Professor Ntebogeng Mokgalaka-Fleischmann has joined the University of the Pretoria (UP) as Director of Mamelodi Campus. Having worked in the higher education sector in various capacities for the past 24 years, including in several management roles, she brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience.
She was Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Agriculture at the University of Venda before joining UP at the beginning of July this year.
The journey of Prof Mokgalaka-Fleischmann has come full circle, as she grew up in Mamelodi. She navigated life in the township and remained committed to her dreams to excel in her chosen field. She holds a DTech degree in Chemistry, specialising in environmental analytical chemistry, and an MBA in Education Management.
The roles she has held in higher education have allowed her to gain substantial experience in curriculum development, strategy development and implementation, policy formulation, curriculum review, programme accreditation, quality assurance, and the management of extended programmes.
Prof Mokgalaka-Fleischmann also has a long list of achievements and accolades to her name. Two highlights of her academic career thus far is becoming full professor at the age of 40 and having a competitive C2 National Research Foundation (NRF) rating as a researcher.
Of course, reaching this level of success has not been a walk in the park. As a black woman in higher education and science, she has had to operate in spaces without representation or much support. At times, she says, even she began doubting herself.
“I would ask myself, ‘Am I supposed to be here; am I good enough; am I a token?’” However, she learnt that there is no such thing as overnight success, and that anyone has what it takes to excel. “It takes hard work and focus,” she says. “You have to set goals for yourself and focus on achieving those goals.”
It is also important to remain humble and treat everyone with kindness, she adds. “Anyone can teach you a valuable lesson, whether it’s a student or a man on the street; it is important to remain open and teachable.”
The gender gap within the field of science is known to still exist at all levels. On the one hand, Prof Mokgalaka-Fleischmann says, there has been an increase in female PhD graduates. “If I look at where we have come from since I graduated, I was the only one on stage – there were no other women who were graduating with a doctorate,” she reflects.
However, she also expresses concern for the lack of equal opportunities for women in her field. She has observed that globally, only 30% of scientists constitute women, and executive positions remain predominantly held by men. “Women still need to be given equal opportunities – equal pay for equal work.”
In pursuit of equality, her advice to the women of UP is to take advantage of all the opportunities presented to them. “As a woman, you have to show up,” she says. “We cannot use gender as an excuse, but also, we must not be afraid to have a voice and bring our ideas to the table. We must be part of the solution, not the problem. It’s very important that when you have reached a certain point where you are able to support other women, support them, because they are not your competition. And lastly be yourself and lead with empathy.”
Mamelodi Campus seems destined to flourish under the vision of Prof Mokgalaka-Fleischmann, which is to enable student success beyond UP and cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset that will prepare students for the future of work. She also hopes to turn the campus into a hub of social innovation that exists within a self-sustaining community.