Part of UCT’s ‘flow’: Staff celebrated at awards evening

27 November 2023 | Story Kamva Somdyala. Photos Nasief Manie, Robin Thuynsma. Read time 8 min.
UCT honoured staff members during the annual awards evening held on 23 November.
UCT honoured staff members during the annual awards evening held on 23 November.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) is richer by having the calibre of staff who contribute in diverse ways to the institution. This was the common thread that weaved through several speeches at the UCT Annual Staff Awards hosted on 23 November at the Baxter Theatre.

Family members, friends, partners, and the university community gathered under one roof to celebrate the achievements of staff.

“This evening we are celebrating more categories than ever before: recognising UCT’s greatness in wide spheres, including the publication of influential books and creative works,” said Vice-Chancellor interim Emeritus Professor Daya Reddy during his welcome address.

“Each of you, along with your colleagues, has helped to maintain UCT as one of the world’s leading universities. We invited you here this evening because you are contributing to South Africa’s future through the development of higher education and UCT’s excellent reputation around the world.”

In her speech, UCT Chancellor Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe remarked: “This is why the University of Cape Town is such a beacon of excellence, year after year. Not only does the institution produce so many individuals and teams that demonstrate high standards, but the institutional culture encourages what some psychologists refer to as ‘a state of flow’.”

The South African College of Music’s UCT Little Big Band provided musical entertainment at the awards evening.

Dr Moloi-Motsepe added: “One therapist who writes for Psychology Today explains flow in these terms: ‘In flow, you are continually striving for a goal, then resetting your goal and striving for the new one. It’s made up of a series of challenges and successes, and this process is essential to happiness. Therefore, success is important to happiness, and if we all agree that happiness matters, it follows that success matters, too’.

“What we witness in every annual UCT Staff Awards ceremony is the flow you are all contributing to at this university. It is because of this flow that UCT carries on as Africa’s leading university in the face of so many challenges and transitions. You are all helping to keep the flow moving forward.”

Long Service Awards

Over 200 Long Service Awards (15, 25 and 35 years, respectively) were presented during this segment. Mughtar Parker, the university’s acting chief operating officer, referred to these awardees as people who have “seen chapters of UCT history unfolding in their daily routines”.

Most notably, Beverley Bailey (Finance), Valencia Betela (Properties and Services), Karin Braaf (Properties and Services), Arlene Hanmer (Information and Communication Technology) and Nomonde Mpangele (Properties and Services) were the five people who celebrated their 35-year milestones.  

It was a joyous occasion for UCT staff who were honoured for their long service to the institution.

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This category celebrates the advancement of UCT personnel in the academic arena. It is a process of assessing performance in teaching, supervision, research output, administration, and leadership as well as participation in socially responsive activities. Over 120 of these were recognised.

UCT Book Award

The UCT Book Award recognises published works written by UCT members, including monographs, textbooks, novels, collections, and popular writing that bring credit to the university community.

Honoured for 2022, Professor Dan Stein of the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health in the Faculty of Health Sciences received the award for his publication, titled Problems of Living: Perspectives from Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Cognitive-Affective Sciences.

The 2023 award was presented to Dr Mignonne Breier of the School of Education in the Faculty of Humanities, for Bloody Sunday: The Nun, the Defiance Campaign and South Africa’s Secret Massacre.

Meritorious Book Award Prize

Associate Professor Barbara Boswell, the head of English Literary Studies, was presented with this award for And Wrote My Story Anyway: Black South African Women’s Novels as Feminism.

VC interim Emer Prof Daya Reddy.

Creative Works Award

This award recognises major creative works by UCT staff, including art, performances, productions, compositions, and architectural designs produced over the last five years as part of the applicant’s permanent position at UCT. Lara Foot, the chief executive officer and creative director of the Baxter Theatre Centre, was awarded for her multi-layered theatre production, Life & Times of Michael K.

Meritorious Creative Works Award

Three recipients earned this award: Associate Professor Jean Brundrit of the Michaelis School of Fine Art in the Faculty of Humanities for his solo exhibition and artist’s book, titled Over the Horizon; as well as Dr Duane Jethro of the Department of African Studies and Linguistics and Jade Nair of the Michaelis School of Fine Art, both in the Faculty of Humanities, who were honoured for their curated memorial project, Of Smoke & Ash: The Jagger Library Memorial Exhibition.

UCT staff were honoured in several categories at the annual staff awards.

Fellowship Awards

This category celebrates staff who demonstrate the breadth and impact of UCT excellence, and their commitment to unleash human potential across a wide range of disciplines, through scholarly work that has had a major, quantifiable impact on society.

Professor of Virology Wendy Burgers; Professor of Demography in the Centre for Actuarial Research, Tom Moultrie; Professor of Immunology Tom Scriba; and South Africa’s leading paediatric cardiology clinician scientist, Professor Liesl Zühlke, were honoured on the night.

Social Responsiveness Award

Clint Abrahams became the first member of the Faculty of Engineering & the Built Environment to receive this award, which honours work that contributes to the country’s cultural, economic, political, scientific and social landscape, and cements community service into the university’s research, teaching and learning.

UCT President of Convocation Medal

Awarded to UCT alumni who have made a significant contribution to the common good, Wendy Ackerman and Naadiya Moosajee were bestowed medals in this category.

Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence and Transformation

The recipient of the Vice-Chancellor’s Service Excellence Award is Stella Musungu, the student capacity building specialist in the Office for Inclusivity & Change.

The Vice-Chancellor’s Global Citizenship Award recognised the Centre for Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies Department in the Faculty of Humanities for the youth dance initiative the team established in collaboration with the New World Dance Theatre. The focus of this partnership is on youths from previously marginalised communities in the Western Cape.

The Learning Support Unit in the Faculty of Humanities received the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Transformation for its development of the Khanyisa project over the last five years. With government funding, this team developed a suite of first-year courses that aimed to decolonise the curriculum in terms of its orientation to knowledge and regulative discourse, and to create much-needed student support.

UCT Chancellor Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe.

Concluding proceedings, Moloi-Motsepe said: “Acknowledging, recognising and celebrating excellence is one of the most important priorities for UCT. After all, excellence is one on the three pillars on which UCT’s Vision 2030 is anchored, along with transformation and sustainability.

“I congratulate each staff member who has received an award. May the honour you receive tonight not only be a tangible illustration of the recognition by the university leadership, but may it also serve as motivation to continue in the flow of excellence in all that you do.” 

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