L-R: Promise Nyalungu and Prof Bernard Nthambeleni when receiving the Plaque

On Thursday, 07 December 2023, the Talloires Network of Engaged Universities coordinated from Tufts University in the USA in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, presented a plaque to the University of Venda (UNIVEN) Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof Bernard Nthambeleni. This was in recognition of the support UNIVEN gives to the Next Generation Leaders initiative. Prof Nthambeleni received the plaque from Mr Promise Nyalungu, an alumnus of UNIVEN. He has been an active member of the Next Generation Leaders initiative since 2021.

The Talloires Network and Mastercard Foundation established the Next Generation Leaders programme to invest in the development of young leaders through providing resources and opportunities for university students to share strategies and ideas across geo-political boundaries, foster community development and civic engagement at their institutions, and advocate for higher education reform internationally. A diverse cohort of 36 university students in 18 countries constitutes the Next Generation Leaders. Worth noting is that as is the case with all members of this cohort, Mr Nyalungu was selected, through a highly competitive process, from a pool of 276 applicants from across the globe. His commitment to community development and civic engagement, and demonstrated impact stood out, leading to him being recruited.
Receiving the Plaque, Prof Nthambeleni expressed UNIVEN’s gratitude. For him, this was a significant honour and recognition because it confirmed added weight to some of the efforts that the University is currently driving. He reinforced the view that over and above students qualifying and receiving their degrees, they must be trained to be change agents. This entails investing efforts and other resources in connecting with society and being able to facilitate tangible change. In this regard, Prof Nthambeleni commended the good work that Promise Nyalungu and his team was doing.

Continuing with his appreciative speech, the Vice-Chancellor and Principal revealed that the university was driving towards being entrepreneurial in teaching, characterised by students initiating business-oriented projects whilst still studying and taking them even further after graduation. He advised that students should not only absorb knowledge but rather become critical thinkers, applying it to enhance the quality of life in society. Prof Nthambeleni further
said, “we want our students to embrace this entrepreneurial mindset of making sure that they change the lives of people around them.”
After the Vice-Chancellor and Principal’s plaque acceptance speech, Mr Nyalungu shared his experience of involvement in the Next Generation Leaders initiative. He outlined how he became an integral feature of the filming industry, pointing out that the journey started when he arrived at UNIVEN. His passion for creative and performance arts took him on this path. Driven by his passion, Mr Nyalungu joined a dynamic group of young people that used to meet and practice at one of the corners of the sports hall. They held their drama rehearsals there. A year after he joined the group, he became the Director. Over time and because of its commitment, the group won various awards.
The work of the drama club earned Mr Nyalungu recognition beyond the university, leading to being involved in student exchange activities. This saw him travelling to Tanzania and Germany to display his skills and learn from others. His involvement in the entrepreneurship development in higher education programme, which saw him winning the national student and entrepreneur of the year award in 2020. The latter was a significant milestone, which opened numerous doors for continuing to display social impact and other capacity enhancement opportunities.

Mr Nyalungu’s involvement in various student entrepreneurial and social impact activities found him joining the Next Generation Leaders programme. This gave him an opportunity to present his work at the Talloires Network Leaders Conference, which Tufts and Harvard Universities in the USA co-hosted in 2021. In August 2023, Mr Nyalungu participated in the For Youth, By Youth gathering of Next Generation Leaders in Boston, Massachusetts. Through this initiative, he contributed to the development of a multi-year grant proposal submitted to the Mastercard Foundation, aiming to significantly expand the reach and impact of the programme. Concluding his narration of his experience, Mr Nyalungu encouraged other students to work hard and never stop dreaming big.

The Director of the Institute for Rural Development, Prof Joseph Francis, was requested to give some insights into how UNIVEN has been involved in Talloires Network programmes and initiatives. He revealed UNIVEN’s association with the Talloires Network dates back to 2011 when a student-centred and driven initiative he led, namely Amplifying Community Voices, won third prize of the MacJanet Prize of Global Citizenship. Post-winning the award, he participated in various Talloires Network activities. Among these were being a member of international panels that adjudicated and recommended for approval projects submitted for consideration of award of the MacJanet Prize of Global Citizenship. Prof Francis also indicated that he participated, together with some UNIVEN students who were members of the Amplifying Community Voices initiative, in Talloires Network Leaders conferences. From 2015-2017, he was part of a team of seven universities from across the globe that were invited by the Talloires Network and the Kettering Foundation to author a book titled, Regional Perspectives on Learning by Doing: Stories from Engaged Universities around the World (Transformations in Higher Education). Together with one of his PhD students (Ms Hlekani Kabiti), he jointly authored a chapter, titled Amplifying Community Voices in South Africa: Nurturing Transformative Leaders through Dialogic Action. This was the only chapter from universities in sub-Saharan Africa. Prof Lorlene Hoy, the Executive Director of the Talloires Network, edited the book which was published by Michigan State University in 2017.
The association with the Talloires Network opened doors for Prof Francis’s participation in the Kettering Foundation’s programmes. This culminated in one PhD in Rural Development
student, Ms Hlekani Kabiti, securing a six-months long all expenses paid for placement at the Kettering Foundation in Ohio State, USA.
Participating virtually in the plaque handing over ceremony, Prof Lorlene Hoyt presented what the Talloires Network of Engaged Universities stands for. She indicated that the Talloires Network of engaged universities is a global coalition that brings together 431 university Presidents, Vice-Chancellors and Rectors from 86 countries. These are working together with organisations such as the Mastercard Foundation and others to support young student leaders and university-community partnerships to ensure that research and teaching are designed and implemented such that they enhance education and solve community challenges.

Prof Hoyt said that UNIVEN had for long been a partner of the Talloires Network. She appreciated the immense lessons learnt through working with Prof Francis and some of his colleagues. Proceeding with her presentation, she revealed that Promise Nyalungu’s application stood out among a global pool of young people. That is why he was recruited and had been working with the Talloires Network for about three years. Prof Hoyt said, “When we held the global leaders conference which Tufts and Harvard Universities hosted, Promise contributed immensely. That conference reached more than 1400 people in 53 countries throughout the world. This has continued to help add momentum to our movement and influence higher education policy around the world.” Of particular significance was that Promise continues to contribute his ideas and talents in film making.

The UNIVEN Faculties were represented during the plaque handing over. During this ceremony, discussions relating to the nature and form of the MoU involving the Talloires Network, Mastercard Foundation and Next Generation Leaders programme were held.
Dr Segun Obadire, the Director of International Relations and Partnerships at UNIVEN, facilitated the proceedings/deliberations.
Issued by: Department of Marketing, Branding and Communication, University of Venda
Tel: 015 962 8525 /8710 : Date: 10 December 2023

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