Vice-Chancellor Message – 03 June 2022
Dear UJ Community,
Earlier this week, from 30 to 31 May, the Executive Leadership Group (ELG) held its annual meeting to reflect on the progress and challenges of the past academic year and to look ahead to the future. This group comprises leaders of faculties, schools and support divisions. Ours was an interesting engagement as we continued to position UJ on the global stage. This came a week after another fruitful engagement held by the Management Executive Committee (MEC) with the Senior Leadership Group (SLG), which was convened under the topic “Reimagining the new ‘normal’”.
The ELG meeting provided us with the opportunity to rethink how best we can optimise our University business model on matters such as academic excellence, the quality and maintenance of our infrastructure as well as the safety and wellness of our students and staff. Other matters included financial sustainability, fundraising, as well as maintaining a presence in the mainstream media by exposing our academics and researchers in that space. This is vital to ensure that UJ has a positive impact in society, whether on issues of politics, economy and social justice.
I am encouraged by the feedback from the faculties and divisions, and I look forward to the future with a sense of optimism. In an ever-changing era of digital technologies, the challenges of climate change and shrinking economies, we have done well to ensure that our University remains a force to reckon with. Our academic excellence and impactful research output continue to receive global recognition and receive rave reviews nationally and globally. This is demonstrated by the various global rankings. This positive reputation is invaluable in helping us to forge strategic partnerships whilst exploring funding opportunities.
On this note, I am pleased by our efforts to improve our financial sustainability, especially through our fundraising initiatives to garner support from industry, local and international communities and alumni. In line with this, and as recently as last week, our Division for Internationalisation and the Development and Fundraising Office coordinated a fundraising initiative in Zimbabwe, from 26 to 27 May. The team had fruitful engagements with Zimbabwean corporates to identify funding opportunities for students, industry research collaboration and human capital development and met with the CEO’s and Heads of Corporate Affairs of Delta Corporation, National Foods, BancABC, TM PnP and CBZ Holdings.
Our Alumni Office also launched its Zimbabwean Alumni Chapter. This is the first Alumni Chapter to be launched in Africa. The delegation included the Executive Dean of the College of Business and Economics, Prof Daneel Van Lill, the President of Convocation, Prof Boitumelo Diale, and other UJ colleagues. The aim of the Alumni Chapter is to reconnect and broaden the network with alma mater and friends of UJ, to explore mutually beneficial areas for collaboration and enhance the brand and stature of the University.
On a different note, this month marks the start of the mid-year assessments, which commenced yesterday and are due to conclude on 24 June 2022. June is also known as Youth Month in South Africa. I have been impressed by our willingness to participate in initiatives that are meant to shape our nation for the betterment of all our people. As we reflect on this, let us also remember the sacrifices by young people who, more than four decades ago, fought against an unjust political system that imposed an inferior education system. We should be mindful of the challenges that still face our nation and work together to make a difference. As our liberation icon Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.
With this in mind, I would like to urge our students to devote more efforts to their studies and assessments. Take note that our teaching staff and tutors are here to guide and support you in every way possible. Should you feel overwhelmed, do not hesitate to reach out to them and our Centre for Psychological Services and Career Development (PsyCaD). The Centre offers walk-in free service (no appointment necessary) at all offices on the different campuses. You may also call the 24-hour Crisis line (082 054 1137). I wish our students all the best with their assessments.
This years’ Autumn and Winter graduations ceremonies were an uplifting experience. I was thrilled to learn that one of our alumni, Refilwe Buthelezi, was recently elected as the first female president of the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA). Refilwe studied BEng (Electrical & Electronics Engineering) from 2002 to 2006 and then furthered her studies in MEng (Engineering Management) from 2008 to 2011. Refilwe, congratulations, you are a true UJ ambassador.
Also, join me in congratulating Professors Ajen Sita (Professor of Practice, School of Accounting) and Ben Marx (HoD: Accountancy) who were recognised for exceptional contributions in the field of Accounting. Prof Sita was awarded as the “Leader in Business”, while Prof Marx was awarded the most significant contributor to “Excellence in Education” at the SAICA Difference Makers Awards. Prof Sita and Prof Marx, these are great accomplishments. Well done!
Dr Nicolaas Strydom (Department of Accountancy) was announced a finalist at the Association of Business Historians’ annual conference in July 2022 at Strathclyde Business School in Glasgow, Scotland. The Association recognises excellence in research in honour of the business historian Donald Coleman (1920-1995). Dr Strydom was also elected to the Editorial Board of Business History – an international journal concerned with the long-run evolution and contemporary operation of business systems and enterprises. The journal has won a reputation for academic excellence (Impact Factor: 1.86) and has a wide readership amongst management specialists, economists, other social scientists and economic, social, labour and business historians. Dr Strydom, well done and best wishes ahead.
On COVID-19 matters, I wish to remind you that we have completed the revision of our COVID-19 workplace risk assessment study. The results of this study are being analysed and will inform us in dealing with the challenges of COVID-19 related challenges going forward. However, I have been informed that there are a few staff and students who are still not compliant with the UJ Mandatory Vaccination Policy. We rely on the leadership of the line managers to ensure compliance within their domains, including the recording of the weekly negative PCR test results where applicable.
We thus reiterate our call for employees and students who are yet to be compliant with our University’s Mandatory Vaccination Policy to do so. If you have been vaccinated and have not uploaded your vaccination certificate, please do so on https://ulink.uj.ac.za/ujvac. To read more about the Policy as well as other COVID-19 information click http://www.uj.ac.za/covid-19.
As communicated last week, the UJ Chair of Council, Mr Mike Teke, invites you to his third virtual recommended book read today, at the usual time of 14h00 (CAT). His recommended book is Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Francesc Miralles and Hector Garcia. Ikigai means “Life to be worthwhile” or “Purposeful Life”. Click here and join in the conversation: https://zoom.us/s/94152733698
As usual, we appeal to all to adhere to recommended COVID-19 precautionary measures at all times (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public).
Kea leboga, enkosi, baie dankie, ndi a livhuwa, thank you!
Professor Kinta Burger
Vice-Chancellor and Principal (Acting)
University of Johannesburg
Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time-zone.