Tiara Joseph, a third-year law student at the University of Pretoria (UP), has been awarded an Abe Bailey Travel Bursary to visit England and Scotland on a three-week, all-expenses paid educational tour at the end of the year.
She is one of 18 students from 20 South African universities to win this prestigious bursary, part of the legacy of Abe Bailey (1864-1940), who was a Rand mining magnate, a provincial cricketer, and participated in both South African and British political life.
The bursary is aimed at “students who are academically strong and have shown exceptional qualities of leadership and service, with a good track record – not only on a campus level but also in a wider social context”.
When Joseph heard her application had been successful, she wrote to Professor Elsabe Schoeman, Dean of UP’s Law Faculty, saying she was certain “a significant extent of my success arose from my ability to reflect and discuss the numerous opportunities that I have had with our Faculty of Law throughout my studies thus far – I subsequently extend my sincerest appreciation”.
Joseph is being modest. The other reasons for her success stem from her own determination. As someone who is driven to achieve, she doesn’t leave much to chance. “I had a five-year plan when I started primary school. I had a five-year plan when I got to high school. I had a five-year plan for varsity. I've managed to tick everything off that plan,” she said, saying she is now less robotic and more chilled. Yet at the same time she is so keen to clerk at the Constitutional Court “that I will keep applying until they let me in, even if I am 50. It is just such an honour to actively participate in the judiciary”, she said.
She is such a strong student that in her first year she made it onto the top of the Dean’s List of achievers with an average of 92.64%, winning the Carpe Diem Faculty of Law Prize for that, as well as two other awards, for first place in the Roman Law and the Law of Persons modules, and was invited to be a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society. She was also the top first-year achiever, as well as the top overall academic achiever in her residence, Azalea.
In second year, she made the Dean’s List again with an average of 86.62%.
Outside of the lecture hall, her extra-curricular activities include being Chief Justice of the Constitutional Tribunal, which is UP’s student court.
Through her participation on the executive of the Student Wellness committee last year, UP’s Department of Student Affairs nominated her to attend a course at New York University, and Prof Schoeman’s office nominated her to attend a summer school programme at the National University of Singapore. Both were online.
Prof Schoeman said she wished Joseph well on this “exceptional achievement” and “very valuable opportunity for exposure and development on an international level”.
“I know that she will embrace this opportunity to further her academic career, as well as focusing on her future and the role she can play as a leader in society,” she said.
Professor Joel Modiri, Head of Jurisprudence in the Law Faculty, who recommended Joseph apply for the Abe Bailey, said she is “one of the faculty's most gifted, driven and accomplished undergraduate students, with an enormously bright future”.
Joseph said the part of the trip she is most looking forward to – besides a good chance of visiting the three UK universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh she has had her sights on since high school days – is the “academic experience, which sounds very nerdy, but the topics that you get to engage with, and the individuals that you get to meet, are probably the most exciting prospect”.
The trustees of the Abe Bailey Travel Bursary state that successful applications need, among other attributes, “to exude a positivity and enthusiasm which raises the energy levels of those around them”. Joseph scores off the charts on that.
Asked her what sort of law she envisages herself going into, she said: ”Tuks has a really nice human rights master’s programme. I'd like to do that at some point. But I also really enjoy private law,” before rattling off how much she likes arbitration – thanks to all her experience with Moot competitions – as well as family law, pro bono work, and corporate law.
“I got into law for various social justice reasons. I didn't even know corporate law existed. But it is also really interesting, and I really enjoy it. Everyone's always like, ‘Oh, but you can’t be for social justice, and then also go work at a corporate company. I don't think they're severely mutually exclusive for a career,” said Tiara Joseph, laying down the law, as it were, and so fulfilling another of the bursary’s requirements of being able to express an opinion.