UP merit award recipients take centre stage at year-end event

Posted on November 07, 2019

Some of the University of Pretoria’s (UP) finest young minds were celebrated at the recent Vice-Chancellor Discretionary Merit Award (VCDMA) year-end function held at The Harlequin Restaurant in Groenkloof, where a jazz band from the Tshwane School of Music kept attendees entertained.

The VCDMA is a prestigious offering to these students and it covers their university tuition fees for three years, in partial recognition of their outstanding academic achievements. Students are also given mentorship and support throughout their time at university.

VCDMA recipients outside the venue.

Professor Carolina Koornhof, Executive Director of Finance and Business Initiatives at UP, was the keynote speaker at the event and encouraged students to create networks via the VCDMA programme that will benefit them in future.

“I have been in academia for more than 40 years, and I cannot overemphasise the importance of networking,” she said. “Life takes you in strange directions, and one day you may come across a fellow VCDMA recipient who might offer you a job opportunity or may be on the selection committee for you to go to Harvard, like I had the opportunity to.”

Top achiever James Louw

VCDMA recipients are expected to maintain a good average and complete their degrees in the stipulated number of years. The programme was initiated in 2016 as a response to the concerns raised by the #FeesMustFall movement and with the aim of attracting talented students to the university.

Ten of the 13 students who received the VCDMA at its inception were registered for a three-year programme and graduated on time. Eight of them continued to do their postgraduate studies at UP. In 2019, 55 first-year students became recipients of the award. At the end of July 2019, out of the total number of 184 recipients, 23 got more than a 90% cumulative weighted average.

James Louw is this year’s top achiever with a cumulative weighted average of 96.9% for the year, while Ashley Kellar is the female top achiever with 94.3%.

VCDMA recipients are expected to maintain a good average and complete their degrees in the stipulated number of years.

Some senior VCDMA recipients have been acting as mentors for the 2019 first-year cohort under the supervision of Dr Rina Wilkens, Head of Student Development in the Department of Student Affairs.

“At the beginning of the year when I saw my marks for the first semester I was completely blown away,” Louw said. “I invest a lot of my time in my mentees, helping them whenever I can, as best as I can – even late at night at res. Sometimes we need help with work, an ear, or sometimes we just need a friend.”

The 2020 VCDMA cohort will be announced early next year.

For more on the VCDMA, visit www.up.ac.za and search VCDMA.

- Author Masego Panyane

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