Gearing up first-year students for success

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Academics and staff members who spoke to first-year students. [Credit: Andrea Cole]
Academics and staff members who spoke to first-year students. [Credit: Andrea Cole]

By Lance Myburgh

On 26 April 2024, Rhodes University students and academic staff gathered at Barratt Theatre Complex for the second in a series of sessions designed to create pathways to success for Rhodes University's first years.

As part of the Extended Orientation Programme, the discussions under the theme ‘Pathways to Success: Conversations with First-Year Students’ provided insights and practical strategies to equip and empower first-year students to thrive in academic pursuits.

The event kickstarted with a warm welcome from Ms Thando Qeqe, the Programme Coordinator. In her welcoming remarks, she underscored the significance of recognising the event as a platform to share input, experiences, and constructive feedback from the first years.

Director of Student Services and Development, Dr Pakiso Tondi, expanded on the welcoming atmosphere by emphasising that the event facilitated discussions on academic support. He highlighted the importance of learning to prioritise tasks and cultivating friendships with individuals who share similar goals and aspirations to succeed in university.

The keynote address was delivered by Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs, Professor ‘Mabokang Monnapula-Mapesela, who highlighted that the university journey demands consistency, diligence, and both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. By encouraging the students, Prof Monnapula-Mapesela further declared that challenges encountered during the tertiary education journey should not serve as obstacles but as sources of motivation to persevere.

She stated, “A life without challenges is a very boring life.”

University academic staff then delivered messages of support and encouragement. In his opening remarks, Professor Sandile Khamanga, the Dean of Pharmacy, emphasised the foundational values essential for first-year success: Discipline, Drive, Dedication, Dynamism, and Diligence. Prof Khamanga further defined success as “small steps one must take to succeed”.

Dr Christine Lewis, the Manager of the Rhodes University Counselling Centre, reassured students that the centre provides essential services tailored to their needs. During her presentation, she addressed effective strategies for managing examination anxiety, emphasising the importance of self-care, maintaining good sleep hygiene, and cultivating disciplined study habits. Dr Lewis also stressed the significance of adequate exam preparation to help students navigate academic challenges successfully.

These sentiments were echoed by Ms Tsidzo Hove, a senior student at Rhodes University. She provided insightful remarks on peer support for the first years. Drawing from her personal experiences, she shared valuable lessons learned about the importance of reaching out to the community for assistance as a student. Ms Hove emphasised that fostering connections and engaging with the community supports individual growth and enriches the collective experience within the academic environment.

The event concluded with an engaging Question and Answer session facilitated by Mrs Kelly Vorster, a Student Academic Development Lecturer at the Centre for Higher Education Research, Teaching and Learning (CHERTL). During this session, first-year students raised important topics for discussion, including the mindset required for adjusting to university life, effective time management strategies, adulthood expectations, examination preparation, and the importance of personal responsibility and discipline in academic success. These discussions sparked insightful conversations aimed at equipping students with valuable insights and practical approaches to thrive in their university journey.

The event imparted valuable lessons to the students, equipping them with essential skills to help them navigate through university challenges effectively. The tools and advice gained from this event have the potential to support first-year students throughout their university careers.

First-year students are encouraged to attend the upcoming engagement sessions:

  • 02 August 2024
  • 27 September 2024

Further details and information about these sessions will be circulated closer to the time via the StudentNews mailing list.