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23 June 2021
First-ever UWC student joins international University Impact programme
In the wake of a global pandemic and rising social and environmental challenges, it is no longer fashionable for companies to drive profits at the expense of the planet and its people. University faculties and centres such as the University of the Western Cape’s (UWC) Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) play a key role in preparing a new breed of professionals, social entrepreneurs and social impact investment leaders who will work towards re-imagining and building companies with a triple bottom line that holds in balance the Planet, People and Profits. 

University Impact (UI), a nonprofit impact investment fund based in Provo, Utah, United States of America, are playing a catalytic role in preparing university students around the world to become social impact investors and UWC has been onboarded to join this transformative programme.  Through her involvement with the US-Higher Education Network, Charleen Duncan, director of the CEI, created an opportunity for UWC students to apply to join the January 2021 UI Bootcamp. Thereafter, in May 2021, Siyamthanda Mabizela, the first UWC student to successfully complete the bootcamp, was hired by UI as an associate social impact investor who finds high impact social enterprises and organisations to invest in. 

“Our model has two main components: we want to provide capital to organisations that are solving the world’s toughest social and environmental problems and, secondly, we want to train students to be the next generation of impact investment leaders," said Catherine Torrington, UI South Africa coordinator. "This is where our bootcamp comes in - we run impact investing bootcamps twice a year (in December/January and June/July) for students around the world. I became involved in UI through participating in their June 2020 bootcamp. After the bootcamp, I was hired as an associate in October 2020."

The UI programme gives students valuable 21st century skills that increases their employability and work-readiness. With youth unemployment has high as 74.7% in South Africa (according to the expanded definition), students need to go beyond the pursuit of a good academic record to land their dream job and develop additional 21st century skills that companies are now looking for in graduates.

Mabizela adds: “Good grades are not enough, they only tell you about 40 percent of your story, the other 60 requires you to be creative about how you brand yourself as a job seeker. One way you can do so is to participate in this impact investing bootcamp. This is an eye-opening experience that exposes you to other interesting branches of investments. It is open to students in any field of study and you learn so much from this two-week intensive bootcamp. We get to network with other brilliant students and professionals from all over the world. I mean, I am currently working with Master's students from Yale, UCT, China, and other parts of the world."

This sentiment is further shared by Torrington, and she highlights why Mabizela is such a great fit to form part of the UI. She mentions three key factors that the UI looks at when selecting students for the bootcamp and ultimately work as an associate for the UI itself.
"Siyamthanda took part in our January 2021 bootcamp. At the end of the bootcamp, we shortlisted some of the students who performed really well during the bootcamp. Siyamthanda was one of them. We offered her a place on our team in June this year. Any student that is passionate about social change and wants to learn more about impact investing is a good fit. We are “major neutral” - students from all degree backgrounds can apply. We encourage students from all disciplines to apply, as we believe that the skills required to work in the impact investing space can be taught.

"Although we hire students from all disciplines, we prefer to train and hire students with a few years of studying ahead of them (i.e.: not final year students). The reason for this is that we want the students who work for us to be able to do so for a year or more, so they get the “full” UI experience and gain a year or more’s work experience. "Three things we look for include passion for social change (does the student have experience or show interest in community involvement or social issues), strong analytical skills (we test this through a simple case study question in our interview process) and finally does the student have a growth mindset."

Torrington confirmed that a further four UWC students will be part of the July 2021 UI Bootcamp intake, and she affirmed the valuable asset that Mabizela is to the UI processes and programme in its entirety. "Siyamthanda will be working on the due diligence team, which means she will be vetting new investment opportunities for UI, meeting with the leaders of organisations seeking funding, conducting due diligence and presenting her investment decisions to our Investment Committee."

Siyamthanda is completing her degree in investments and financial accounting as majors at UWC. “This opportunity amplifies my voice in empowering women with similar stories to mine. It communicates that if I can do it so can they. One last important lesson that this opportunity teaches someone like me is that it is never too late to rewrite your story and create the life you desire for yourself.” Mabizela has a strong passion for helping those who want to make the change in their communities, and through her work at the UI she hopes to bring out the change that will impact people’s lives long after she has left.

“Being the first UWC student to be appointed at UI puts pressure on me to shine my light so bright that the world thinks twice about overlooking UWC students again,” a proud Mabizela added. “I believe that a career in impact investing is the legacy I am called to leave in this world.”

To read more about the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI), who they are and what they do, read their annual publication 'Humans of the CEI' by clicking HERE.