New EMS Dean ready for challenges

Broadening student access and success, enhancing research excellence, accelerating transformation of the staff body and ensuring relevance of the curriculum.

These are the four core elements Prof Ingrid Woolard, newly appointed dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences at Stellenbosch University (SU), has identified as key to the continued success of the faculty.

Woolard, who is currently serving as Dean of the Faculty of Commerce and Professor of Economics at the University of Cape Town, will succeed Prof Stan du Plessis, who was appointed Chief Operating Officer (designate) of SU earlier this year.

She will be the first woman to lead the faculty as dean.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of leading SU’s largest faculty. The Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences is renowned for its student-centric approach and excellent results and I’m excited to be joining such a committed team.”

The SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Wim de Villiers, welcomed Woolard’s appointment: “We are delighted that she will be joining Stellenbosch University as Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Management Sciences, our largest faculty. She is an internationally recognised and respected academic and will bring further management experience to the University. She will add significantly to our future focus as we embark on our second century as a leading public university in South Africa,” he said.

Expanding on the four core elements Woolard identified, she said:

“We need to push harder on improving access and the provision of enhanced financial and learning support for students from poor and marginalised communities. And once a student is admitted, we have a responsibility to provide an enabling environment for student success. The university cannot be a revolving door.”

She identified an early warning system that flags students that are at risk as early as possible as a critical part of this strategy.

She would also like to foster a culture of research excellence in the Faculty

“Research ‘superstars’ need to be acknowledged and rewarded in a way which inspires other colleagues. Academic staff who have not been particularly research active in the past need to be encouraged to do so through the provision of sympathetic research mentors who can build up their confidence and help them address obstacles.

“In addition, being more strategic about post-graduate supervision, i.e. moving closer to the ‘Science model’ of having students work on a set of topics/themes that have been selected by the research group (rather than on disparate topics selected by individual students) would assist in building the reputation of the research group and reduce the supervision burden.”

Woolard’s own areas of research interests include the measurement of poverty and inequality, unemployment, social protection and tax policy.

She feels strongly about the transformation of the staff body and implemented a number of successful strategies at UCT, including organising regular meetings with black academic staff as a means of explicitly privileging the voices of this group, creating the position Deputy Dean: Transformation and announcing that all academic posts would be initially advertised using a targeted equity statement.

“We need to increase the number of black, particularly Black African South African, staff. We need to accelerate the transformation process through aggressive recruitment strategies and addressing the issues of an unwelcoming institutional culture,” she explained.

In terms of ensuring the relevance of the curriculum, Woolard believes the Faculty needs to increase the inclusion of the work of African scholars into the curriculum while ensuring that it continues to meet the demands of the professional bodies as well as the needs of the public sector.

Woolard will join SU on 1 May 2018.