Empowering first-year students with the right touch

The North-West University's (NWU’s) Mahikeng Campus recently launched Project First Touch to create a warm and welcoming environment for first-year students as they embark on their university journey.

The primary objective of the project – spearheaded by Prof Sonia Swanepoel, deputy vice-chancellor for community engagement and Mahikeng Campus operations – is to provide comfort and instil a sense of belonging in first-year students as they transition into university life.

The project places a strong emphasis on creating a supportive atmosphere, aiding students in settling into their accommodation, and addressing any initial concerns or anxieties.

Moreover, the initiative strives to ensure that students' first impressions are positive and memorable, contributing to a sense of community within the university.

Taking the lead, Prof Swanepoel is all about being hands-on. She personally welcomes first-year students upon their arrival at the campus entrance, sharing treats and engaging in casual, get-to-know-you conversations while offering golf cart rides to residences. Students are assisted with settling into their rooms and encouraged to share their stories during an evening session.

Various interactive sessions are also hosted to address concerns and expectations, and to provide valuable information on support services, academic resources, and extracurricular opportunities.

The initiative includes leadership workshops conducted by Prof Swanepoel to inspire students to take an active role in their academic and social communities, and to foster a sense of responsibility for the university's well-being.

Prof Sonia Swanepoel says it is important to establish an open-door policy between university management and students.

“This includes creating a platform for constructive dialogue, and encouraging students to approach management with concerns, suggestions and feedback,” she adds.

“Project First Touch aims to develop future student leaders by fostering a sense of responsibility through effective communication and collaboration. We encourage students to view themselves as integral contributors to the university community and want to empower them to proactively address challenges,” says Prof Swanepoel.

Lungisa Zulu and Cornelius Mavundla, parents of Zinhle Zulu, who resides in the Nelson Mandela residence, expressed their gratitude towards the NWU during their recent visit. "This marks our fourth visit to the NWU, and throughout our visits, we have consistently experienced kindness and helpfulness from Prof Swanepoel and university staff. We leave the campus content and thankful."


Prof Sonia Swanepoel (in the middle) welcomes Zinhle Zulu and her parents. NWU mascot, Eagi, and campus mascot, Mafika, are also there to lend a hand.

Submitted on Mon, 02/05/2024 - 14:28