UWC Academic Awards 2017: Excellent staff and students honoured
“When we celebrate excellence and achievement we are making a firm statement about what we value as an institution, and we are saying we value excellence - because not to value excellence is to encourage mediocrity. We see a rise in the culture of mediocrity gripping our nation, and it is our role and our responsibility as an academic institution to fight against that rising tide of mediocrity.”
So said Professor Tyrone Pretorius, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape (UWC), speaking at the University’s inaugural Academic Achievers Awards in November 2017 - an occasion to acknowledge and reward the outstanding work of staff and students towards teaching, learning and community engagement.
An initiative of Professor Vivienne Lawack, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic, the ceremony saw the best first-year students, undergraduates, honours and master’s students from each faculty, together with staff members, honoured for their sterling work.
Among those staff members who were rewarded were Dr Karen Collett from the Education Faculty (Institutional Excellence Lecturer Award), Prof Moenieba Isaacs from PLAAS (Institutional Individual Engagement Award) and Prof Angeni Bheekie and team from the School of Pharmacy (Institutional Team Engagement Award).
Staff were also recognised in different faculties in the categories of Excellent Lecturer, Emerging Lecturer, Community Engagement Individual and Community Engagement Team.
For students (all in the 2016 academic year), Emily Dawson was the Best Overall First-Year, Gemma Froon the Best Final-Year Student, Tina Volkmann the Best Honours student, with Samuel Longford the Best Master’s by Coursework awardee, and Mbulelo Bali the Best Master’s by Dissertation winner.
Prof Lawack noted that the functions of learning, teaching and community engagement are often not recognised to the same extent as the research function - and universities are more than just places where knowledge is produced; they are also places where knowledge is shared and discussed, and used to help communities and improve society.
“Therefore it is important that our academic and support staff that excel in any of these functions are publicly recognised and suitably rewarded,” she said.
“Consequently, as part of UWC’s commitment to enhance the status of learning, teaching and community engagement, as well as the quality of our learning experiences provided to our students, a range of prestigious awards are conferred to recognise excellence in learning, teaching and community engagement for both staff and students.”
In this way, Prof Lawack explained, the UWC community could honour all the central academic functions that enable the actualisation of achieving the University’s mission, vision and values.
Prof Pretorius thanked Prof Lawack and her team for adding the event to the University calendar, and said that while it is in human nature to be concerned for the marginalised and those who are struggling, that must never be at the expense of celebrating excellence and achievement.
“High tide raises all boats,” he said. “If one of us achieves, all of us are motivated and inspired to do our best. So when we celebrate excellence tonight we are not only celebrate the individuals we are celebrating the fact that their excellence has given all of us a lift and/or inspiration.”