The three-day Welcoming, which was held in February, provides an opportunity for honours and master's students, PhD candidates and postdoctoral fellows to connect with the university community, explore the campus and its facilities, and engage in local outreach activities.
.Net Coordinator (pronounced dot net), Tendani Tshauambea, explained that the Institutional Seniors Welcoming was a collaborative effort between various support structures including the Centre for Student Communities (CSC), the Postdoctoral Office, Development and Alumni Relations, the Corporate Communications and Marketing Division, as well as the Postgraduate Office.
“To ensure the welcoming and integration of postgraduate students, an Institutional Seniors Welcoming, led by various postgraduate communities and structures was held. This Welcoming is the first time that Stellenbosch University has officially welcomed postgraduate students to the Matie community and should improve integration and ensure that postgraduate students feel welcome," Tshauambea said.
The three-day programme began with a “Registration and Sign-up" session where the students were given an overview of the .Net communities, which were created to cater for the specific needs of senior and postgraduate students. Afterwards, the students moved to the Coetzenburg Stadium for the Rector's Welcoming speech, the 2023 university welcoming aerial photo and the Dream Launch. A reception was held for the students at Die Stal – the Alumni Relations' clubhouse – whereafter they took part in the Dream Walk and Dream Fair. This is the first year that the university held a Dream Fair on the Rooiplein.
Following the Dream Launch, the students participated in the Dream Walk, where they were encouraged to write down their dreams and aspirations on a welcoming card that was placed in trees lining Victoria Street. The students walked from the top of Victoria Street to the Rooiplein to symbolise the beginning of their journeys as postgraduate students and the aspirations and dreams they have for their student life. The Dream Walk symbolises the start of their journey at university and set the tone for the rest of the Welcoming, while creating a sense of excitement and optimism among the attendees, all of which ended the walk by exiting under a banner that read "Your dream starts here".
“This walk was designed to inspire the postgraduates to embrace their aspirations and to recognize the potential of their time at Stellenbosch University," added Tshauambea.
During Welcoming students were also taken on a campus tour, which is “particularly important for new arrival and international postgraduates, who have never been to Stellenbosch University before". The campus tour provided them with an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the university and to gain a better understanding of the institution's facilities, support services and other resources available to senior students. The tour was led by the .Net student leaders who provided insights into campus life and answered questions about the university.
“Welcoming was nothing I expected it to be. People showed up, they participated, they genuinely enjoyed it and they interacted. Everything we wanted. I hope we can keep the students engaged throughout the year because we have already seen that they are keen to be part of it," said Tavonga Chirikure, one of the .Net student leaders who assisted with the Welcoming.
Other activities during the Welcoming included participating in a social impact initiative to foster a sense of social responsibility and community involvement among the postgraduates. The outreach took the postgraduates to a local beach where they participated in a clean-up and conversation about societal pride in our public spaces.
The final event of the welcoming ceremony was a soirée held at Die Stal where postgraduate students could interact and experience some of the local culture and sample some of the renowned wines of the Stellenbosch region.
Mpho Maboee, a final year Engineering student shared: “In the past five years I have been here, I can confidently say that Stellenbosch University is intentional about creating a transformative student experience. This was evident in the Seniors Welcoming. I am once again excited about being a Matie and embracing the new culture of SU."
Tshauambea emphasised the importance of the event in creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for the postgraduates.
"We believe that Seniors Welcoming is essential in setting the tone for the postgraduates' time at Stellenbosch University. We want them to feel supported, engaged, and excited about their academic journey here. By providing them with opportunities to connect with their peers, integrate into the university ecosystem and participate in local outreach programs, we are encouraging them to become active and engaged members of the community."
“The first Seniors Welcoming has set a high standard for future events and is a display of the university's commitment to ensuring that all postgraduates feel welcomed and supported throughout their time at the university.