Dr Bongi Bangeni was promoted to associate professor in January 2020. She has worked in the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Language Development Unit in the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED) for over fifteen years.
“I started the long process of applying for a promotion as far back as 2015 when I met with my line manager, Associate Professor Ermien van Pletzen, the CHED dean (then, Professor Suellen Shay) and Rob Morrell, director of the New Generation Professoriate (NGP), to discuss what needed to be done to have a good chance of [getting a] promotion,” she said.
Bangeni immediately started working on the goals that they had collectively identified. The NGP programme, she said, was instrumental in this process of preparation, particularly the biannual progress meetings with Morrell. She was able to reflect on her progress, stumbling blocks and general frustrations.
“Rob gave me invaluable advice about supervision – one of the areas that I was finding to be a challenge.”
“Rob gave me invaluable advice about supervision – one of the areas that I was finding to be a challenge – mainly about promoting a productive relationship between myself and my postgraduate students,” said Bangeni. “Equally important was letting go of supervisory partnerships that were going nowhere slowly. I continue to make use of this advice to this day.”
The other area that was identified was conference participation. Bangeni was able to draw on NGP funding to present a paper at the 2019 international Australian Association for Research in Education conference in Brisbane.
Preparing for promotion also meant that Bangeni needed to dedicate more time to working on articles for publication. This, she noted, was difficult to accommodate alongside her teaching and management workload, which included coordinating the Language Development unit in the Academic Development Programme, serving on selection committees within CHED and initiating and chairing a sub-committee of the Senate Language Policy Committee, which has been tasked with reviewing UCT’s language policy.
The NGP programme schedules once-a-month writing spaces dedicated to working solely (and quietly) on a writing task. This assisted with carving out time to catch up on her writing. Even though she was not able to attend all activities due to departmental responsibilities, the mere sight of NGP emails in her inbox motivated her to work as soon as she got home.
“I am immensely grateful to Rob for the feedback that he provided on an article on the impact of language on Law students’ reading and writing practices, which was published just before I applied for promotion,” she said. “My postdoctoral interest in academic reading as a social practice and the impact of students’ socio-economic status on their engagements with reading in their disciplines has been reinforced by specialists in the field that Rob put me in touch with. I continue to benefit from these associations.”
Preparing the portfolio of work for her application started off as a hugely daunting task, but an ad hom promotion narrative writing workshop, which was organised by the NGP, assisted in making the process easier and actually enjoyable.
“Rob, who was available to comment on drafts, provided input on strategic ways of highlighting the links between my teaching and my research. I remember leaving that workshop feeling very light and optimistic about my application."
“He provided feedback on three drafts of my portfolio, signaling areas of strengths and how to foreground these in my overall narrative. I thank him for fully understanding my reasons for not applying for promotion in 2018, and for encouraging me to go for it when I felt 100% ready.”
Bangeni said she is thankful to the NGP programme (Rob and Snazo Sidodo), to her line manager, Associate Professor Ermien van Pletzen, and to her family and colleagues for their support and encouragement.
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The Next Generation Professoriate (NGP) is a mid-career academic staff development and support programme. Funded by the vice-chancellor’s Strategic Funds, the NGP addresses demographic inequalities in the academic hierarchy. The goal is to help members become associate and full professors.
The NGP was officially launched in September 2015. By the end of 2018, four of its members had been promoted to full professor and a further 14 had reached the rank of associate professor.
The programme is led by Dr Robert Morrell, who has over 35 years of academic experience in South African universities. He has a B1-rating from the the National Research Foundation (NRF) and is an elected member of the Academy of Sciences in South Africa.