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Vice-Chancellor Message – 15 March 2024

Dear UJ community,

A week after the news that UJ has been ranked the leading producer of research output for the second consecutive year, several of our students proudly walked across the graduation stage yesterday. They are more than 10,700 students who will graduate during the autumn graduation season, which will run until April. Of this number, just over 7,500 undergraduate qualifications will be awarded, alongside postgraduate degrees, including 250 Master’s and 101 Doctoral degrees.

Honorary doctorates

During this graduation season, the University will also bestow honorary doctoral degrees upon four exceptional individuals who represent diverse expertise and embody UJ’s commitment to excellence, innovation, and societal impact. Honorary doctorates are conferred to individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and contributions in their respective fields, showcasing contributions that extend beyond conventional norms.

The recipients of the honorary doctorates are:

  • Mr Thebe Ikalafeng: A pre-eminent global African authority in branding who was named one of the ‘100 Most Influential Africans’ by New African Magazine.
  • Ms Nonkululeko Gobodo: The first black female Chartered Accountant in South Africa and founding member and Executive Chairman of the accounting firm, SizweNtsalubaGobodo, now SNG Grant Thornton.
  • Prof Raphael Kaplinsky: A former student activist and an exceptional academic with expertise in areas such as globalisation, global value chains, inclusive growth and inclusive innovation with a distinguished record of publications.
  • Prof Huang Wei: A distinguished scholar and scientist, with over 900 papers published in esteemed journals and more than 360 patents secured.

In addition to these illustrious individuals, UJ will, in July, confer an honorary doctoral degree on Mr Pitso Mosimane, one of the most decorated football coaches.

Celebrating Sport and Democracy

Yesterday, the UJ Sport division, in partnership with the French Embassy, hosted a celebratory Sports Day at the Soweto Campus. Held under the theme, Relais Autour du Monde – Terres de Jeux 2024/Relay Around the World – Land of Games 2024, the event marked France’s preparations for the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as South Africa’s 30 years of democracy. The day began with a roundtable discussion on sport democratisation and accessibility, followed by various sporting events including football, athletics, rowing, basketball, and weightlifting.

Congratulations to our colleagues in the divisions of Sport and Internationalisation for organising an event aligned with the transformative power of sport. The event is more proof of UJ’s commitment to leveraging sports for positive social change.

Empowering men to end gender-based violence

As the world celebrates International Women’s Month, we should always remember that the scourge of gender-based violence (GBV) remains a blight that haunts us all. Today, I look forward to meeting many of our male colleagues at the UJ’s Men’s Forum, which aims to combat this scourge. The event will be held at the Ubuntu Chambers, Auckland Park Kingsway (APK) campus.

Combating this scourge goes beyond fostering equality; it is a crucial step towards constructing a society grounded in respect, understanding, and genuine partnership. In this spirit, I also reflect on the importance of achieving gender transformation in various spaces in my latest article, which appeared in the Daily Maverick, entitled ‘Championing Women Writers is Crucial for Correcting the Historical Imbalances in Literature’.

The Mpedi Family Neurodiversity Scholarship

Last week, I launched the Mpedi Family Neurodiversity Scholarship at our University, a new initiative to support research and address challenges faced by individuals with neurodiverse conditions. To listen to the interview on Cape Talk radio, click here. You may also tune in on SAFM’s current affairs show, Weekend View, this coming Sunday (17 March 2024) at 06h15, when I will be sharing more insights on this important topic.

UJ Choir’s Echoes of Heritage triumphs at the KykNET Fiëstas

 The UJ Choir recently won two awards at the prestigious KykNET Fiëstas (arts festival ceremony) in Cape Town for its composition, Echoes of Heritage. The ceremony recognises exceptional work presented at arts festivals like Suidoosterfees, KKNK, Innibos, Vrystaat Kunstefees, Toyota US Woordfees, and Momentum Beleggings Aardklop.

With compositions by UJ artist in Residence, Mbuso Ndlovu, and performed by UJ Choir, Echoes of Heritage was nominated in four categories: Best Music Production, Best Original Music, Best Ensemble and Best Festival Production and walked away with Best Music Production and Best Original Music. I am immensely proud of the UJ Choir, and special thanks to Mbuso for this well-deserved accolade. Well done!

2024 First Semester Campus Engagements

The last of this semester’s campus engagements will be at the Auckland Park Kingsway (APK) campus on Tuesday, 19 March 2024, at the UJ Sanlam Auditorium. I will again briefly discuss our University’s Strategic Plan 2035, a blueprint document to chart our future. Please be there so you do not miss this! We will meet from 12:00 to 13:30. If there are any specific issues you would like to have addressed or have a question for me, please send these to bernicem@uj.ac.za.

Mid-Semester Recess

Lastly, as you are aware, the period between 23 March and 31 March is mid-semester recess at our University. Next week, Thursday, 21 March 2023, is a public holiday (Human Rights Day) in South Africa and World Down Syndrome Day. Additionally, in between the University recess period is Good Friday, on March 29, which marks the beginning of the Easter weekend. As usual, it has been a busy and fruitful start to the new year, and I wish you, in advance, a restful recess and a happy Easter holiday. Take care!

Ke 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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