An air of excitement permeated the Rautenbach Hall on the Hatfield Campus of the University of Pretoria (UP) recently, as alumni from Gauteng attended a networking cocktail event with Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe.
The event was also attended by UP’s Executive, senior staff members and members of various alumni societies. Prof Kupe, who has been at the helm of UP for five months, told alumni: “This is your university. We own it collectively. All institutions in society cannot survive without a broader community.” He said that as graduates, alumni are tied “intellectually to the University for the rest of their lives. A community is like a family tied together by blood, and these ties can never be cut.”
He explained that as a university evolves, from time to time, it rethinks its vision and strategy. UP is a proudly South African, African and global player. “Quality is an important factor for us. It will never drop. Through providing a quality education, we are able to transform society and make a contribution to the world.”
Furthermore, UP produces research that matters to help transform society. “Without UP, the business of developing people in South Africa would struggle. We create locally relevant knowledge that deals with our own challenges, with global resonances.”
He updated alumni on some developments at UP: Being the largest contact university in the country, with 55 000 students, an impressive 67% of its staff hold PhDs, while UP produces 16% of PhDs in the country. There are 26 000 universities in the world, and some of UP’s subject rankings feature in the top 401–500 range, while its Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) has again been ranked the top provider of executive education in Africa by the Financial Times.
Pointing out the recent launch of UP’s flagship Future Africa campus, a hub for trans-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary research, and the construction of Engineering 4.0, a research facility that will focus on smart cities and smart transportation, Prof Kupe said, “We are located on the most innovative square mile in Africa.”
He explained that the University has over 300 collaborative partnerships across the world, and stressed that “this is our university, and it is contributing to the world. Join us in becoming part of this excellence.”
Samantha Castle, Senior Manager of Alumni Relations, urged alumni to stay connected to UP via www.upalumniconnect.com and to participate in the Convocation, which can make input into matters regarding the University. “Another way to be involved is by volunteering and being an ambassador for the University. For example, come back as guest speaker and inspire our students, serve as mentors, create internships for our students, support your faculty and unlock partnership opportunities for the University. The University offers a wide range of postgraduate opportunities and professional short courses through Enterprises UP and GIBS.”
Alumni Hestel Geldenhuys, Prof Tawana Kupe and Dr Hinner Koster
She explained that, as the biggest contact University in the country, “UP nurtures and produces the most remarkable talent and skills for the nation. Sadly, though, many of our students face severe financial challenges, ranging from tuition fees to buying food and personal items. We therefore call on the UP alumni family to support our students.” Meanwhile, alumni caught up with their old classmates and lecturers and took trips down memory lane, reminiscing about life on campus, many pointing out that much had changed.
Alumni Dr Rakgadi Phatlane, Beverly Segakweng, Prof Tawana Kupe, Reece Govender, Jacquelene Coetzer, Dr Sithembile Mbete (UP alumus, lecturer and the programme director) and Bridgette Sehlapelo.
Reece Govender, who graduated with a chemical engineering degree and an honours degree in industrial engineering was part of the Junior Tukkie initiative, “which was an awesome experience… I enjoyed world-class lecturers and state-of-the-art equipment in the newly revamped chemical engineering labs. The study facilities and lecture halls were an excellent environment to propel students to achieve their highest possible output.”
He attended the event because of a combination of intrigue, nostalgia and opportunity. “I believe that the new Vice-Chancellor has amassed vast experience and knowledge, for which there is no substitute in a leadership role. I am looking forward to seeing fresh ideas and new initiatives which provide hope in a country and community that is looking to move forward.”
Govender believes alumni should use their education to uplift those around them, whether it be family, friends or a larger community. “Not everyone gets the opportunity to study a degree at a prestigious university. It is a social responsibility to use that degree to create a better future.” Alumni should also endorse what they benefited from and have the opportunity to be involved in positive changes at the University, he said.
Bridgette Sehlapelo, who graduated from UP with an LLB and LLM (Tax), said: “My most memorable moment at UP was when I joined SASVO (the South African Students Volunteer Organisation) and travelled around Africa on community upliftment projects. That made me realise the important role I have to play in the society and the positive impact I have to make as an individual in our society.”
Alumni enjoyed an evening catching up with their former classmates, taking trips down memory lane
Jacquelene Coetzer, who graduated with a BA (Political Science & International Politics) and an honours in international politics part-time, said she “always enjoys coming to Tuks – it was my home for six years, after all! I’ve come to meet up with some of my lecturers and fellow alumni, to connect and network with fellow alumni and students, and to meet the new Vice-Chancellor and congratulate him on his appointment.”
UP staff member Dr Rakgadi Phatlane, who graduated with a string of degrees from UP and is from the Faculty of Education, said: “I’m a dinosaur at UP. I was a student here and worked here and left and came back. I love working here. They give you the tools to do your job and to change lives. I’m very excited to meet the new VC.”