Class of 2019 and 2020 together at Stenden graduation

Stenden South Africa held a combined graduation ceremony for the classes of 2019 and 2020 at the Royal St Andrews Hotel on October 22 to make up for the lack of a such a function last year.

WE DID IT: Stenden South Africa graduates toss their mortar boards in celebration after receiving their degrees at a graduation ceremony at the Royal St Andrews Hotel last Friday evening Picture: JON HOUZET

There were 30 hospitality management graduates for 2020 alone, in spite of a year of uncertainty during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The graduates from 2019 included those receiving hospitality management and disaster relief management degrees.

Addressing the graduates and their family members, executive dean Wouter Hensens said: “I’ve been looking forward to days like this for 19 months.”

He advised the graduates to “work hard, be a team player, look after those you are responsible for, and be a value-driven leader”.

He said the world needed togetherness in both good times and hardship.

“The temporary benefit of cutting people loose during hardship goes against the narrative of community.”

He pointed to the owners of the Royal St Andrews Hotel, Martin and Linda Bekker, as an example of business owners who had kept their staff throughout the lockdown, and paid them their salaries even when they were not able to work.

“That to me is leadership and that is community,” he said, to applause.

Hensens said the world was going through a scary time, one of the most alarming things being the censorship of people by the government and media.

“It’s something you’ll have to deal with,” he said. “Evil only thrives when good men and women remain silent.”

He praised the graduates for completing their studies during a difficult period and said they were entering a changed world.

He encouraged them to stay in touch with Stenden, “when you are doing well and when you struggle”.

Stenden alumnus Thulani Xhali was the keynote speaker. Xhali was manager of MyPond Hotel from 2011 to 2015, then worked overseas, and is currently head of employee support programmes for Nedbank group finance.

“It’s humbling to be invited to speak at your alma mater,” he said.

After referring to his family background, he told the students: “This is a moment for leadership. You might say, why me? You should ask, why not you?”

He said something like a global pandemic made one think about one’s purpose in life.

Observing business closures and retrenchments, Xhali said he prepared his mind for his own potential job loss.

He said he liked “nice things”, but was at peace if he should lose them. “When they’re taken away, does it take my essence away? I think the f*** not!” he said.

Xhali said while negotiating with Hensens before his speech, he was allowed one swear word.

His parting advice was: “Deliver good work, deliver on time and don’t be a dick.”

Before conferring the degrees, academic dean of the hotel management school, Dr Juliet Chipumuro asked two colleagues who had received doctorates during the lockdown to walk the stage. Tracy Painting received a PhD in education and Megan Sharrock a PhD in business administration.

Chipumuro said the class of 2020 must have been pondering their decision to study hospitality management at a time when businesses in the hospitality industry were closing.

“Against this backdrop we were forced to figure out things,” she said.

“Stenden has exposed you to so many situations to stimulate your emotional growth, like problem-based learning, group work and internships in diverse environments.

“Don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when you’re done. Maintain balance and focus on your dreams,” she continued.

“So many of your limitations are self-imposed. The adversity we face is not so much to do with opposition or environment, it’s just adversity.”

She was pleased that the majority of the graduates had already found full-time jobs.

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