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Vice-Chancellor Message – 18 August 2023

Dear UJ Community,

This week was the launch of the 2022 Stakeholder Report. This launch is an important event in our University calendar that encourages us to pause and reflect on the achievements and challenges of the past year. Lest we forget, in 2022, we were just emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, so our University’s remarkable performance is something not to be taken for granted.

The UJ’s chair of Council, Ms Xoliswa Kakana, offered a frank assessment of UJ’s performance. Indeed, while UJ has soared in various global rankings, she also reminded us of the enduring challenges relating to student financing, student and staff safety and well-being, as well as infrastructure development that are felt across the sector. As we rise to heights untold, we are ever mindful of this context and the role that we can play in shaping the future of higher education. We are a success story, and our impact must reverberate beyond our walls.

I wish to thank Dr Nolitha Vukuza and her team in the University Relations Division for ensuring that the event was a success. To watch the event, click here. You may also download the report below:

The annual Helen Joseph Memorial Lecture revisited

I had the honour of sharing the stage with our Chancellor, Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, on Thursday last week, at the 17th Annual Helen Joseph Memorial Lecture. It is not a coincidence that this event is held during Women’s Month. In honour of Helen Joseph, who was instrumental in leading women from across the nation to the Union Buildings to protest against the oppressive pass laws, it calls upon us to reflect on our progress and missteps and look to a future anew. The event attracted a diverse audience, including representatives of embassies, cultural agencies and foundations.

Chancellor Mlambo-Ngcuka, who delivered the keynote address, drew from her rich experience as the former Executive Director of UN Women. In her powerful address, she reminded us of the inter-generational and intersectional imperatives of contemporary struggles for gender equality and their indebtedness to the visionary work of Helen Joseph and other women activists. Watch the event below:

I thank Prof Kammila Naidoo (Executive Dean: Faculty of Humanities) and her team and their counterparts at the Centre for the Study of Race, Gender and Class (RGC) and the UJ Transformation Unit for organising this successful event. To read about the event, click here.

Recognition for UJ in the Top 10 HERS-SA Higher Education Women Leaders Awards!

In further celebrating our women leaders, I congratulate four of our staff members nominated in the Top 10 HERS-SA Higher Education Women Leaders Awards. These annual awards celebrate extraordinary women leaders who make a positive impact in and outside their universities. Congratulations to Profs Kim Berman and Brenda Schmahmann (FADA), Prof Ylva Rodny-Gumede (Senior Director: Internationalisation) and Dr Ndivhuwo Luruli (Executive Director: Research & Innovation). It is a truly deserved recognition for all your hard work and dedication. Well done, and best wishes in the final stages of these awards!

UJ PEETS/SOURCE launch groundbreaking water project in the Eastern Cape

Last week on this platform, I shared with you the news about our exciting community development project at Gwakwani in Limpopo. I am pleased to announce that our University’s Process, Energy & Environmental Technology Station (UJ PEETS) and SOURCE Global have embarked on another groundbreaking initiative to provide clean drinking water to families in the OR Tambo District of the Eastern Cape.

The Eastern Cape Water Provision Project is being rolled out in collaboration with the Faculty of Health Science’s Water and Health Research Centre (WHRC). Launched in March this year, the project has resulted in 400 hydro-panels being installed across four villages, including two schools, giving over 1000 community members access to their own source of clean water.

Professorial Inauguration

Please join me in congratulating Prof Carin Hill (Industrial Psychology) on her inauguration into the UJ Professoriate yesterday evening. She has successfully supervised and co-supervised 29 Master’s students and three PhD students and has co-authored three book chapters and 28 journal articles. During her professorial address, Prof Hill shared insights on navigating the journey of work-related well-being by harnessing psychometrics and personality. Well done! You can watch the inauguration here.

Regulating AI

As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more entrenched, countries are beginning to formulate their regulations around these technologies. In my latest article for the Daily Maverick, I explore South Africa’s current regulatory framework and the way forward in the age of AI. To read more about this, click here.

High Tea with the VC

Finally, I remind you to join me at the hybrid ‘High Tea with the VC’ book discussion this afternoon at the usual time of 14:00 (CAT). We will be joined by Nicky Verd for a discussion of her book, Disrupt Yourself or be Disrupted: Escape Conformity, Reinvent Your Thinking and Thrive in an Era of Emerging Technologies and Economic Anxiety. Nicky is a leading thinker on driving innovation through personal disruption and a human-centric digital transformation consultant focused on people and culture.

As usual, we will meet at the UJ Library, Chinua Achebe Auditorium, Level 6, at the Auckland Park Kingsway Campus. For in-person attendance, kindly RSVP here. For virtual attendance via Zoom, please click here.

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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