Success for Next Generation Professoriate

03 March 2017 | Story Helen Swingler.

Four candidates from the Next Generation Professoriate (NGP) have been promoted to professor or associate professor level in the most recent round of ad hominem promotions.

They are: professors Virna Leaner (Division of Biochemistry and Structural Biology) and Jennifer Moodley (Department of Public Health and Family Medicine) and associate professors Manya Mooya (Department of Construction Economics and Management) and Tolu Oni (School of Public Health and Family Medicine).

The NGP programme is led by director Dr Robert Morrell (Office of the Vice-Chancellor) and was launched in 2015 to expand and accelerate transformation of the professoriate. The present cohort of 40 members represents the six academic faculties as well as the Centre for Higher Education Development.

The issue of a demographically transformed academic staff complement has been at the centre of transformation and decolonisation debates at the university for some years, and particularly during the past two years of student-driven protest.

As such, the NGP is a welcome initiative that is advancing the development of mid-career academics, particularly black and female staff. (The NGP is part of the Recruitment, Development and Retention Programme, which provides targeted support to the candidates.)

Success for Next Generation ProfessoriateProf Virna Leaner. Photo Supplied.

Shared learning and ideas

Professor Virna Leaner is a biomedical researcher in the Division of Medical Biochemistry. She obtained her PhD in medical biochemistry at UCT, after which she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, in the US. She returned to UCT in 2004.

Success for Next Generation ProfessoriateProf Jennifer Moodley. Photo Supplied.

A public health medicine physician with expertise in health systems research, epidemiology and public policy development, Professor Jennifer Moodley completed her undergraduate medical degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and her master's and PhD at UCT. She is the director of cancer research in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Success for Next Generation ProfessoriateAssoc Prof Manya Mooya. Photo Michael Hammond.

Associate Professor Mooya's expertise is in property studies, which he teaches in the Department of Construction Economics and Management. He holds a PhD in real estate from the University of Pretoria. His research work focuses on how value is created in real estate markets and on the links between these markets and capital accumulation, especially for the urban poor.

Of his participation on the NGP programme Mooya said, “I feel privileged to be part of this group of exceptional individuals, and to make my contribution, however modest, to the transformation agenda of the university.”

Success for Next Generation ProfessoriateAssoc Prof Tolu Oni Photo Michael Hammond.

Associate Professor Tolu Oni is a public health physician specialist and epidemiologist. She completed her medical training at University College London Medical School in the UK, her postgraduate clinical training in internal medicine in the UK and Australia, and her PhD in HIV/TB clinical epidemiology at Imperial College London. Her research area focuses on the urbanisation and changing patterns of disease, and the overlap between infectious and non-communicable diseases.

Oni said that the NGP programme had helped her to connect with other academics across the faculties, which promoted shared learning and an exchange of ideas about challenges and “enablers” in their careers, irrespective of their disciplines.

She added, “The writing retreats that I've had access to through the programme have provided the dedicated writing time required to achieve academic goals, allowing me time to complete and submit academic papers. In addition, the support and guidance received from the programme director has been a great help, particularly during the National Research Foundation rating and ad hominem application processes.”

Big year expected

In a recent NGP communique, Morrell said, “Since the goal of the NGP is to support staff to reach the pinnacle of the academic hierarchy, Jennifer and Virna have left the cohort but will not be lost to us as they both promise to stay connected.”

Though the four recently promoted academics represent a small proportion of the programme, Morrell believes 2017 will be a “big year” as they expect 16 applications for ad hominem promotion.

“It takes time to grow excellence and the NGP is trying to build skills, confidence and excellence and this is just a taste of what is to come once these capacities are fully in place in NGP members.”

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