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Research Chairs

The ELRC is currently home to two Research Chairs.

SARChI Chair in Global Change and Social Learning SystemsIn 2015 Distinguished Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka was awarded a prestigious Tier 1 SARChI Chair under the National Research Foundation’s South African Research Chair Initiative. This chair has an explicit focus on transformative social learning and green skills learning pathways.

The Chair’s proposal is aligned with the Department of Science and Technology’s Global Change National Research Plan, but focuses on the way in which global change challenges play out in South Africa and on the African continent. It addresses a need to better understand social learning processes and systems in response to global change challenges as they play out at the intersection of society-economy-environment and politics.

The Chair focus on advancing knowledge of:

    1. Transformative social learning and global change responses in an African context

    2. Social learning systems and green skills learning pathways into the green economy

    3. Ways in which transformative social learning can be systemically developed for societal transformation within a climate resilient, sustainable and socially just path

For more detail on the SARChI Chair please follow this link


Chair of Environment & Sustainability Education

As far back as 1990, a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF South Africa) and Murray and Roberts, saw the establishment of Africa’s first chair in environmental education in the Education Department at Rhodes University. The Murray and Roberts Chair of Environmental Education, as it was then known, started a research programme in environmental education, building a cadre of environmental educators with post-graduate qualifications in what was then a new scholarly field.

Through engagement in the small but vibrant environmental education community, it soon became apparent that capacity development was also needed at non-graduate levels, and more resources were needed to adequately respond to the burgeoning demand for academic, professional, community and policy support. Thus in 1997, the Gold Fields Environmental Education Service Centre was established, to complement the Chair. These two entities formed the Rhodes University Environmental Education Unit which was able to offer expanded professional development and policy development services to post-apartheid system building in South Africa, and in South Africa’s expanded interactions within the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

The Chair supported the development of the first Masters in Environmental Education programme at Rhodes, as well as the SADC International Certificate Course in Environmental Education, which has graduated over 1000 professionals in the region. Research support includes conducting research using strong educational and social theory; producing guidelines for transformative and generative research and evaluation methodology; and supervising Masters and PhD students. The Chair served on the UNESCO International Reference Group for the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, and provided Education for Sustainable Development research support to the SADC Regional Environmental Education Programme. A key focus of these activities involves improving the quality and relevance of education and training initiatives focussing on environmental concerns.

Renamed the Chair of Environment and Sustainability Education, and now funded directly by Rhodes University, the Chair has had two incumbents during its existence. Professor Eureta Rosenberg was the first to be appointed against the position, from 1991-1999. From 2000-2015 Distinguished Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka was the incumbent, until she was awarded a SARChI Chair by the National Research Foundation. Prof Rosenberg took up the position again in September 2016. Prof Rob O’Donoghue served as the Director of the Centre from 2000-2016.

The initial investment in 1990 has over the years attracted two other research Chairs; thousands of students; hundreds of local, national and international partnerships; and resources for the establishment and staffing of what is now the Environmental Learning Research Centre (ELRC). We congratulate the foresight of those who started this initiative, thank all who worked hard to make it thrive, and welcome continued collaboration!


Last Modified: Tue, 20 Sep 2022 12:54:11 SAST