How do you feel about your appointment as Dean of the Faculty of Theology?
I am very excited about my appointment as a Dean here at Stellenbosch University. There are also great challenges of course, but I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues to take the deanship ever further.
Deanship has changed a lot over the years. Deans are no longer simply academic heads; they also need business and financial management skills. How do you approach the demands of this position?
Yes, deanship has indeed changed a lot over the years. We have to provide guidance in a dynamic environment – an environment that, given our South African context, is asking for Africanisation and for navigation through this dynamism, as well as ways in which to manage it. I believe that leadership should not arise out of a crisis but rather from a vision. What are the values according to which we live, what is the role that we can play in broader society, and what is the impact that we can have in a concrete way in people’s lives? I think this is the environment in which deans provide guidance at universities in South Africa these days. SU’s Faculty of Theology has a good reputation, both in South Africa and throughout the world, and that’s why it was good for me to join SU and provide this guidance.
How do you see your role in fulfilling the University’s values and strategic messages that position SU as an institution of excellence, inclusivity, transformation, accessibility, research-orientated, and so on?
Firstly, to live your visions and your values, you have to live them primarily in the way that you interact with students, colleagues and associates. You have to live values like excellence, inclusivity and diversity yourself. That can make a difference. Secondly, we’re a teaching institution. It’s therefore important that we develop strategies and programmes for our academic offerings that contain these values. Important questions are: How do we handle our diversity? How do we teach our students to become agents of change in society? On a third level, it is also about our research. If we can deliver quality research on how to deal with change and diversity, we can reach people and make an impact.
Did you ever think that you would become a dean when you were younger?
This opportunity is a very special blessing to me. I studied at Stellenbosch when I was younger; I’m an ex-Matie. But I never thought about becoming a dean. You just studied to pass and to get your degree, but over the years you realise that there is a specific role that you could play and that you might even be called to play. Then it becomes important to equip yourself in such a way that you can play that role through leading. Looking to the future, it’s important to me to play a key role in shaping people’s lives and in shaping leaders. This is actually where my heart lies: to develop leaders and, in that way, to add value to people’s lives.
Have you always had leadership qualities?
I grew up in another era. Our generation didn’t have all the opportunities destined for others; I went to Lückhoff School. But I already had it in my heart even back then to make a difference and to play a role in the development of young people. This I experienced early on. And, as things changed in our country, new opportunities developed in which we could actually play a role.
How did your childhood influence your calling?
I grew up in a community where there was great poverty. My father was a minister and my mother a social worker. We felt people’s brokenness and pain. As children, we saw this and we experienced it. But we also experienced the difference that can be made in people’s lives, in the first place through our parents, and in the second place through our teachers, people in the church and in the field of social work. Brokenness does not get the last say; the last say goes to people who make a difference. This has stayed with me: that people can make a difference.
What is your message to students?
We need to be open to embrace people who are vulnerable and broken. I laud students who have the heart to bear the troubles of others. Let us work together to put constructive processes in place to help people and make a difference. Students need to open themselves to seize their responsibilities and their callings. It’s possible to make a difference.
What do you do when you take a break from work?
I grew up in an environment where music was part of us. Going on holiday, we’d sing all the way there and back. This was before the time of CDs, MP3 players and Bluetooth. So we learned to play instruments. I like playing the guitar and the bass guitar. In Gauteng, I even played the bass in a group. It’s one of my passions.
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