UWC’s Autumn Graduation 2017: Celebrating Excellence, Producing Responsible Citizens, Fulfilling Dreams
“At UWC we strive for academic excellence - but ours is not excellence without a soul. We are a university playing a critical role in the transformation agenda of this country, and we share the view that education is the only way through which society can prosper.”
So said Prof Tyrone Pretorius, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape, addressing the graduating class of 2017 in his speech at the closing ceremony of the University’s Autumn Graduation.
Prof Pretorius said he was proud to be able to join the graduating students for such a joyous occasion. “This is a day to celebrate - as we have done for the past two weeks - the triumph of education and determination over adversity.”
During this graduation season from 5 to 13 April 2017, UWC celebrated more than 4 200 graduates in 7 Faculties – including 50 Doctoral Degrees, 203 Masters degrees, 630 Honours Degrees, 2636 undergraduate degrees, and more than 700 diplomas and certificates.
Celebrating Excellence, Sharing Stories
“Graduations are very special and significant occasions in the annual cycle of universities,” noted Prof Pretorius. “For us, as an institution, these ceremonies, more than any other occasion, represent the most visible evidence of our successes and achievements.”
Just a few of those celebrated achievements:
- In August 2016, UWC was ranked number 1 in South Africa and Africa in physical science research and publications.
- In June last year, Dr Imogen Wright and a team of UWC bioinformaticists were runners-up for the Innovation Prize for Africa for their Exatype software program which enables health-workers to determine HIV+ patients’ responsiveness to ARV drug treatment.
- Last year, we also became the first African university to run an experiment at the European Centre for Nuclear Research - the Holy Grail for physical science.
- The number of academics that have received National Research Foundation ratings has grown from less than 100 in 2013 to 124 in 2016, and six UWC academics joined the Academy of Science in South Africa last year alone.
- In 2016, Times Higher Education ranked UWC 102 among all the universities in 50 countries in the BRICS & Emerging Economies.
“But it’s not the mere numbers, the statistics that make this an august occasion,” Prof Pretorius said. “It is the life stories of the graduating students that makes us proud. Everyone here graduating has a little story to tell about how they managed to realize their dreams - and I would bet that a common thread among such stories will be one of perseverance, dedication and hard work.”
Some of those success stories this time around:
- Melissa Titus: In Grade 4, Melissa was diagnosed with dyslexia: she read completely back-to-front. But with hard work and dedication - and encouragement from friends and family - she graduated summa cum laude in UWC’s Autumn Graduation.
- Sinazo Bali: UWC’s first black African female to obtain an Honours degree cum laude from UWC’s Department of Biotechnology, Sinazo performed groundbreaking work on the drought-resistant Chia plant.
- Keaton Harris: BPharm Honours graduate Keaton Harris is celebrating a very special achievement this Autumn Graduation: 24 distinctions across his studies toward his degree, and successfully pursuing his dreams despite tough challenges.
UWC also honoured Father Alan Michael Lapsley, conferring on him an Honorary Doctorate for his social justice activism and unfailing moral leadership.
Education with purpose, and making a better world
“The purpose of education is to free the minds and ennoble the soul. It is to free our youth from the presumptions and prejudices with which they were raised, freed by the power of ideas to pursue their own path in life.”
That, Prof Pretorius explained, was one of the things a UWC education was designed to produce - and that the new graduands would no doubt come to reveal as they went out into the world.
“Your graduation is the culmination of many years of hard work and sacrifice,” Prof Pretorius said. “Cherish the moment and celebrate your achievements - and continue to make us proud as you design the next chapter of your life.”
“Here at UWC we educate people with a conscience, who will use their knowledge and expertise to the benefit of their communities,” he continued. “So go out there and hoist the UWC flag. Follow in the footsteps of the many great leaders, entrepreneurs, public servants, community activists and public intellectuals that this University has produced.