“Matieland is a place where you can make your dreams come true … So dream big!"
With these words of encouragement, Stellenbosch University (SU) Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Wim de Villiers welcomed first-year students to the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) during the Dean's Welcoming Ceremony held at SU's Tygerberg Campus.
De Villiers, a physician himself who graduated from this very faculty in 1983, congratulated the newcomers on successfully completing a tumultuous high school career due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and being accepted into the various programmes offered by the FMHS. “Getting accepted to SU is a rare achievement," he told the students. “We had more than 80 000 applications for 5 600 spots – there are thousands of young people all over the country, and in fact the world, who are very envious of where you are sitting right now.
“As a university, our dream is to be a place where we advance knowledge in service of society, and you have a role to play in this dream of ours. We want to improve people's lives, and at the FMHS, you are in a unique position to accomplish this," De Villiers said.
Reiterating this sentiment, FMHS Dean, Prof Elmi Muller, said that becoming a health care professional is not something you do for yourself: “you are here because you want to work with people, and you want to make a difference in their lives."
Muller, who is also a well-known transplant surgeon, said that the world is a very different place to when she started her career in health care 30 years ago. “We are facing much more complex problems. Our population has grown drastically, our planet is in danger, pandemics are a reality, and our country is plagued by vast inequality," she warned. “But you have the potential to make a difference. You can help build a better society and impact on each other, our patients and our planet.
In her address to the new cohort of students, Ms Vanessa Annan, Chairperson of the Tygerberg Student Representative Council (TSRC) encouraged students to embrace the diversity of the campus community and immerse themselves in the new environment. “It is in this space where you will meet people of different beliefs, ideologies, experiences and backgrounds. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and embrace the opportunity for growth and transformation that is presented to you."
The new first-year students were also introduced to the leadership, programme coordinators, Equality Champions and members of the TSRC during the welcoming ceremony. The Undergraduate Commitment, which they will undertake once the programmes officially start, were read to the group in all 11 official languages and South African sign language.