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Vice-Chancellor's Distinguished Award for Community Engagement

The Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Community Engagement Award is a prestigious and competitive annual award which recognises meaningful and committed partnerships between members of the university and community partners in the areas of teaching, learning and research. 

Rhodes University has become a leading engaged university with a number of internationally renowned engaged research programmes and meaningful community engaged learning partnerships. The University has committed itself to harnessing the social commitment, knowledge, expertise and skills of our staff and students to put them to work to forge mutually respectful, beneficial and reciprocal partnerships with defined constituencies, institutions, organisations, groups and individuals. 

This Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Community Engagement Award medal is presented to researchers who have embodied the principles of community-based participatory research and service learning. Recipients of this award combine the human and material resources of the University with assets found in local communities in order to contribute to sustainable human and community development. 

The Award winner presents a lecture on their research the following year, during the university's Community Engagement Week.


VC's Distinguished Award Recipients

2023 - Dr Jessica Cockburn, Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science

Citation 2023


2022 - ADC Psychology Clinic - Prof Megan Campbell, Dr Duane Booysen, Ms Nqobile Msomi Department of Psychology; Ms Christine Lewis and Ms Mandisa Ndabula, Division of Student Affairs

Citation 2022


2021 - Pharmacists Partnering for the Pandemic - Prof. Roderick B Walker, Faculty of Pharmacy 

Citation 2021


2020 - Ms Mapula Maponya, Allan Gray Centre for Leadership Ethics, Faculty of Humanities

Citation 2020


2019 - Dr Jonathan Davy, Mr Andrew Todd and Dr Ben Ryan, Department of Human Kinetics and Ergonomics, Faculty of Science

Citation 2019


2018 - Prof Tally Palmer, Institute for Water Research, Faculty of Science

Citation 2018


2017 - Prof Jacqueline Akhurst, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities

Citation 2017


2016 - Joint award

WRC Amanzi for Food Research Programme,  Environmental Learning Research Centre 

Citation 2016 group 1

Recreational Fisheries Research Group

Citation 2016 group 2


2015 -  Siyahluma Project - Dr. Sharli Paphitis, Dr. Lindsay Kelland, Prof. Catriona Macleod, Mr. Ryan Du Toit, Faculty of Humanities 

Citation 2015


2014 - Jongaphambili Sinethemba Project Group - Prof Sheona Shackleton; Dr Georgina Cudhill; Mr Nick Hamer; Mr Monde Ntsudu and Prof Heila Lotz-Sitsika, Department of Environmental Science, Faculty of Science

Citation 2014


2013 - Biological Control Research Group, Faculty of Science

Citation 2013


2012 - Ms Alex Sutherland, Drama Department, Faculty of Humanities

Citation 2012


2011 - Prof Alfredo Terzoli, Department of Computer Science and Telkom Centre of Excellence, Information Systems, Faculty of Science

Citation 2011


2010 - Mr Mandla Gagayi, Sports Administration, Department of Student Affairs

Citation 2010


2009 - Chemistry Teachers Programme - Ms Joyce Sewry, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science and Prof Ken Ngcoza, Faculty of Education 

Citation 2009


2008 - Ms Wendy Wrench and Prof Sunitha Srinivas, Department of Pharmacy

Citation 2008


Criteria to be eligible for the VC's Award

In arriving at a decision, the Award Committee will take into account the following, inter alia:


1. Community Engagement

Whether the initiative meets the definition of community engagement in the broader sense, meaning all scholarly applications of teaching, learning and research resources to meet the needs of the community/communities.

2. Design

  • Partnership – the nature of the specific University/community project, and whether it is a partnership. Indicators of active community participation in project activities should be present – inter alia, self-motivated community members contributing towards the project requirements, attendance rates at meetings, the number of members actively involved, and change in number of participants over the project period.
  • Reciprocity - the extent of the benefit to both parties involved, e.g. educational; skills; economic; health; technological benefits – or are the community partners merely co-opted external educators for University experiential learning processes? 
  • Project initiation - how the project began – to what extent was its initiation consultative or were “needs” determined unilaterally by the University project participants/leader? In what way are the assets of a community and its contribution towards students and the University through the project taken into account, or is a deficit model assumed?

3. Implementation

  • How much appropriate preparation of project participants has there been to ensure sensitive cross-cultural dialogue, awareness of power dynamics, research ethics, etc. Is the experiential aspect of the project followed by thorough reflection?
  • Monitoring and evaluation: whether there is regular and adequate assessment of the initiative internally and through fora at the community project site/s and whether necessary changes are implemented. Are projects supervised on an ongoing basis and is intervention made if required? /15
  • How effectively have resources been utilised in achieving the impact of the project? /5

4. Impact

  • How much the initiative or project enhances teaching/learning or research processes and how effectively it has been integrated into the curriculum. 
  • Whether service learning programmes are created according to sound educational principles – the ways in which they supplement and complement the theoretical components of the curriculum. /10
  • Whether a programme is sustainable. How long it has been running successfully, and whether there are plans for the continuation of the project if the University co-ordinator moves on or the course comes to an end? What provision has been made for skills transfer, to train community members of the project in preparation to hand it over to the community in the long run, if appropriate? Will the project always be dependent on funding, for example?

5. For Service Learning Community Engagement Programmes, the Committee will judge:

  • Whether the  structure is according to sound educational principles, supplements and complements the theoretical components of the curriculum
  • The nature and quality of supervision
  • The nature and quality of training for the programme/project
  • The nature and quality of assessment of the programme/project
  • The extent to which the community partner(s) were included in the processes, reflection on the programme, contributed to student learning/development and were able to meet their organisational/group goals through the project/programme


Please note that if you believe any of these criteria not to be relevant to your project or initiative, you will need to motivate for this in your submission.



Last Modified: Tue, 18 Jun 2024 12:48:59 SAST