Start main page content

VC rewards sterling Witsies

- Wits University

Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Adam Habib awards outstanding Witsies for flying the Wits flag high.

The annual Vice-Chancellor's (VC's) Awards celebrates Witsies who have contributed to excellence at the University and who have made remarkable impact in their respective areas of work. The call to nominate staff members who have delivered exceptional services to the University announced in June. Nominations were received for awards in the categories of academic citizenship, teaching and learning, transformation and research.

The winners of the 2018 VC’s Awards were announced at an awards ceremony held tonight, 12 October 2018 at Emoyeni in Partown.

VC’S Research Award

Wits University’s mission is to grow its global stature as a leading research-intensive university and a gateway to research engagement and intellectual achievement in Africa. The 2018 VC’s Research Award was unanimously awarded to Professor Patrick Arbuthnot, director of the Wits/SAMRC Antiviral Gene Therapy Research Unit who, after completing his PhD worked as a James Gear post-doctoral fellow at Necker Hospital in Paris, where he developed an interest in advancing use of gene therapy to treat hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and liver cancer. On returning to South Africa, he established the Antiviral Gene Therapy Research Unit (AGTRU) which is also an extramural unit of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and a Centre of Excellence of the African Network for Drug and Diagnostic Innovation. His interest in advancing gene therapy is based on the significant global health problem that the virus poses and inadequacy of currently licensed drugs. Infection with HBV is endemic to parts of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Professor Arbuthnot has supervised or co-supervised 17 PhD graduates, and hosted many postdoctoral fellows.

 Academic Citizenship

Professor Johnny Mahlangu, Head of the School of Pathology in the Faculty of Health Sciences received the 2018 VC’s Academic Citizenship Award for his academic work in the study haemophilia. His skills has helped other African countries to identify the large number of people living with Haemophilia. Due to a lack of appropriate knowledge, skill and expertise, appropriate diagnosis and appropriate treatment of the disease, these patients were not previously identified. In most parts of the world, they have identified this problem and had mechanisms in place to deal with bleeding disorders. The purpose of this award is to recognise an individual or team who has been in cooperative involvement, as an academic, professional and subject specialists, in the community of their Faculty, the University, the wider national community, and the international community of scholars, in delivering a service, performing tasks, and making contributions to the functioning, wellbeing and upliftment of these communities.

Teaching Awards

The purpose of the VC’s Teaching Awards is to stimulate teaching and teaching-related scholarly and/or creative activities. The award was presented in two categories, namely the team and individual awards. The VC’s Teaching Team award was awarded to a group of five academics who are passionate about teaching architectural design to first years students. The winning team, who are also professional architects teach Architectural Design and Theory I course (ARPL1000) in the first year of the Bachelor of Architectural Studies (BAS) degree in the School of Architecture and Planning (SoAP). The team uses a collaborative teaching approach based of collectivist philosophies drawn from Indigenous Knowledge Practices.

The whole team is involved in-group projects in the feedback and assessment of student work, contributing individual formative insights and then making a collective assessment of the work. For individual projects, each team member gives feedback to 18 students during a one-day studio session, divided into three or four smaller cohorts who participate in each other’s critique sessions, learning from each other’s feedback. For final assessments, each team member evaluates each student’s outcomes, the team compares and discusses these and consolidates collective feedback on one student feedback rubric. 

Dr Susan Harrop-Allin, a lecturer in the Wits School of Arts’ Music Division was awarded the VC’s Individual Teaching Award. Harrop-Allin’s interest and the love for music stems from her fifteen years in higher education, teaching arts and development work. She has taught and developed courses in eight areas of music, the arts and education, bringing her expertise in curriculum and materials development, project management, teaching methodologies and fundraising to bear on her work at Wits. She recently received the 2018 Research Award for the highest cited humanities research, the 2017 Humanities Faculty Teaching awards and the 2018 Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa Teaching Award. The criteria for the awards were based on Community Music and Music Education, where her contribution was developing new areas of music studies that are precedent setting in South African higher education. 

VC’s Transformation Team Award

The UWEP Team from the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment were recipients of the VC’s Transformation Award. The UWEP was honoured for adapting to the current needs of South Africa, through their programme which is transforming the engineering curriculum, the lives and futures of engineering students, the organisational culture of a multi-national organisation and the way in which partnerships are built between universities, industry and funding agencies. The VC’s Transformation Award recognises and showcases the transformation work of the academic, and professional and administrative services staff, students and members of the Convocation who have been instrumental in spearheading issues of transformation for social cohesion and integration within the University during 2017. The key areas of consideration include research, teaching, achievement of excellence in respect of demography of staff and students, transformation of the institutional culture and of sports at the University.