Coetzenburg's Danie Craven stadium was filled with a joyous buzz as first-year students and their families attended Stellenbosch University's (SU) annual official welcoming ceremony on Thursday, 2 February 2023.
The newcomers formed a maroon wave in the packed stadium as they showed the class of 2023 is already inspired and motivated to take on the challenges of varsity life.
Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Wim de Villiers shared the excitement of the students, saying after the Covid-19 protocols of the past years it's a joy to address a stadium full of people. “This year we're back in full force," De Villiers exclaimed to thunderous applause.
This year, new staff who started from February 2022 onwards, first-time Matie postgraduate students and postdoctoral students also attended the welcoming ceremony.
Addressing the new cohort of Maties, De Villiers highlighted the values of the University – excellence, compassion, accountability, respect and equity, and encouraged students to use these values as a compass during their time at university.
He also spoke about the University's goal to be an inclusive space where human rights are prioritised and where people of all backgrounds are welcome. “The idea that Stellenbosch University is a place for a certain group of people is long gone. This place is yours," De Villiers said.
De Villiers congratulated students on being accepted to study at SU in a year the University received a record number of applications. “You made the cut. So be proud! Give yourself a pat on the back, you've earned it."
But he reminded the newcomers to also stay humble and focused. “You all have specific skills and talents that you bring to the table, and we're eager to see what your contribution will be. We'll be there for you all the way, but it's up to you to make your dreams come true," he said.
Students were also reminded that they are not “attending university alone".
“We have an extensive network to support you – from the student leaders and mentors in your residence and in your clusters, to the lecturers and other staff in your faculty and the administrative units of the University, including our dedicated Division of Student Affairs," he said.
The new cohort of Maties was also encouraged to make time for extracurricular activities. “Join interesting societies; explore the countryside; make friends that will broaden your horizons; choose a student experience that will transform you. It's all there for the taking."
You belong here
SRC chairperson Masilo Silokazi welcomed the newcomers with inspirational words focused on the importance of inclusivity and diversity on campus.
Silokazi explained how she has since worked towards creating positive change so that every student feels like they belong. “A feeling of belonging only comes with the knowledge that despite being black, queer and a woman – my blood runs maroon because I am a Matie, and I am proud to be a Matie. And that pride can only come with the certainty and confidence that I belong here, that we all belong here," Silokazi said.
She led the first years in taking a pledge towards empowering themselves and their fellow students and holding each other to high standards of inclusivity, fairness and equality.
During the welcoming ceremony, the newcomer students were also introduced to the SU Rectorate, members of senior management, the SRC, the Tygerberg Student Representative Council, the Military Academy Student Council, the Academic Affairs Council, the Societies Council Executive Committee, cluster convenors and the Prim Committees
- Newcomers will commence with classes on 13 February, which will also mark the official start of the University's 2023 academic year.
*Image: Stefan Els