Habib honours top Witsies

Prof. Adam Habib praised the recipients of the Vice-Chancellor’s Awards at a prestigious ceremony held on Friday, 17 October 2014 at Savernake in Parktown.

He thanked the members of Senate, Council, academics, professional and administrative staff for their contribution to the University, and acknowledged those who were honoured on the evening. “We are here to congratulate and celebrate the recipients of the Vice-Chancellor’s Awards. These Witsies are at the cutting edge of teaching, research and service. They, together with other Witsies make this a fantastic institution.”

Professors Zeblon Vilakazi, Lynn Morris and Adam Habib.Research Award

The coveted Vice-Chancellor’s Research Award was made to Professor Lynn Morris, Chief Specialist Scientist at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and a Research Professor at Wits for her work over the years in virology research, in HIV-1 subtype C strains and HIV vaccine development. Her team was involved in important trials including the groundbreaking Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa study which showed that 1% tenofovir gel could reduce HIV infection by 39%, amongst others.

According to Prof. Zeblon Vilakazi, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, who presented the award, Morris has published 161 peer reviewed research outputs since 1995. “She has maintained an outstanding level of productivity over this period with a current maximum productivity of 18 papers in 2009. Some of these research outputs have appeared in high impact journals such as Nature, Science, Nature Medicine, and PLoS Medicine. But a more direct reflection of her research impact on the virology community is the 6 040 citations, excluding self-citations, that her work has attracted. Her average citation rate per paper is 40.7, which is high for the discipline. She also supervises 29 postgraduate students of which 16 are PhD candidates. To date she has mentored eight postdoctoral fellows.”

Teaching Awards

Ms Shirra Moch from the Faculty of Health Sciences was given the Vice-Chancellor’s Individual Teaching Award (in absentia), for integrating various technologies to improve teaching practices. Her experiential pedagogical styles were noted as being very popular with students and won her national acclaim in the use of comprehensive teaching models. According to Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic, Prof. Andrew Crouch, who presented the Award, the screening committee was impressed by “her long teaching track record and her personal effort and contribution towards the mentorship of other teachers”.

The Vice-Chancellor’s Team Teaching Award was made to the “Lifelines: Object Biographies from the Standard Bank Art Collection” project in the Faculty of Humanities – a collaboration between the Wits Art Museum and the Wits School of Arts’ Department of History of Art. The project involved tracing the history of art objects in the Museum and using historical and contemporary objects to advance teaching and learning.

“The team’s multi-modal pedagogical approaches to postgraduate teaching which included reading, experiential engagement with objects, and the critical thinking and creativity that is required for curatorial activities, was found to be innovative,” said Crouch.

Professor Laetitia Rispel and Adam HabibAcademic Citizenship Awards

Prof. Tawana Kupe, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Finance, Transformation and Advancement, made the Vice-Chancellor’s Academic Citizenship Awards. Prof. Laetitia Rispel and Prof. Mary Scholes were the joint winners of the Individual Awards.

Rispel, an academic, public health professional and technical specialist was acknowledged for demonstrating excellent and innovative leadership in her two terms as President of the Public Health Association of South Africa. “Her participation and leadership have contributed to the upliftment of a wide range of public health community programmes in South Africa and internationally,” said Kupe.

Professor Mary Scholes and Adam HabibScholes was lauded for her contribution towards rethinking the University’s approaches to postgraduate supervision, support and management. “The positive impacts have benefited postgraduates and supervisors from all faculties,” said Kupe. “Prof. Scholes has made substantial contributions to the scholarly community that will strengthen it and make it better able to contribute to the creation of sustainable societies.”

The Vice-Chancellor’s Team Teaching Award was made to Drama for Life (DFL) in the Wits School of Arts, “an excellent academic project with an impressive and proud footprint.”  The Mvuso Schools and Community Education Programme in Soweto and Eldorado Park was mentioned as a showpiece of academic citizenship and as an impressive training model for future and upcoming school educators. It was also lauded for the “integration of teaching and learning as well as the interdisciplinary structure and function of the team”.

Transformation Awards

In the individual category of the Vice-Chancellor’s Transformation Awards, Prof. Kim Hein-Ncube was announced as the winner for 2014. She was described by Kupe as “a committed transformative agent in the way she has mentored and supported students in the Geosciences.” Moreover, she was recognised for her transformative activities in Alexandra and the inner city areas of Hillbrow, Orange Grove and Berea where she has been involved in projects to raise funds to renovate and expand teaching, learning and recreational facilities for preschool and primary school learners.

“Prof. Hein-Ncube’s innovative and creative pedagogical approaches have empowered students particularly from previously disadvantaged black communities in ways that are truly exceptional. She has strived to empower her students to be able to make their own decisions as well as to learn to manage stressful learning environments,” added Kupe.

The ASSIST Project, a student volunteer group working with a community based tutoring and mentorship initiative in Alexandra received the Team Award. “ASSIST is an example of excellence in transformative interventions in communities,” said Kupe. “Their work with high school learners has resulted in learners achieving and maintaining a 10% to 20% above the average for their grades in English, Maths and Science. In addition, learners at ASSIST succeed in maintaining grades that are 5% to 10% higher than the average Alexandra High School learner across all subjects. The ASSIST Board of Directors and the student volunteers have become dedicated transformation agents who are icons of community engagement,” he concluded.