Vice-Chancellor Message – 01 September 2023

Dear UJ Community,

After weathering another harsh winter, we welcome the start of spring today. This week has been a fitting end to Women’s Month at the University. As we collectively battle gender discrimination and widening inequality nationally and beyond, it has been encouraging to see the impact of our voice in challenging the status quo. Since the beginning of August, several faculties and divisions have held seminars and events to commemorate this significant period.

The quest for gender equity and an inclusive South African society continues

Our Community Engagement Unit, within University Relations, set the tone for what was a flourishing finish to Women’s Month with a vibrant event on Monday, held under the theme 67 Years of Women’s Struggle: The Quest for Gender Equity and an Inclusive South African Society. It was a fitting tribute to the women who fought so vehemently for the freedom we enjoy today with the reminder that for many, the fight must still go on. Click here to watch some of the thought-provoking speeches.

Innovation for sustainable women empowerment 

This week, our Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation (IPATC) hosted a conference under the theme Women’s ImPACT Innovation and Sustainability in Africa. The two-day conference attracted people from various sectors who participated in panel discussions on critical areas such as technology, finance and business, the green economy and climate change. To watch some of the powerful speeches, including those by my colleague in the MEC, Dr Nolitha Vukuza, watch below.

It has also been encouraging to see our academics and experts contributing to the dialogue on gender and equality. The latest article, by Prof Tebogo Mashifana (HoD, Chemical Engineering Technology) and Mr Lebogang Seale (Senior Manager: Strategic Communications), focussed on the underrepresentation of women in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics and innovation (STEMI) related sectors.

Expanding the UJ global footprint

On a different note, this has been another eventful week in our efforts to foster relationships with strategic partner universities and increase our global footprint. On Wednesday, UJ was honoured to host colleagues from the Brazilian Association of Rectors of State and Municipal Universities (ABRUEM). We hosted 39 Rectors and senior leaders from across the ABRUEM network. They provided an overview of ABRUEM’s mission and the work done by the universities in the network, and other strategic partners.

Strengthening UJ’s Pan-African agenda

This week, I also led a UJ delegation to the Ghana Communication Technology University (GCTU), where we were hosted by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Emmanuel Ohene Afoakwa and Pro Vice-Chancellor, Prof Robert Ebo Hinson. In addition to signing a Memorandum of Understanding, I had the honour of delivering a keynote address on the topic of Ethics and Regulations in an AI Era. The trip’s highlight was the launch of the UJ Alumni Chapter in Ghana to celebrate our esteemed alumni and establish new networks.

More recognition for UJ staff

Please join me for a virtual applause as I congratulate Dr Thandiwe Sithole (Senior Lecturer: Department of Chemical Engineering Technology), who has won the prestigious 2023 National Research Foundation (NRF) Research Excellence Award for Early Career/Emerging Researchers in the female engineering category. The award recognises outstanding research performance by current early-career or emerging researchers in any discipline who are NRF grant holders.

Through this award, the NRF aspires to develop and enhance the research stature of these researchers, with the aim of redressing the historical imbalances in the South African researchers’ cohort and celebrating worthy achievement. Well done, Dr Sithole, we are immensely proud of you!

I also congratulate Mr. Tshidiso Konese (Senior Manager: International Student Recruitment and Admissions), who has been recognised for his outstanding work at the 2023 International Career & College Counseling (IC3) Conference & Expo. He received an award for the counselling-based approach to student recruitment/admissions in Africa. The IC3 and Expo was held in India last week.

Bonne chance to UJ researchers/academics

As communicated last week, at least 10 of our staff members have been nominated in the Top 10 HERS-SA Higher Education Women Leaders Awards. These awards celebrate extraordinary women leaders who make a positive impact in and outside their universities and inspire, motivate and lead others. The winners will be announced in Cape Town this coming week (7 September 2023), and I wish our finalists all the best!

High Tea with the VC

I invite you to the next High Tea with the VC book discussion on Friday, 22 September 2023, when we will discuss the book Awakened to My True Self, by Nonkululeko Gobodo. Nonkululeko is the CEO of AWAKENED Global, a social initiative, and was the first African woman to qualify as a chartered accountant in South Africa in 1987. She is also the former Chairman and founder of SizweNtsalubaGobodo, now SNG Grant Thornton, the largest black auditing and accounting firm in South Africa. We will meet at the UJ Arts Theatre at 14h00 (CAT).

Lastly, on a sombre note, it has been devastating to read about the deadly fire that ripped through one of Johannesburg’s inner-city buildings yesterday. This tragic story has once again highlighted the challenges of migration, lack of housing and the need for lasting solutions. Our thoughts go out to the families, friends and survivors in this difficult time.

Kea a leboha, ngiyabonga, thank you, baie dankie!

Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi: Vice-Chancellor and Principal 

Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time zone.

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