Dear UJ Community
When the 2020 Nobel Prize winners were announced recently, I was reminded of the many achievements that our staff and students have won across various fronts this year. The accolades have come in so thick and fast that I have struggled to keep up. These achievements are important as they demonstrate our ambition and imagination in the academic space, individually and collectively. They underscore our University’s unique attributes and strength in building a positive reputation amongst national and global university leaders who may be interested in partnering with us in teaching and learning, research collaborations, student exchange programmes and other strategic engagements. The accolades bring about inspiration to us all and encouraging each one of us to do more.
This week on Wednesday, 14 October 2020, when the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) bestowed Science-for-Society Gold Medals, our University came out at the top. ASSAf awarded both Science-for-Society Gold Medals to Prof Leila Patel (the DST/NRF South African Research Chair in Welfare and Social Policy, and Professor of Social Work, UJ) and to me. This is in recognition of our outstanding achievement in scientific thinking to the benefit of society. The awards also signify the impact of our University’s intellectual inquiry in education, both in our own country and abroad. Prof Patel, your commitment to using science for the advancement of society is exemplary. It is an honour to join you as one of this year’s Gold Medal recipients. I dedicate these achievements to all our staff and students.
The Academy also announced its newest members. Of the 31 new members, five are from UJ! Congratulations to Profs Marlize Lombard (Humanities), David Bilchitz (Law), Linda Chisholm (Education), Tien-Chien Jen (Engineering and the Built Environment) and Alan Cornell (Science). Membership in the Academy is a great honour, and your inclusion bears testimony to your scholarships and contributions to scientific knowledge. In the prestigious league of South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS), 10 new members were elected. From UJ, we had Prof Dustin van der Haar. Congratulations Dustin on this accomplishment! Well done!
More good news for our University is that two of our Postdoctoral Research Fellows at the South African Research Chair in International Law, Dr Yolandi Meyer and Dr Linda Mushoriwa, have been announced as the 2020 UJ Postgraduate Research Excellence Awards recipients. They will receive their awards at a virtual ceremony scheduled for Thursday, 29 October 2020. Dr Meyer and Dr Mushoriwa, congratulations on your achievements!
On a different note, on the political front, it is a new dawn for student leadership at our University. Last week Friday, 09 October 2020, the curtain closed on our Student Representative Council (SRC) elections. In what was the first-ever SRC elections held online, our students experienced how technology can help perfect voting patterns and eliminate irregularities and other forms of manipulation of the election process. A fair election encourages a spirit of good governance and accountable leadership. It was impressive to see contenders introduce unique ways to campaign, and I wish to commend the parties and individual candidates who participated in this process.
Congratulations to our incoming SRC leaders, SASCO and EFFSC for claiming victory in the 2020 elections. The two student bodies each won all of the positions at two of the four UJ campuses. SASCO won at the Soweto and Bunting Road campuses, while the EFFSC will lead on the Doornfontein and Kingsway campuses in 2021. The overall UJSRC, campus and central bodies, will officially be constituted on 23 October 2020. I wish both student formations good luck and hope their tenure in office will inspire the UJ student community.
As we approach the last lap of the academic programme, the countdown to the year-end examinations and assessments has begun, and academics are making the final preparations for these. All lectures are scheduled to end next week Friday, 23 October 2020, and our students will begin to sit for their final examinations from Thursday, 29 October 2020. As communicated earlier, assessment will continue online, except for a few selected modules. I have no doubt that our students will do well. Our staff and students have been steadfast in remaining focused in what has been a challenging but successful year. Two of our Executive Leadership Group – Prof Saurab Sinha (Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation) and Prof Angina Parekh (Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic) – wrote about how our University navigated the COVID-19 challenges and ensured that our academic programme continued even during trying times. To read about this, click here.
Please join me in welcoming Prof Adri Drotskie to the UJ family. Prof Drotskie took over the reins as the new Director of the School of Management in the College of Business and Economics, as of 01 October 2020. She brings to UJ a wealth of experience, following her stints at the Henley Business School, where she gained international exposure as MBA Director and Head of Research and Faculty Development. As an academic, she specialises in Strategy, International Business and Strategic Marketing. She also has years of experience in the corporate world in management and leadership in the areas of Strategy and Marketing. Prof Drotskie, I wish you all the best in your career at UJ!
Lastly, you all would have received an email this week regarding our endeavours to enhance the UJ brand. HR, in partnership with the University Relations’ Marketing and Brand Unit, announced the launch of UJ’s email banner internal communication and automated email signature system. This software will enable HR to communicate directly to all UJ staff with a banner that appears in your email. This banner will not be sent out externally. However, this function does also allow for faculties to use the external banner functionality to promote their faculty and programmes. I urge you to read the email, if you have missed it. Should you have any queries once the system is up and running, please contact Monique Evert on firstname.lastname@example.org
As usual, we appeal to all to adhere to the recommended precautionary COVID-19 measures, hygiene and social distancing at all times. Please continue to visit our COVID-19 portal on the UJ website for valuable information, including health and wellbeing. Only information issued via the University’s official communication platforms is legitimate. This information may be verified by visiting the UJ COVID-19 Updates at https://www.uj.ac.za/news/corona-virus//.
With my very best wishes,
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal,
University of Johannesburg