New students were welcomed to Stenden South Africa with the official academic opening and an awards ceremony taking place at the Royal St Andrews Hotel recently.
SRC president Sihle Eyles said 2019 had not been an easy year, with load shedding and water shortages towards the end of the year, as well as shocking crimes against women.
But he said there were positives too, such as student-organised activities like the Stenden market, and South Africa winning the Rugby World Cup.
“How did we manage? We kept the faith,” Eyles said.
“Look around, this is your new family. The days will be hard, but it’ll be worth it,” he said.
Student affairs manager Ronel Bartlett, who introduced each speaker, said Eyles was one of the pillars of Stenden.
Executive dean Dr Wouter Hensens echoed Eyles when he said 2019 was not good, globally but also locally. There had been a reduction in the number of international students, staff had moved, gone on maternity leave or temporarily relocated between Stenden’s various international campuses.
This had all happened around the same time and put pressure on other staff, Hensens said.
“Student satisfaction went below 8 for the first time, we had the water crisis [earlier in 2019], server problems and MyPond Hotel had a turbulent year. It was topped off with a bit of load shedding and a water crisis,” he said.
As for highlights, he agreed with Eyles about the Rugby World Cup, and said: “I’m particularly proud of the SRC and how it performed, pulling together a diverse student body. Also, a number of students showed excellent performance.”
He said “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, explaining that no matter how you strategise, some things will not work out.
Stenden had introduced measures to deal with load shedding – in the form of solar panels, and was “advanced in the way of water”, with 100,000 litres in rainwater tanks, he said.
It had also doubled its internet capacity, and plans were underway to refurbish the Stenden library in April.
“A particular bone of contention for me is wastage in the student restaurant. Thirty kilogrammes per day is collected and fed to pigs,” Hensens said, adding that different things would be tried to reduce wastage.
Stenden has its biggest training budget for staff in 2020, he said.
An arrangement has been made with the Port Alfred Country Club for Stenden students to use the field for rugby training, and this year Stenden will also launch its own rowing team with Alroy Taai in charge. Hensens said 14 students had expressed interest.
An alumni weekend will be held in June, and there are plans to establish an alumni board.
Dean of the school of hotel management, Dr Juliet Chipumuro, spoke on the value of kindness, and how important it is in life.
She said among the benefits of joining Stenden is that the university is operating in an increasingly globalised context. All academic staff have had the opportunity to go to the Netherlands on the staff exchange programme, and Stenden SA always welcomes a group of Grand Tour students from overseas.
“Most of our students will have landed a full time job by the time they graduate, and some have started successful businesses,” Chipumuro said.
Stenden also gives students a lot of industry exposure like spending a week at prime hospitality venues in Cape Town.
Dean of the school of disaster management, Dr Rene Oosthuizen said: “All around us things are happening that are not good, and we can’t live in a bubble and pretend it’s not happening – globally and locally.
“Part of education is teaching people how to make a difference. We are educating you for the uncertain. In the next decade we’ll see more radical and rapid change – that is a certainty.”
She said design-based education was all about coming up with solutions.
There was a surprise guest speaker in the form of alumnus Phiwe Salukazana, who is now based in Shanghai, working for a company that specialises in debate and public speaking.
Salukazana spoke on the importance of timing. “It is said it takes 10,000 hours of doing something to master it.
“Hospitality is all about time. You need to make sure people are served on time. With time you can learn new skills,” he said.
He said a benefit of studying hospitality is that is humanises people. “Give people a name, ask them who they are.”
“Be aware of instant gratification. Be consistent, show up. Much of what can be accomplished is just by showing up.”