UP conference provides 2018 top matric achievers with leadership training

Posted on January 29, 2019

The University of Pretoria (UP) last week hosted a three-day conference aimed at developing leadership skills among a group of 55 top matric achievers who chose UP as their home for their undergraduate studies.

This group has been awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Discretionary Merit Award (VCDMA), a prestigious financial award offered by UP to learners who appear on the annual national and provincial top achievers lists. These top learners are given financial awards to cover their tuition for three years, in recognition of their outstanding academic achievements. During their time at UP, they are expected to work consistently and maintain a good average to ensure that they graduate on time by completing their degrees in the stipulated number of years.

The VCDMA recipients were invited to a special conference where they were given training in leadership and other skills to help them make the most of their academic talent. The conference was hosted by the Department of Enrolment and Student Administration. Other support service departments also did presentations to inform these students of the services available to them, including the Department of Residence Affairs and Accommodation (TuksRes) and the Department of Student Affairs.

The focus on developing students’ leadership skills was facilitated over a period of three days by Common Purpose, a global leadership development organisation that aims to create culturally and emotionally intelligent leaders who are able to solve complex issues across all disciplines for the benefit of society as a whole. The Future Leader’s Experience is a Common Purpose programme presented to university students in cities around the world. It focuses particularly on helping them build a vision to lead and contribute to society. It equips them with some of the softer skills and awareness necessary to be successful leaders, and with broader societal knowledge, perspective and networks that helps them grasp how to be systemically effective.

Professor Carolina Koornhof, Executive Director of Finance, Enrolment and Student Administration, warmly welcomed the VCDMA recipients, their parents and guardians to the conference, and explained that the VCDMA conference is a precursor to Welcome Day and Orientation Week for this special cohort of students. “The adjustment from school to university should not be underestimated, even for hardworking, intelligent and passionate students like yourselves,” she said. “However, you are not alone and we encourage you to make full use of UP’s significant support services to help you on your journey. We are committed to supporting your overall wellbeing – at an academic, emotional, physical and social level. Over and above academic excellence, the University encourages you to participate in the wide variety of sports, arts and culture, leadership and social activities offered through the various student structures, clubs and sports codes.”

Taleah Ayob is one of the top academic achievers who attended the VCDMA leadership conference. Ayob achieved an astonishing 100% for mathematics and accounting in her matric examinations and had an average of 94%, with seven As. She is studying electrical engineering at UP. She says, “The VCDMA conference has been amazing, interesting and beneficial for me. I feel it has really helped me to prepare for university life, as I was able to make new friends, work effectively in a team, visit various institutions, and become more independent”.

“From the Common Purpose programme I learned more about leadership and the qualities of a good leader. I became aware that a good leader is someone who respects others and makes themselves easily accessible to their people. Leadership is not only about power, but rather humility. True power is not about being on top, but rather about being able to make a positive change to the world”, Ayob said.

Dr Elsbeth Dixon, CEO of Common Purpose South Africa and Head of Common Purpose’s African operations said, “Common Purpose applauds the vision of UP to recognise and develop not only the academic talent, but also the leadership potential of its top students. The impact of asking these exceptional young people, as they stand on the threshold of their studies, to think of themselves as leaders, has vast future implications, and Common Purpose is proud to work with UP to nurture this.”

The VCDMA was established in 2016 and has grown to 129 students from an original intake of 13. Ten students from the first cohort did a three-year programme, and all of them will be graduating on time in April 2019, with eight students going on to postgraduate studies at UP. Prof Koornhof further added that, “This specific group achieved an 82,47 cumulative grade point average (GPA) in their 2018 final graduation year, with the highest GPA being 90,33”.

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- Author Shakira Hoosain

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