Addressing students based at the Siyabuswa and Mbombela campuses, Vice-Chancellor Professor Thoko Mayekiso congratulated the learners on passing their matric under difficult circumstances.
“You successfully completed Grade 11 and 12 when the whole world was in the grip of COVID-19. You have already demonstrated your mental toughness; may the lessons you learnt under challenging conditions help you navigate the next leg of your life’s journey,” she said.
Professor Mayekiso further told learners that university life heralds the beginning of a new exciting phase in their lives, and that the most significant time for any university, is when it receives a new intake of students.
“The realisation that new bonds are formed, and new members are welcomed into our fold. We will provide you with a conducive study environment and inculcate in you the discipline of taking responsibility,” she added.
“Your time at UMP will determine your future role in this country, this continent and on the beautiful planet. We welcome you to the ninth year of our existence as the University of Mpumalanga, it is our responsibility as staff to create a supportive environment that nurtures your enthusiasm and guides you to success.
We have numerous sporting codes and other extra-curricular activities. The UMP has great ambience, and an iconic infrastructure which will add value to your learning and development.”
New students were introduced to the university's online learning platforms.
Developing well rounded graduates
The University of Mpumalanga’s Teaching and Learning division has excellent nationally and internationally renowned teaching and academic support staff. The division is driven by the vision and mission of UMP to be an African university in its epistemology and pedagogy, and to “offer high quality educational and training opportunities that foster the holistic development of students through teaching and learning, research and scholarship, and engagement, in collaboration with strategic partners.’
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning Professor Shirley Sommers spoke about teaching and learning at UMP, noting that it is supported through rigorous and continuous professional development opportunities for the teaching staff.
The UMP Academic Student Development section creates opportunities for students to enhance their academic skills and works collaboratively with the Students Affairs division to provide holistic development opportunities for students.
“You have made a great choice by selecting UMP as the institution for your academic and personal development. UMP has teaching and academic support staff solely dedicated to your academic success. The university’s graduate attributes are the driving force behind your academic and non-academic development, and success at UMP.”
Professor Sommers further told the new learners that the institution prides itself to produce graduates that are resourceful, responsive and responsible.
“Our graduates are capable, self-directed, life-long learners; they are authentic research-led scholars who are motivated, conscientious and self-sufficient individuals capable of substantial independent work, who set aspirational goals for continuing personal, professional, and career development.”
Some of the graduate attributes prof Sommers spoke about include:
Sound Discipline Knowledge: they understand and respect the values, theoretical principles, ethical aspects, methods, and limitations of their discipline; and possess discipline-relevant professional or vocational or academic knowledge, skills, and competencies.
Innovative and Entrepreneurial: are intellectually curious, independent, creative, and critical thinkers who can innovate by applying their knowledge and skills to the solution of the novel as well as routine problems for sustainable development.
Confident and Effective Communicators: who can engage meaningfully with a range of diverse audiences.
Ethically and Socially Aware Change Agents: who are socially aware and ethically inclined, to bring about change.
Adaptable: they understand their discipline within dynamically changing, inter and multi-disciplinary contexts; responding flexibly and adapting their skills and knowledge to excel in new situations.
Student life is not all about studies, and finding a healthy balance between extracurricular activities and academics is important.
Developing a good balance: Living and Learning
Dean of Students, Dr Paul Maminza speaking on living and learning at UMP said: “The practice of living and learning at universities is premised on the understanding that university students learn both in and out of the classroom. It is a practice that promotes the holistic development of a student.”
“The Living and learning approach promotes learning in a distinctly open way. In the process, it assures that learning inside and outside the classroom, unites the heart and mind. It develops, in students, an authentic conscience, character, and intellect,” he added.
Dr Maminza further explained that: “Exposure to educational themes outside the classroom allows students to take ownership of their living and learning at the university. Students should understand that the education milieu is everywhere, with everyone, with the self, and with the surrounding, in short, learning happens all the time.”
“By being part of a Living and Learning Community (LLC), the student will have the opportunity to experience a more personal and less formal way of learning. You’ll engage with students who share the same interests and thus build strong relationships with your peers,” he advised.
“Students who are involved in the Living and Learning Programmes are retained in greater numbers, are more engaged in university life, adjust more quickly to the academic demands, and have fun while on their academic journey.
Dr Maminza also added that students all students, particularly new students, are encouraged to join and participate in a Living and Learning Community of their choice. Interested students should contact the Student Development Officer (SDO) on campus for more information.
The UMP library offers students state of the art facilities.
The orientation included a tour to the library, where the Director of Library and Information Services, Ms Zanele Mathe encouraged the learners to visit regularly.
“The university library is one of the most important places every first-year student should get to explore to ensure easy access to all resources and useful spaces as students begin to write essays and assignments and explore areas of research interest,” she continued.
“The UMP library offers facilities and services that are easily accessible both online and on-site with consultation and guidance from librarians. Our physical spaces are socially interactive, striking a balance between quiet, collaborative, virtual, research, and communal spaces, with Wi-Fi connectivity and lots of daylight inside the building,” she concluded.
“It is worth taking some time to explore the many different ways in which the Library staff can help you with your studies and we hope to meet you soon during orientation sessions which will be publicized on the library website and social media spaces. We look forward to being of great help to you at all times,” she said.
The new learners were also empowered with the skills necessary to adapt to university life, as well as given study tips. First-year students learned about how to transition from high school to university, study skills, student support services in UMP, student counselling and health care services.
@ Story by Cleopatra Makhaga. Pictures supplied.