Not even the rain could dampen the spirit of hope and exuberance among the 213 Stellenbosch University first-year students welcomed into the Dell Young Leaders programme at a recent launch event. This is the largest cohort of students onboarded into the programme at the university to date.
The Dell Young Leaders programme – funded by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation – is designed to empower university students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend university, to achieve their goal of reaching graduation and starting a meaningful career. The programme includes personalised advice and resources for students’ academic, financial, wellness and career wellbeing.
The 2023 cohort of Dell Leaders students at SU were selected from six of its faculties: AgriSciences; Economic and Management Sciences; Education; Engineering; Medicine and Health Sciences; and Science.
Linke Bredenkamp, a Nursing and Midwifery student, said being selected as a Dell Young Leaders student is a life-changing moment for her.
"Last year my parents told me that if I do not get a bursary, they would not be able to fund my studies. Now, I am able to pursue my dream of helping people in need. The beautiful thing about nursing is that you are there for people during the most important and difficult times in their lives, such as births, deaths and illness. For me that is the most important part of this job because it means so much for people to have someone there who really cares. Sure, knowing your work is important but just being there for someone is the most important and satisfying thing for me. Thanks to this scholarship I will be able to do just that."
Civil Engineering student Alie-Saadique Saban said he is thankful for the financial assistance the scholarship will provide.
"It’ll help me to become more independent and to not rely on my parents who also have to financially support my younger brother. Now I do not have to constantly worry about money and can solely focus on my studies."
Key stakeholders from SU, including faculty Deans and members of the rectorate, as well as representatives and leadership from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation in South Africa, India and the United States also attended the event.
In his keynote address, Prof Deresh Ramjugernath, SU Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Learning and Teaching, said: “The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation is doing a phenomenal job in partnering with our higher education institutions to drive what is the most important thing for any university – students’ success. We are very proud to be associated with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.”
He reminded the 2023 cohort that being a Dell Young Leaders student not only affords you a financial award, but is also “a vote of confidence in your abilities and your potential to make a difference in the future”.
Ramjugernath also revealed that the Dell Young Leaders programme will henceforth be driven by the Responsibility Centre for Teaching and Learning at SU “to give student success the highest priority within our institution”. The programme was previously based within the Registrar’s division.
The launch event also provided an opportunity to reinforce the strong partnership between the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and SU. Since the launch of the SU partnership, as well as the onboarding of the 2023 cohort of 213 students, a total number of 662 scholarships have been awarded to Matie students. This means the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation is on track to meet its target of supporting 1 000 Maties students by 2025.
Helen Vaughan, Programme Director in South Africa at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, said the programme aims to make a difference in the lives of students by providing the necessary support to ensure they reach their goal of graduating from university.
“Since the inception of the programme 13 years ago, we have witnessed students reaching their dreams, transitioning into meaningful employment, and making a lasting impact not only in their own lives, but the lives of their families and communities.”
Of the over 2 000 scholarships awarded to date across partner universities, the programme has been able to maintain a 97% persistence rate – this directly translates to students reaching their goal of graduating. A further 98% of graduates have started a job or gone on to career-enhancing further study within three months after graduating.
“We are incredibly committed to making sure that we are building the right partnerships with corporate SA, government and non-profit organisations in the social sector to make sure we are placing Dell Young Leaders graduates into meaningful employment after graduating from SU,” said Vaughan.
SU is one of three partner universities, along with the University of Cape Town and the University of Pretoria, that have partnered with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation to facilitate the Dell Young Leaders programme.
Photo: The 2023 cohort of Dell Leaders students at SU. (Je’nine May Photography)