UJ’s Dr Karabo Sitto ensures industry is a key partner in student learning

Dr Karabo Morwesi Sitto joined the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in 2016 through the New Generation of Academics Programme nGAP a prestigious programme under the Department of Higher Education and Training which involves the recruitment of highly capable scholars as new academics. Her recently completed doctoral study was born out of curiosity about how people communicatively manage significant contextual changes in their lives such as migration. She examined processes of communicative re-identity specifically voluntary economic degreed migrants who had chosen to move to South Africa.

Karabo has a zest for life. Not only is she curious about her environment she actively engages with issues around her and chooses to create opportunities for others. Her maxim Lost opportunities will never return best encapsulates her approach to life.

She strives to create opportunities for students. In 2019 she started working with the UJ Youth Leadership Development Programme with the Transformation unit which supports selected students leadership journeys as well as providing them with resources to enable them to complete their internationally accredited leadership course. Over 80% of the youth leadership cohort successfully graduated on 11 October 2019. The 2020 cohort was successfully on boarded prior to the Covid 19 pandemic lockdown.

The programme has continued with online support through Zoom meetings. Online leadership master classes have been presented by Venture Capitalist Vusi Thembekwayo, UJ’s Vice Chancellor Prof Tshilidzi Marwala and UJ Council Chair Mr Mike Teke. Most of the 2020 cohort participants 90% successfully completed the programme at the end of July 2020.

She is passionate about contextualised teaching and learning. She aims to simulate an industry experience for students. In 2016 she collaborated with Student Brands to engage students with developing a meaningful Corporate Social Responsibility campaign for Student Brands that they could execute and use at UJ. The winning group Smash A calorie, pitched a wellness programme for students whose prize was the opportunity to throw a launch campaign in partnership with Students Brands as an on campus activation exercise to the value of R10 000.

In 2018 she facilitated a collaboration for students between UJ s Faculty of Art Design and Architecture and the Strategic Communication Department through a gender equality focused assessment requiring students to design and develop a counter campaign to matters that organisations of their choice had faced with respect to gender inequality.

Karabo remains active in the communication industry having worked for digital advertising and public relations agencies for most of her career before joining UJ. She strives to expose her students to industry to give them a glimpse of the reality that they are studying towards. During 2017 she initiated and developed entry criteria for a new category launched at New Generation Social and Digital Media Awards 2017 Outstanding Student Award. In retrospect an unforeseen reward occurred 3 years later in 2020 when a group of 1st year students whom she lectured in 2019 won the New Generation Awards Outstanding Group #ShelsKing.

The cascading of knowledge follows the winning of a bronze assegai; Social Media Marketing for #16pictures Nando’s Youth Day 2014 campaign as part of the prestigious Direct Marketing Association Assegai Awards for the Direct Marketing Industry. Karabo’s strategy, ‘Keeping in close connection with industry allows me to mould my teaching to the latest industry practices empowering students to begin contributing meaningfully from the moment they are employed.’ Her research interests include online/digital communication identity and social representations. In 2018 she co-authored an edited book, has co-authored four book chapters and eight articles. She has also presented papers at several national and international conferences.

This article first appeared in the Mail & Guardian: 06 August 2021.

“Through passion enthusiasm and dedication to her students her discipline and industry partners UJ’s Dr Karabo Sitto is honouring UJ’s mission to inspire its community to transform and serve humanity through innovation and the collaborative pursuit of knowledge.”

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