CHERTL colleagues contribute towards the success of HELTASA's first (Un)Conference

CHERTL colleagues contribute towards the success of HELTASA's first (Un)Conference
CHERTL colleagues contribute towards the success of HELTASA's first (Un)Conference

by Anthea Adams

Over the years, CHERTL colleagues at Rhodes have become known as a cadre of internationally-recognised trendsetters and scholars in higher education. Continuing the tradition, they continue to play a strategic role in promoting scholarship in teaching and learning. As executive members of the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa (HELTASA), Nomfundo Siqwede and Anthea Adams, in collaboration with other executive committee and project members, were at the forefront in organising HELTASA's first (un)conference from 6 to 10 December 2021. The (un)conference introduced a new conferencing model through its participatory and inclusionary approach that harnessed the transformative and diverse contributions of colleagues and role-players in the sector. Conference participants engaged in provocations, critical dialogues and workshops, small group conversations, mini and collective harvestings sessions, oral and poster presentations, closing the loop and open mic sessions. Through several pre-conference events, participants began contributing to scholarly conversations on being resilient, responsive and relevant when focusing on professional and student learning, curriculum and academic development and decoloniality.


Shifting the goalposts for what the duties of an Executive Secretary entail, Nomfundo actively contributed to the governance of HELTASA and engaged in strategic decision-making about conceptual and operational matters related to the (un)conference. Nomfundo was the driving force behind the logistics and operation management of the (un)conference. Her eye for detail ensured that HELTASA managed particular challenges and adhered to deadlines and targets. She fostered and strengthened relationships with academics and role players in the sector through her dedicated efforts in the registration processes.


Anthea led the proposal (abstract) review process for HELTASA's Programme Development scholarly team, which included conducting workshops and mentoring novice reviewers, managing an effective and efficient peer review system, making editorial decisions, and liaising with authors and reviewers. She enthusiastically used social media to establish professional networks to create awareness about and sustain interest in the (un)conference and preceding professional development initiatives. Dr Amanda Hlengwa (Mandy), Neil Kramm, Masixole Booi, Kelly Solomon, Edward Domboka and Xolelwa Ngantweni contributed to the developmental approach of the (un)conference while upholding academic rigour in their considered proposal reviews. 


Participants found Mandy and Heidi Matisonn's autoethnographic narratives in their presentation "A personal account of the bounds of mentorship" enlightening and thought-provoking. This critical and visionary approach to the academic project enabled Mandy to forge key partnerships with national and international stakeholders and increase HELTASA's global visibility. As Chairperson, Mandy was at the helm of HELTASA from 2013 to 2016 and Vice President for the International Consortium for Educational Development (ICED) from 2014-2016.


Dr Nicola Pallit and Neil Kramm's contribution to using sound pedagogical approaches when integrating technology in teaching and learning was invaluable to the (un)conference. In her former role as Convenor of the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Collaborative Learning Community (CLC), Nicola spearheaded and collaborated with Neil and other role players to offer multiple projects to build digital teaching and learning capacity amongst academics and students. Their various professional development projects, such as webinars, workshops, presentations, and short-and-sharp-and-socially-aware (SASASA) think-pieces, fostered critical and scholarly perspectives on TEL, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis. 


Dr Kirstin Wilmot played a leading role in the success of the 2019 HELTASA conference, which was hosted by CHERTL at Rhodes. Kirstin spearheaded and completed various editorial tasks related to the conference, which was attended by more than 300 delegates from 38 institutions in higher education. In collaboration with the Conference Team, who included CHERTL colleagues and Professor Sioux McKenna, she participated in conceptual and operational decisions regarding the conference. "Pedagogies in Context: A selection of papers from the HELTASA 2019 Conference" is a testament to Kirstin and her co-editors Ass. Profs Jo-Anne Vorster and Lynn Quinn's commitment to supporting academics in disseminating their research.


Lynn and Jo-Anne have made an enduring impact on the field of academic development (AD) in South Africa. One of their most notable achievements is being recipients of the 2018 National Excellence in Teaching and Learning Awards for teamwork co-jointly awarded by the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and HELTASA. Jo-Anne served two terms as an Executive Committee member of HELTASA and formerly convened the Professional Development Special Interest Group (SIG) until 2018. Throughout the years, Jo-Anne and Lynn's various collaborative capacity-building projects informed the praxis and scholarship in AD.


Sustained support from and engagements between recently retired Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic and Student Affairs, Professor Chrissie Boughey, who, before this position, was at the helm of CHERTL for almost two decades, and also Dean: Teaching and Learning, Sioux McKenna and current and former CHERTL colleagues culminated in fruitful collaborations. This cadre of scholars nurtured the next generation of academics and academic developers and supported more experienced scholars in their teaching and learning through relevant professional development opportunities and scholarly publications. It is thus no surprise that their scholarly contributions are considered seminal works in AD. These role models continue to demonstrate what enacting the academic project, and advancing scholarship in higher education entails.