Registrar announces winner of Abe Bailey Travel Bursary

Posted on July 19, 2019

The Registrar of the University of Pretoria, Prof Caroline Nicholson, recently called for nominations from suitable senior students as well as members of staff of junior lecturer status who are 25 years or younger for the Abe Bailey Travel Bursary. This bursary was won by Michelle Oelofse, a final-year LLB student who aims to complete her degree programme at the end of 2019. Michelle already has a BCom Law degree with distinction.

She has just won the Abe Bailey Travel bursary which is a prestigious award given to persons who are academically strong and have shown exceptional qualities of leadership and service in a wide social context. This bursary is given to selected university students and university staff of junior lecturer status as an opportunity to visit the United Kingdom, participating in educational tours according to an approved programme.

Michelle said, “The Abe Bailey bursary serves not only as recognition of hard work and service, but also as a platform for young leaders to engage with best practices on an international level. Receiving this accolade is a great honour and I’m very excited about the travel component, but I’m most keen to engage with other scholars and professionals to add to my abilities to contribute to the South African story, legally and socially.”

Michelle’s stellar academic career is boosted by the impact that she has on communities with her community engagement activities. She is committed to social upliftment and has actively been involved in initiatives aimed at providing less fortunate young people with opportunities for many years. She is extremely passionate about the Tuks Leadership and Individual Programme (TULIP) which she co-founded with Ms Clarindi Greeff, a former Abe Bailey Travel bursar, four years ago.

Her role in TULIP initially was to prepare prospective students for tertiary study by assisting them to apply for funding and ensuring that they are financially literate. She now serves on the board that will spearhead the expansion of TULIP to other universities in order to expand the initiative’s reach to more communities.

Michelle said, “I was fortunate enough to receive the Leiden University South African Scholarship to spend a semester in The Netherlands on an exchange programme in 2018. During my time in The Netherlands I also completed an internship at The Hague Conference on Private International Law. I was assigned to the Judgments Team, working on the compilation of a new convention on the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. I finished my final-year LLB mini-dissertation, on the choice of law clauses in international commercial contracts, a year early, making use of the resources at my disposal at Leiden University and through the internship. I obtained a distinction for this work. Upon my return to South Africa in June 2018, I was invited to deliver my research at a national humanities symposium, an event normally reserved for postgraduate students”.

Michelle has already been awarded for her academic excellence as one of the top 10 graduates in South Africa at the 2018 GradStar Awards. She has also been promoting high-impact entrepreneurial leadership since 2015 as a Candidate Fellow of the Allan Orbis Foundation. Michelle served on her residence’s house committee, participated and coached teams in various moot court competitions and has represented the university at national debating competitions. Michelle currently serves as chairperson of the UP Debatsvereniging (Afrikaans debating union at UP) and co-hosts a poetry podcast.

Michelle is ready for work and says, “I have signed a contract to complete my vocational training as a legal practitioner at the law firm of Baker McKenzie, which will commence in 2021. With a view to expanding the legal and social foundations of my future career, I intend to enrol for postgraduate studies in 2020”.

Michelle views her leadership positions as forums from which she can serve and make a contribution to improving the lives of others. She focuses on skills development and creating opportunities where she is involved, as she believes empowerment of individuals impacts the trajectory of communities.

“The University of Pretoria has been a crucial partner in my self-development and service leadership journey. Beyond an excellent education I have been offered opportunities, mentorship and guidance to lay a foundation for what I hope to be a career of impact.”

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