Stellenbosch University
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Students to engage with global peers about socially responsive universities
Author: Matie Community Service
Published: 05/03/2021

​On 11 March 2021, Stellenbosch University (SU) students will be able to virtually join their peers on the African continent and abroad to talk about the role that socially responsive universities play in society. The student Social Impact Colloquium will be hosted online by Matie Community Service (popularly referred to by its Afrikaans abbreviation, MGD), housed within the Division for Social Impact and supported by Student Structures and Communities.

This year's colloquium will replace MGD's in-person Social Impact Community Morning, which provides students with an opportunity to learn more about how to participate in social impact projects within the surrounding communities.

The colloquium, which takes place between 09:30 and 11:00, will focus on Engaging with Social Impact across the Globe: The role of the university in enabling student-driven social impact. Students and staff can secure a spot by booking here.

Students will have the opportunity to unpack what it means to be a socially responsive institution,  and how that impacts student volunteerism and the social impact initiatives students pursue.

“The colloquium provides us with an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the role of socially responsive universities within a global context, and to discuss what that means for Stellenbosch University based on its Vision 2040 and Strategic Framework 2019-2024, as well as for other universities who will participate in the event," says Ms Reneé Hector Kannemeyer, Head of MGD and the Deputy Director of the Division for Social Impact.

According to Hector-Kannemeyer, participants will share their experiences and knowledge of implementing student-driven social responsiveness within their respective institutions and the different ways in which their institutions have aligned their objectives to focus on the public good.

“The core purpose of a university is the production of knowledge to the benefit of society, therefore the key question will focus on how we are preparing the leaders that come through our universities to be change agents and to make a positive impact on society," adds Hector- Kannemeyer

Panellists from SU, Ngee Ann Polytechnic in Singapore, Rhodes University, the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and the University of Zimbabwe will start the discussion on 11 March by sharing a mini-documentary video showcasing their universities' student-driven social impact initiatives. The panellists include Ms Lana Franks, Student Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme Lead at the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of the Western Cape; Ms Anna Talbot, Coordinator of Student Volunteerism at Rhodes University; Ms Thandi Matyobeni, Programme Coordinator of the Rhodes Centre for Social Innovation; Ms Claire McCann, a Mandela Rhodes bursary recipient that is currently completing a Masters in Economics; Mr Hon Maode, Deputy Head of the Office of Service Learning at Ngee Ann Polytechnic; Ms Wamahlubi Ngoma, SRC Vice Chairperson 2019/2020; Mr Phil Mlanda, Co-founder and Programme Manager of the paNhari Programme at the University of Zimbabwe; and Mr Munashe Nyamukondiwa: Student and Project Coordinator of the paNhari Programme at the University of Zimbabwe.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic (first place) and the University of Zimbabwe (second place) were awarded the 2020 MacJannet prize by the Talloires Network of Engaged Universities for their groundbreaking work to respectively integrate service learning within their core curriculum and to empower university students to become “civically engaged citizens through social entrepreneurship and using innovation and business principles to improve the world".

A recent example of how socially responsive universities can impact society was brought about by the global spread of the Covid-19 virus. Various universities across the world used their collective expertise, science, and research to find solutions to a range of challenges brought about by the pandemic. This involved assisting with understanding, amongst others, the pathophysiology of the Covid-19 virus to creating less invasive ventilators. But Covid-19 is not the only pandemic, says Hector-Kannemeyer, and universities now need to respond accordingly to issues raised at the Global Summit for Socially Responsive Universities held earlier this year.

Global issues identified at the summit included the growing inequality between and within nations; violent poverty in many parts of the world, global warming, unbridled consumption, and a broken human-earth nexus; the degradation of an ethical society; an escalation of political violence, constructions of “the other", and massive migrations; new technology and rapid changes in the world of work; and public health challenges, among others.

“Stellenbosch University's vision is to be Africa's leading research-intensive university, to be globally recognised as excellent, inclusive and innovative, and to advance knowledge in service of society, which are aligned to the focus of the Global summit, that of being a socially responsive university.

Some of the questions to be addressed during the colloquium will therefore focus on:

  • ​​what universities have done to move beyond knowledge acquisition in order to address social needs.
  • what innovative ideas universities have implemented to continue their social impact endeavours amidst the pandemic; and
  • how to create sustainable hope in Africa by creating conditions that will enable each student to acquire the attributes and skills they will need to contribute to society after graduation.

During the event, students will also learn about methodologies such as design thinking, which they can use in conceptualising and implementing their social impact projects virtually, and engage in a problem-solving activity based on a problem submitted from an SU residence community.

The programme for the day is as follows:

Official Opening:  Mr Xola Njengele, SRC Chairperson at Stellenbosch University

Musical Trio performance: NewVoice Sextet

Framing of Colloquium: Ms Reneé Hector-Kannemeyer, Head of MGD and Deputy Director of the Division for Social Impact

Moderator of conversation: Ms Reneé Hector-Kannemeyer, Head of MGD and Deputy Director of the Division for Social Impact

Individual mini-documentary videos: Stellenbosch University, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, and the University of Zimbabwe, Rhodes University and the University of the Western Cape

Closing Remarks: Prof Ronelle Carolissen, MGD Governing Board Chair and Professor of Community  Psychology in the Educational Psychology Department at Stellenbosch University

Musical Trio performance:  NewVoice Sextet

For more information, please liaise with Ms Michelle Pietersen at MGD at