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UJ’s 2014 first-year top achievers testament to female empowerment

​​​“As one of our first-year top achievers, you have clearly made the school-to-university transition, successfully. By choosing the University of Johannesburg (UJ) you became a part of an institution, ranked among the top 4% of universities in the world. Today, we honour and recognise, you as the top 4% of the 2014 first-year class. This is as an important landmark moment for you as it is in the life and calendar of the University. Your accomplishment, is the accomplishment of UJ. Together, we embrace the overarching goal excellence.”

This message from the University’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof Ihron Rensburg inspired 342 first-year top achieving students at the University’s annual First-year Top Achievers Ceremony on Thursday, 11 September 2014.

This year produced one of the highest number of first-year top achievers since the inception of UJ. The exceptional performance of the record number first-year students, having obtained an average of 75% or more in their June 2014 examinations, demonstrates the University’s commitment to support its first-time entering students from school-to-university transition andcompliments the strategic direction of the institution.

The top three achievers, all feamale, obtained an average of 89% plus. Donne Brenda Stevenson, who matriculated from Waterstone College, obtained an overall average of 89.75%, and is studying towards a BSc in Mathematical Science. Margaux Fourie received a more than admirable second place with an average of 89.25%. Margaux is studying BSc Information Technology, and she matriculated from Helpmekaar Private School. Julia Maria Passler, who matriculated abroad, is studying towards a BA in Social Work. She achieved an average of 88.25%.​

Of the 342 top achievers, 212 were female and 130 men.

Says Donne Stevenson, the top first-year achiever: “I did not aim to become a top achiever. I really did not ​expect it. Although I have worked hard, I need to commend UJ for all it support. The University has a lot of support programmes and excellent teaching staff.”

Julia Passler echoed Stevenson’s sentiments adding that UJ contributed to her achievement in many ways. “My lecturers and tutors were all very helpful and always willing to answer any questions. It also helped a lot that most learning material was available in Blackboard, an online system which makes it easy to study from wherever I was. UJ also provides many free services to students, such as the writing centre, which is of great benefit when compiling an essay.”

​On her accomplishment Passler said: “It is nice to know that my hard work paid off, but ultimately it is not the most important thing in life to be recognised as a top achiever. It is great that UJ does recognise top achievers and I feel honoured that I am one of them but my academic achievement is not what defines me as a person. It does not really matter to me whether other people achieve higher or lower. I think it is only important to use one’s full po​tential. Studying is my ‘work’ at the moment, so I am trying to do it with my whole heart, and put in as much hard work and effort as I have to.”

Six top achievers hail from UJ Metropolitan Academy in Crosby, Johannesburg. UJ Metropolitan Academy is the University’s high school and is co-sponsored by Metropolitan. The Academy nurtures selected high school learners from disadvantaged communities who demonstrate potential for success in studies at higher education institutions​.

The Faculty of Economic and Financial Sciences produced 132 of these achievers, followed by the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment with 48 and the Fa​culty of Management with 45. The Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Humanities, each had 34 top achievers. The Faculty of Health Sciences, the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Science boast 17, 12 and 11, top achievers, respectively. The Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture produced 7 top achievers. Two of the top achieving students enrolled for combined degrees.

The University’s First Year Experience Programme (FYE), an initiative offering academic skills reinforcement with an accent on students mentoring fellow students is one of the support programmes that helps ease the school-to-university transition. Almost1 300 student tutors, selected from third-year level, and up, do well academically, are good communicators, are able to identify with students’ needs and act as an interface between students and teaching staff. UJ also introduced academic advisors in university residences and approved off-campus accommodation facilities. Under UJ’s Academic Excellence Programme, 250 student advisors are serving 2 000 first-years in 25 residences.​​

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