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Jean Durand receives faculty's highest accolade
Author: Daniel Bugan
Published: 15/06/2023

Jean Durand set in motion a family tradition when he was recently announced the 2022 winner of the coveted CGW Schumann Medal for best postgraduate student in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences. 

The Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science graduate completed his BCom Honours in Mathematical Statistics, with the focal area Data Science, with a weighted average of 90%. He completed a BSc in Mathematical Sciences, with Computer Science and Mathematical Statistics as his majors, for his undergraduate studies. His weighted average for the programme was 93%.

Durand says the key to his success was consistently working hard, attending lectures and staying up to date with all his coursework.

It also helped that he has always had a passion for mathematics and knew that he wanted to study something related to mathematics.

“That is why I started with a BSc degree as it allowed me to explore different fields related to Mathematics. It was only at university that I discovered the fields of Mathematical Statistics and Computer Science."

The Schumann Medal is the latest in a string of accolades Durand has received for his academic efforts. This includes best first-year student in Applied Mathematic; best second-year student in mathematics and best third-year student in Mathematical Statistics. He also received the Rector's Award for Academic Excellence in 2022.

The Stellenbosch native, who is currently employed as a Data Scientist at Discovery in Sandton, says it is somewhat surreal to be awarded the Schumann medal.

“My mom, Ilanie, actually also received the medal 30 years ago. It is a great privilege to receive it now and for my achievements to be recognised in such a tangible way. As I have been away from Stellenbosch University for a while now, I have been able to reflect on my time there and appreciate everything even more."

He expressed his gratitude to the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science for believing in him and nominating him for the award. He also lauded the supporting environment in SU.

“I really enjoyed the academic environment at Stellenbosch. Even though our classes were disrupted because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the university adjusted really well and always gave us the best quality education possible. This really made it possible for the students to continue with their studies in a difficult time. My final year was definitely my favourite with lectures being in-person again.

“I also have very fond memories of my time at Eendrag Men's Residence. I enjoyed the different events and the support structure that we had there. I made life-long friends there."

Durand, who attended Paul Roos Gymnasium, also gave credit to his family and school for their part in his success.

“My family, especially my parents Jannie and Ilanie, played a huge part in my success. I am thankful for all the opportunities they gave me and without them all these achievements would not have been possible. I played tennis at a very competitive level for my school and I believe this environment also shaped me to become the driven and competitive person I am today."

Durand will be leaving his position at Discovery at the end of the year to pursue a MSc in Computing (Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence) at Imperial College London, a world top 10 research university in London.

The CGW Schumann Medal, named after Prof CGW Schumann, a pioneer lecturer in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences from 1924 and also Dean for a quarter of a century from 1935, has been awarded annually since 1986. The award is the highest student accolade currently offered by the faculty.