular field or has offered exceptional service to society, closely aligning with the University’s vision, mission, values, and strategic objectives.”

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