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Rector's Awards celebrate student excellence through adversity
Author: Sue Segar
Published: 14/10/2021

​​A total of 82 top Stellenbosch University (SU) students were recently honoured with Rector's Awards for excellence in academics, leadership, social impact, culture, sport and service provision.

The awards ceremony, which was hosted online, was aptly themed “Excellence through adversity – moving forward together", reflecting the challenges of the past year as the global pandemic continued to affect all sectors, including higher education. In his opening address, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Wim de Villiers paid tribute to SU's students, all academic and non-academic staff as well as student leadership structures for having shown “real resilience in the face of adversity".

“In 2020, we were scrambling to find our feet in the new virtual and hybrid learning spaces, but, in many ways, 2021 was even more challenging," Prof De Villiers said. “During the third wave of COVID-19 infections, the realisation that this pandemic won't be a thing of the past any time soon had the potential to become physically and mentally draining. You've constantly had to adapt and stay agile, a trait we truly value at SU, and one that will stand you in good stead in the future. In the process, we have also realised that sharing moments of joy is more important than ever before, even if this must happen virtually, because no man is an island."

Prof Deresh Ramjugernath, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Learning and Teaching, too commended students for having consistently maintained a high level of excellence through times of ongoing uncertainty and challenges. “Through unity and collaboration, we have achieved great success as an open, determined, understanding and curious community of learning. At the heart of our excellence is our togetherness in pursuit of knowledge and the discovery of new possibilities."

A total of 182 applications and nominations were received for the 2021 Rector's Awards, namely 61 for academics, 54 for leadership, 24 for social impact, eight for culture, eight for sport, and 27 for service provision. “We are exceptionally proud of our students' achievements and congratulate all our recipients tonight on their exceptional performance," Prof Ramjugernath said. “It is an indication of our resilience that SU students continued to excel in their endeavours, against the odds."

In her message, guest speaker Farai Mubaiwa, an SU alumna and former Students' Representative Council member, challenged students to “dare greatly" and to “step into their power". “I am where I am today because I have dared greatly," she said, echoing author and thought leader Brené Brown's book Daring Greatly. Having been named as one of the 100 Mandelas of the Future by Media24 in 2018, Mubaiwa now serves as chief partnership officer at the Youth Employment Service (YES), a business-led non-profit that works with government to incentivise job creation for the youth.

She said that while the high unemployment rates in South Africa and Africa, exacerbated by COVID-19, could paint a gloomy picture, they also provided an opportunity to achieve excellence through adversity. “What if I told you this is an opportunity to move forward together, an opportunity to dare greatly?" she asked students. “Over the past few years, I've asked myself the following questions: What do I need to do to contribute to a prosperous Africa, and how do I align my skills to achieve this? How do I become a great employer instead of just a great employee? How can I drive change through collaboration with others? And, lastly, how do I step into my power? In asking myself these questions, I've been pushed to dare greatly."

Recalling how, as an Accounting graduate, she “couldn't wait to work for a top company", she said: “Strangely, nobody ever spoke about wanting to establish their own accounting firms to rival top companies. Entrepreneurship allows you to examine the needs of your community, develop a product or service that can fulfil those needs, create employment and, most importantly, run sustainable businesses. In the African context, though, we don't just need entrepreneurs; we need social entrepreneurs who address socioeconomic challenges sustainably. After all, research shows us that small, medium and micro-sized enterprises are drivers of job creation and economic growth."

In encouraging students to step into their power, Mubaiwa said: “I'm 26; I'm black; I'm a woman, and I'm the product of a South African mom and a Zimbabwean father. That is not an easy identity to carry. Yet I sit on the executive of one of South Africa's largest youth employment and empowerment organisations, am co-founder of an incredible youth-led African organisation, and have a master's degree from one of the world's best universities. I was able to accomplish all of this because I've stepped into my power.

“May we dare greatly," she concluded. “May we play our part in bettering our country and our continent. May we achieve excellence through adversity and move forward together."

The following students received awards:

Academics (comprising the Rector's Award for Excellent Achievement and te SU medal for top master's student, by faculty)


  • Kim Teresa Mannix
  • Cecile Bester
  • Hendrik Stephanus Pretorius

Top master's student

  • Alicia Petrus

Arts and Social Sciences

  • Zainab Khafif
  • Estelle Kemp
  • Joy Sparg
  • Kirsten Pienaar
  • Akira Coetzee
  • Tamlyn February
  • Josie McClure
  • Lara van Heerden

Top master's student

  • Kylie Kuhl

Economic and Management Sciences

  • Lauren Tsafandakis
  • Philip Ferreira
  • Brandon Dinwoodie
  • Jeanne van den Heever
  • Micaela Giltrow
  • Ilne du Toit
  • Marné Olivier
  • Matthys Carstens
  • Melissa Oellerman
  • Haamidah Mowzer
  • Joshua Putterill
  • Kilian Boshoff

 Top master's student

  • Alexander Charles O'Riordan


  • Casey Wallace
  • Leila Laubscher
  • Tyla Jansen

Top master's student

  • Charine de Ridder


  • Matthew Brandon Baas
  • Zander Snel
  • Alex Gituanja Muthua
  • Bianca Jordan van Zyl
  • Francois du Plessis
  • Kevin Michael Eloff

Top master's student

  • Aletta Susanna Elizabeth Nortje


  • Carma Botha
  • Olivia Bernstein

Top master's student

  • Ernst Heydenrych

Medicine and Health Sciences

  • Allison Jane Arendse
  • Danyca Shadé Breedt
  • Wilrie Koorts
  • Brittany Smith
  • Rochelle van Dyk
  • Blessing Ntokozo Ndlovu

Top master's student

  • Danelle Botha

Military Science

Top master's student

  • Pelonomi Clementine Letebele


  • Eugene Fouche
  • Caleb Zeeman
  • Kristen Robinson
  • Devon Crowther
  • Samantha Parle

Top master's student

  • Mpendulo Cele


  • Karla Smit

Top master's student

  • Elmarie van Huyssteen


  • Lwazi Madi
  • Cameron Laurenson
  • Hannah Calvert
  • Daniel Barrish
  • Kerwin Noemdo
  • Johanna Pretorius
  • Dyan Buis
  • Charl du Toit


  • Willem Sterrenberg Horn

Social impact

  • Thembalethu Seyisi​

Service provision

  • Abdul Mutakabir-Aziz
  • Azhar Adam Nadkar
  • Francesca Visage
  • Viwe Kobokana


  • Kira Alberts
  • Kristin Arends
  • Xola Njengele
  • Jessica Davies
  • Philip Visage
  • Rewaldo Carolus
  • George van Dyk
  • Lance Davids
  • Grace Mngadi
  • Monwabisi Petersen
  • Chelsea Jones
  • Jarryd Luyt