NWU celebrates its exponents of excellence

The North-West University (NWU) celebrated its torchbearers of excellence ― one of the university’s core values ― during the university’s Excellence Awards for 2021/2022.

The prestigious awards ceremony took place on 24 November at Snowflake in Potchefstroom.

During the event, the NWU honoured the best-of-the-best academics across the three legs of the university’s core business: teaching and learning, research and innovation, and community engagement.

Prof Bismark Tyobeka, principal and vice-chancellor of the NWU, said giving recognition is critical in nurturing the excellence of, motivating and retaining committed staff.

“We recognise that nominees and recipients of Excellence Awards are role models to their mentees. Rewarding mentors is a way of reciprocating and paying tribute to their exceptional performance and to keep motivating their protégés to strive for excellence.”

NWU produces Teaching Excellence champions

Prof Tyobeka emphasised that teaching and learning have gradually become digital education, but yet more quickly than anticipated. “There is an increased need for technology integration to ensure increased efficiencies amid scarce or limited resources.” He said staff support needs to shift gear to the creation of more automated self-help capabilities, with a core of higher-level instructional and technology integration support offered within faculties by academics in partnership with structures such as the Centre for Teaching and Learning.

Leading university teachers received recognition in six different award categories:

Dr Claudine Roos of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences was honoured with the University Teaching Excellence Award (UTEA).  Dr Roos, from the School of Geography and Environmental Studies, shared her expertise in waste management, environmental auditing, environmental management systems and integrated water resource management.

The Innovation in Teaching and Learning Award went to Michelle Groenewald from the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, while Hanlie Steyn from the Faculty of Health Sciences received the Teaching with Information and Communication Technology Award.

Gordon Sekano (Faculty of Education) and Dr Monray Edward Williams (Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences) received the Novice Teacher Award. Dr Williams was also acknowledged for having the best portfolio entered for the Novice Teacher Award.

The 53 recipients of the Faculty Teaching Awards were announced earlier this month. They were recognised for this achievement in the sixth award category during the event (Click here to see the full list.) 

Researchers and innovators recognised for excellence

The NWU prides itself on its impactful research. Prof Tyobeka said the NWU is doing well in terms of research and innovation and that the institution will do even better. “As articulated in the Institutional Strategic Plan, the NWU’s goal is to strengthen research and innovation, with a strategic focus on internationalisation.” He said the NWU is pleased with the growing numbers of NRF-rated researchers. “Currently we have over 300 NRF-rated researchers, and of these, 35 are B-rated. Our Research and Innovation portfolio has developed a five-year strategic investment to grow and nurture NRF A-rated researchers from the pool of B-rated researchers. We hope this intervention will enhance our performance in this area.”

This year’s Research and Innovation Excellence Awards recipients are:

Prof Olubukola Babalola of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences took home the coveted title of Most Productive Senior Researcher, while Prof Sune Ferreira-Schenk from the same faculty was named Most Productive Junior Researcher.

Prof Christa Rautenbach of the Faculty of Law and Prof Lesley Wood from the Faculty of Education were given recognition for their national and international memberships.

Prof Leenta Grobler from the Business School and Dr Henri Marais of the Engineering Faculty received the Top Inventor Award.

Prof Dmitri Bessarabov of the Engineering Faculty walked away with the Innovation Impact Award.

This year’s recipients of the Vice-Chancellor’s Medal are Onkarabile Osiele of the Faculty of Law, Marie Smit of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, and Megan Heath of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences.

The S2A3 bronze medal for original research at master’s-degree level was awarded to Walter Heymans of the Engineering Faculty.

Forty-eight researchers were celebrated for receiving and upgrading their National Research Foundation (NRF) ratings. (Click here to see the full list.) 

Community engagement is part of NWU’s DNA

“A university does not exist in isolation from society, nor from the communities in which it is located. We believe that we must be an institution that is firmly rooted and anchored in communities. It is for this reason that we have identified community engagement as one of the pillars that can assist us to interact effectively with communities.”

Prof Tyobeka said the NWU is a vibrant and dynamic force in its societies, incorporating civic engagement and community service into the university’s research and teaching programmes.

Staff received recognition in four categories for their excellent contributions to the NWU’s community engagement.

Though there is a distinction between established and novice academics, this year’s recipient of the novice award outperformed established applicants.

Nisa Ayob from the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences received the Sharing of Expertise Award for the Fundalula App. The app aims to help secondary schools with their progress with GIS.

Dr Johan Jordaan from the NWU Business School and Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences received the Engaged Teaching and Learning Award as established academic in the category for Service-Learning. Since 2012, Dr Jordaan has introduced the concept of service-learning projects into his MBA Operations Module. Between 2013 and 2022 more than 100 non-profit organisations benefitted from these projects.

Prof Stuart Piketh and a team of 15 members collaborated across two faculties ― the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and the Faculty of Engineering. They received the Engaged Research and Innovation Award for their innovation in improving the quality of life of low-income communities by reducing household air pollution using low-emission, semi-continuous coal stoves.

The NRF SARChI Chair in Cities, Law and Environmental Sustainability (CLES) of the Faculty of Law received the Scholarship of Engagement Award. This award recognises collaboration between academics and individuals outside academia. CLES is the first research chair in the history of the NWU Faculty of Law. It consists of a group of 12 postgraduate researchers at master’s-degree and PhD level, as well as postdoctoral fellows who work under the supervision of the chairholder, Prof Anél du Plessis.

Prof Tyobeka extended his gratitude to all the recipients for their outstanding work and contributions. “Amidst all the challenges that we have experienced in the past few years, your level  of commitment and resilience is commendable.”

To watch the full event, click here. A shorter extract is available here.

Submitted on Fri, 11/25/2022 - 09:18