The networks and relationships you build as a university student become critically important in your advancement as a professional, just one of the reasons it makes sense to become an “active alumni”, says Michael Sudarkasa, who was hosted on UJs USA Alumni chapter meeting, held online in early November 2021.

Sudarkasa, born in New York but now based in Johannesburg, is a US attorney and an African economic development specialist. He is graduate of the University of Michigan, Harvard Law School and New York Law School, and currently chairs the African Studies Center alumni advisory board at the University of Michigan.

His presentation, titled ‘Towards becoming an active alumni’, outlined the ways that UJ alumni could connect globally, to make a difference not only to their own careers, but to their alma maters and the students who are following in their footsteps.

Alumni clubs and linkages between South African and US universities that could facilitate student exchanges and research between institutions, were key to this objective, he said.

The University Partnerships Initiative (UPI) was one such initiative, and there was no reason why US-based alumni couldn’t nominate their US university to partner with UJ through this platform, he said. “I think that the alums that are living in the US have a particular role to play as prospective bridge builders, and socio-economic development catalysts, from wherever their perch is in the US.”

Sudarkasa said he also saw potential in the idea of a regional multi-university initiative in Gauteng, made up of a research triangle including Wits, UJ and UP, that could be supported by the US embassy and feed into a US-SA incubator working to advance socio-economic development in South Africa.

On the topic of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on UJ students over the past two years, Dr Barnabus Daru, UJ graduate in botany (MA – 2012 and PhD – 2015) and associate professor of biology at Texas A&M University, said more resources were needed to bridge the digital divide between lecturers and students.

Not every student is set up for learning remotely via computer, and poor internet connectivity was a major obstacle for many students, he said. Also, teachers had to make a rapid transition to online teaching, and needed more training in how to do it effectively. These were issues that universities needed to look at in terms of how they apportioned their budgets, he said, as online learning looked like it was the way of the future.

Addressing UJ alumni, Dr Daru appealed to the approximately 89 000 UJ alumni to join Alumni Connect, where they can reconnect with old classmates and join in alumni activities, online and in person, as well as offer mentoring services to students.

Meanwhile, Alumni Connect is planning to meet in New York in early 2022, to discuss important aspects of the USA chapter. For more on this, watch this space https://ujalumni.co.za/

November 5, 2021

Disclaimer: The University of Johannesburg encourages academic debate and discussion that are conducted in a manner that upholds respectful interaction, safety of all involved, and freedom of association as enshrined in the law, the Constitution, and within the boundaries of the University policies. The views expressed during events are expressed in a personal capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Johannesburg.

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