The second Academic Leadership Seminar of the University Staff Doctoral Programme (USDP) was held between 12 and 13 March 2019 at the University of Venda (UNIVEN) Art Gallery. USDP is a project under the University Capacity Development Programme (UCDP) established through the United States-South Africa Higher Education Network which is funded by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and the USA to the tune of R6 million and to which UNIVEN is a party. Other partners in the consortium include: University of the Free State (UFS); Appalachian State University (AppState), USA; University of Montana (UM), USA and Colorado State University (CSU), USA. Facilitators were drawn from all the five universities.

Vice- Chancellor and Principal, Dr Bernard Nthambeleni during the opening of the seminar

The seminar was opened by Dr Bernard Nthambeleni, UNIVEN Vice-Chancellor and Principal. In his inspiring welcome address, Dr Nthambeleni highlighted the importance of USDP to historically disadvantaged institutions and its value to capacity development in these institutions. A total of 25 participants, including 8 facilitators, 10 USDP scholars and others participated in the seminar. The coordinators of the project from UNIVEN are Prof Peter Taylor, South African Research Chair on Biodiversity Value and Change; Prof Vhonani Netshandama, Director Community Engagement and Dr Segun Obadire, Acting Director International Relations. The PhD scholars are focusing on mountain research.

Members of the USDP Steering committee during the annual meeting

The seminar started with the annual USDP committee meeting on Monday 11 March 2019. Mr Cornelius Hagenmeier, Director Internationalisation, UFS participated in the meeting via Skype. Additional support was provided by ancillary staff, Mr Kanego Makgosi, International Office, UFS and Pulane Xaba, Project Administrator were in attendance.

The joint seminar fostered skills which reinforced both academic leadership and research capacity development. The scholars were from diverse backgrounds, such as Sociology, Humanities, Education, Geography, Computer Science and Economic Management Sciences, while the facilitators were drawn from disciplines like Public Management, Zoology, Geography, Wildlife Sciences and Social Sciences. The themes that were covered include: Teamwork and Team Building, led by Prof Jesse Lutabingwa, Associate Vice-Chancellor, AppState; Participatory social science methods: Insights for data collection and analysis for working with communities led by Dr Natasha Constant, Research fellow, UNIVEN; Statistics for dummies and data analysis for natural scientists which was presented by Prof Peter Taylor; Thesis writing led by Dr Bill Schuman, Director Appalachian study, AppState; Publishing from a thesis led by Prof Del Benson, CSU; Publishing in high Impact journals led by Prof Kyran Kunkel, UM and Community engagement research methods led by Prof Joseph Francis, Director Institute for Rural Development, UNIVEN.

USDP scholars presented their research proposal. The indoor part of the seminar was concluded with an open discussion in which the facilitators and USDP scholars collectively addressed questions, as well as shared their fears, progress and experiences. The scholars will proceed to US partners Universities in September 2019 for one month where they will participate in different workshops and seminars to improve their learning experience. A guided tour conducted by Mr Nelson Maphaha, from the African Ivory Route was undertaken to the Fundudzi sacred forest around Nzhelele.

Some of the participants at the seminar

The USDP is fortunate to receive support from world class researchers and scientists from both South Africa and the United States. Subject to the availability of funding, it might be necessary to run similar seminars throughout the entire duration of the project. Also, if financial resources permitted, the seminars could be lengthened so that both facilitators and scholars are accorded enough time to interact and to apply the knowledge that is transmitted through the seminars.

Delegates during their Venda cultural tour at Lake Fundudzi and the Thathe sacred forest

Issued by:
Department of Communications & Marketing
University of Venda
Tel: (015) 962 8525
Date: 24 April 2019

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