Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka conferred as Distinguished Professor

Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka at her conferment ceremony.
Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka at her conferment ceremony.




Mr Chancellor, I have the honour of presenting to you

Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka,

SARChI Chair in Global Change and Social Learning Systems, in the Environmental Learning Research Centre

for the conferment of the title of Distinguished Professor.


Rhodes University recognizes academic staff of outstanding scholarly reputation and productivity, who have brought great distinction to the university through their academic work at this institution.  This recognition takes the form of the conferment of the title Distinguished Professor, an acknowledgment made sparingly to truly meritorious recipients, based upon the quality and influence of their scholarly achievements throughout their career. The last time this title was conferred was in 2011. 


Professor Lotz-Sisitka is widely regarded as one of Africa’s foremost scholars in the field of environmental education. She regularly receives invitations from across the globe to deliver keynote addresses (to date she has been invited to 34 different countries to deliver 72 keynote addresses). A number of seminal texts in the field of environmental education feature her work. Her contributions to extending the boundaries of new knowledge in environmental education span transformative and social learning in environmental education, critical realist analyses of environmental education research, and rethinking education in a post-sustainability, just transitions paradigm. Professor Lotz-Sisitka’s large body of publications witness her persistent efforts to initiate, lead and conduct research that is praxis-oriented, theory driven, and achieves both capacity and knowledge building in the policy, scholarly, and operational domains. Her writing makes it clear that she views research as something that should benefit society at the micro and macro levels, and, that one cannot compromise either the quality or ethical integrity of the research process.


Since 2001, when she was appointed as the Murray & Roberts Chair of Environmental Education at Rhodes University (which is Africa’s first Chair in Environmental Education), she has worked tirelessly and effectively with colleagues and partners to build up the research programme at Rhodes University to what it is now, a leading international centre of environmental education research and learning. In 2007 the programme at Rhodes was recognised as a UNU (United Nations University) Centre of Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development, and in 2010 the Environmental Learning Research Centre (ELRC) was established at Rhodes University with Professor Lotz-Sisitka as its first Director. In 2016 she was awarded a Tier 1 NRF SARChI Chair in Global Change and Social Learning Systems.


A stellar thought leader and project initiator in all respects, Professor Lotz-Sisitka has been instrumental in raising a staggering R77 million in research and capacity building funding for Environmental Education Research at Rhodes University and across the SADC region. She has collaborated with highly regarded colleagues from across the world, and has worked closely with various United Nations agencies, and the International Social Science Council, her influence finding its way into national and international policy documents, and many institutional settings in policy and education politics and practice. Amongst the many forms of recognition that Prof Lotz-Sisitka has received for her work was a 2016 Lifetime Conservation Achiever Award from WESSA (Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa). 


Prof Lotz-Sisitka has served on 21 international scientific committees, and has been involved in several journal editorships, including serving as editor in chief of the Southern African Journal of Environmental Education for 13 years, and is current co-editor of the international Learning, Culture and Social Interaction Journal. She has produced articles in a host of scholarly journals, books and reports – her publications number 160 - including 47 internationally peer reviewed journal articles, 13 journal editorial papers, 31 book chapters, 24 monograph publications, 45 books, other research reports and policy briefs. She has successfully supervised 63 Masters and 32 PhD theses, as well as being the founding director in 2015 of Rhodes University’s Postgraduate Studies Centre which set up support structures for postgraduates across the institution. She has also supported 45 of her postgraduates to become published authors in internationally refereed journals and books.


A significant and celebrated aspect of this awardee’s research approach, is the way that she has chosen to work together with and grow the next generation of researchers, demonstrating an incredible work ethic example, commitment to the field, and to her students. 


Her research outputs are amongst the highest at Rhodes University, and she is a B2 rated researcher.  Her most recent book, Critical Realism, Environmental Learning and Social-Ecological Change (Routledge), co-edited with Dr Leigh Price, was recently awarded the 2017 International Cheryl Frank Memorial Prize for a book from across the globe that constitutes, motivates or exemplifies the best and/or most innovative writing in or about the tradition of critical realism.


She has been the recipient of a VC’s Distinguished Medal four times:

2008 Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award; 

2015 Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Community Engagement Award as part of the Jongaphambili Sinethemba Project Group;

2016 Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Senior Research Award;

and the Community Engagement Award as leader of the WRC Amanzi for Food Research Programme. 

These span the three pillars of the university and is an institutional record.


Mr Chancellor, I request you to confer the title of Distinguished Professor on Heila Lotz-Sisitka.