Faculty of Education Alumni Affinity Group launch: Creating connections and building for the future
Creating connections and building for the future: Faculty of Education Alumni Affinity Group launch
Connection, a supportive network, and building lasting relationships – these are just some of what makes university alumni organisations beneficial and important; but for the newly launched Faculty of Education Alumni Affinity Group, the layers run deeper.
It is also about creating a sense of belonging – a safe space for old and current students to find their feet, to find their way and to find their people.
Recently, the University of Johannesburg’s Faculty of Education Alumni Affinity Group was launched in a special ceremony to mark it joining the ranks of six Alumni Affinity Groups already launched over the last few years. Affinity Groups form part of an Alumni Chapter and are formed by alumni on the basis of mutual collaboration, similar subject matter or affiliation, and wanting to formalise their relationship with the University.
“Education is more important than getting one or two qualifications. It is actually about the lessons you learn along the way, the people you meet and the relationships you build,” Professor Nadine Peterson, Executive Dean at the Faculty of Education said during her keynote address at the launch event.
Yet, added Peterson, the value of being part of an alumni organisation is not fully recognised in our country.
“In our country, there are many first generation (university/tertiary) students and so it’s something many people are not so familiar with… which is why it is so important that we spread the word about how important being a part of alumni is,” she explained.
Peterson continued, “Support networks are hard to come by… I failed my first year of varsity (years ago at a different university) and I am not proud of it, but it showed me how much help for students is needed. It wasn’t because I didn’t have a supportive family, I did. I just didn’t know where and how to ask for help at my institution, and I didn’t have resources and tools to help me. I needed a network of people who had shared experiences such as mine to bolster me and move me along.”
“How many of our students find themselves needing that? Yet here is a built-in network of people who can change that so that no child that comes into this university and this faculty ever feels that they are on their own, and that they have no network or support system for them to call on,” Peterson added, challenging the gathering of staff and alumni to get actively involved in the Affinity Group.
Professor Tumi Diale, Vice-Dean of Teaching and Learning & Educational Psychologist, and outgoing President of the Convocation Exco, outlined the achievements of the Convocation during her tenure, which began in 2019 but was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We committed to have an Alumni House in UJ, which we’ve never had before and I’m proud to say that we will soon open that new house at the JBS (Johannesburg Business School) Campus at APK,” she said.
Diale added, “One of the key issues for us as UJ is ensuring the employability of our youth. So we have instituted a graduate employability programme that we want to hold hands with each of you (alumni) on, to ensure our graduates enter the world of work.”
She urged UJ alumni to continue to keep engaged in all UJ-related developments, to reconnect with their fellow graduates, expand their network and importantly, to mentor upcoming teachers to make a difference in their career trajectories and lives.
Phumlani Mfenyana, Project Manager at the Fundraising and Development Office, said: “Universities have an uncanny ability to build a sense of ownership and belonging (in the past and present students). The extraordinary achievements of a university are not obtained in silos, but through constant collaborative engagements with critical stakeholders, including alumni.”