UKZN’s Colleges of Health Sciences (CHS) and Humanities recently launched an emerging academics peer-mentorship forum. The programme was facilitated by Dr Tivani Mashamba-Thompson, the academic leader for research at the School of Nursing and Public Health.

Launched by academics and Postdocs from the two Colleges, the mentorship forum aims to enable collective learning and career progression with excellence for early and mid-career academics within UKZN.

Senior lecturer and PhD co-ordinator for the Discipline of Public Health Medicine, Dr Thembelihle Dlungwane said, ‘The forum will foster joint empowerment, a sense of community among emerging academics, an environment that inspires success, peer support and social capital/ network.’

Professor Rob Slotow, UKZN Pro-Vice-Chancellor: African City of the Future who was an invited guest at the meeting delivered an interactive lecture, which began with the collective sharing of what mentorship is and also explored the attributes of an ideal mentor and mentee.

He then challenged emerging academics in attendance to begin to think of an ideal professor and eventually what it means to be a Professor.

‘Professorship is not only about achieving high PUs and bringing large grants, but it is about having gravitas,’ Slotow cautioned.

His lecture was aimed at enabling attendees to reflect on their current practices and to enable them to differentiate between mentors and tormentors.

Professor Tricia Naicker from Pharmacy shared her personal reflection and her journey to Professorship. She emphasised the need for academics to have grit, to know their strengths and to never give up.

CHS’ Dean of Research, Dr Michelle Gordon expressed her support for the forum by committing her office’s support for emerging academics. She also informed them of all the different grants that are specifically targeted at them, such as the UCDP, NRF and SAMRC.

The Discipline of Public Health Medicine senior lecturer, Dr Khumbulani Hlongwane facilitated discussions, which included group discussions to set up clear forum objectives. Ideas presented by various groups will be collated into a single document by a task team led by Dlungwane. This document will be later circulated for further inputs and comments.

CHS Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Busisiwe Ncama congratulated the dynamic team for starting this initiative. She talked about the importance of peer-mentorship to enable academics to discuss matters that they will not be able to discuss with management while helping each other achieve their professional goals.

She congratulated the team for adopting the REACHvalues into their value system. Ncama highlighted the need for academics to thrive for good behaviour and excellence in order to gain trust and also emphasised the need to start with trust in each other in order to achieve the desired outcomes of the forum.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini