It has been a year since Prof Reggie Nel has become the dean of the Faculty of Theology (FT) at Stellenbosch University. What are the highlights of his first year as dean and what challenges would 2019 hold?
“The biggest highlight of 2018 was certainly the success of our students. It gives me goosebumps to see how students succeed. It is an absolute highlight for me to celebrate with the students during the graduation ceremonies. The students give me energy and when their hard work leads to success, it is an integral part of what we aim for in the faculty throughout the year. It is in particular special when students from the extended degree programme excel during the year. It is then that I feel there are good things coming from the faculty," said Prof Nel.
Prof Nel said it is heart-warming to see the development of the students and how they find their voice in the faculty. It feels as though the FT achieves something when students' voices are heard, their talents are recognised and they can flourish, he said.
Another highlight is when the staff of the FT feel at home in the faculty. This applies to new staff members, but also the support staff in the faculty. Prof. Nel told with much appreciation how special it is when new staff become part of the faculty. He specifically mentioned the support staff: “For the first time this year, our support staff were part of the strategic planning processes in the faculty. They are increasingly seeing that the way they provide support directly contributes to the faculty's success," he said.
The biggest challenge Prof Nel foresees for 2019 is transformation in the faculty. “Next year is the 160th anniversary of theological training in South Africa. We are linked to our African identity by an umbilical cord. We are not coming to Africa and Africa does not come to us; we are Africa." According to him, the challenge lies in unlocking the possibilities of Africa as a continent. “The transformation process will create some tension, but will put the FT on a new path of growth – growth that causes profound change. Change is complex. It involves not only structural change, but also how our hearts are changed, how we change the culture and, of course, how the public sees the faculty. What message does the FT communicate?"