Dear colleagues and students
Today I share with you the sad news of the retirement of our Executive Director: Research, Dr Marilet Sienaert.
In her time as executive director, Dr Sienaert has, among her lengthy list of achievements and contributions, led the Research Office, the Office of Research Integrity, the Directorate of Postgraduate Studies and Researcher Development, and the Postgraduate Centre and Funding Office. She has managed large, multi-year donor projects, published on higher education leadership and management, received and accepted several professional advisory support and broader research management community invitations, and served on at least 11 local and international committees, forums and communities of practice.
Since taking up the directorship in September 2000, her contribution to the research enterprise at UCT is undeniable. She has guided the university’s research through a constantly changing and disruptive South African and international research landscape.
Through her leadership, and despite shrinking funds, the research team has managed to grow UCT’s research grant funding. When she started, the National Research Foundation (NRF) was the only source of research funding available. At the end of 2005 UCT held a total of 297 grants with a value in excess of R51 million. In 2018, even in the context of the national research funding crisis, the grand total received from the NRF in new and continuing research grants was R354 million.
Excelling at locally relevant research that helps resolve global problems has been a core focus of Dr Sienaert’s with the belief that the function of a university is to grow the next generation of thought leaders, researchers and professionals. Thus, she has dedicated much of her time to easing the burden on UCT researchers, which has enabled them to deliver better quality research – a key contributing factor to UCT’s research prowess. Under her leadership, external research income in 2018 amounted to R1.6 billion, which meant more money for socially impactful research.
Her support and willingness to go above and beyond for her entire team and the researchers at UCT is what has set Dr Sienaert apart. She has dedicated her time to building UCT’s research capabilities to new levels and inspired and guided many a researcher with her can-do attitude and caring nature.
She will be greatly missed and we wish her all the best in her retirement.
Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng
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