26 January 2021

Professor Sommers joins UMP after having had over 20 years in academia rising through the ranks from Assistant Professor to a tenured full Professor. She also held several leadership and pioneering positions such as being the founding director of the Centre for Urban Education, Nazareth College, USA, which built capacity for preservice and in-service teachers to educate students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds using culturally responsive and social justice education methodologies. 

She was also the founding Director of the Institute for Pluralism (currently called Office of Diversity and Inclusion) at the same institution, which attended to the development of an equitable and inclusive campus in terms of race, gender, gender identity, social class and sexuality. 

Professor Sommers was also Coordinator: Leadership and Equity Advancement Programme (2004-2005) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. From 2002 to 2004 she was Associate Director: Staff (Faculty) Development at Durban Institute of Technology, Durban University of Technology (DUT). In 2006 she was the Project Manager and Senior Consultant at Fundani Consultants, where she facilitated instalment of performance and evaluation software (Scorecard) for all sectors of the KwaZulu-Natal government.

“I’m thrilled to join UMP, a young university with a lucid vision to be an African university and to contribute to sustainable development. UMP’s vision alone resonates strongly with me as a person whose work is centred on social justice education. Having a vision of being African-centred means the university is choosing to intentionally move away from our painful history of colonization and apartheid that continues to haunt the lecture halls and corridors of South African academia. I am excited to contribute to this process!”

Professor Sommers has extensive experience in the domain of Teaching and Learning emanating from her qualifications in Education. She has an M Ed degree in Curriculum and Instruction Design obtained in 1996 from Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, USA and a PhD in Theoretical and Social Foundations of Education with a minor in Higher Education Administration in 2001 from the University of Toledo in Toledo Ohio, USA. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts: Geology (1993) from Earlham College, Indiana, USA.

Her philosophy of teaching and learning focuses on: teaching efficacy that is empowering to both staff and students. She is of the view that the role of the Deputy Vice Chancellor: Teaching and Learning is to provide leadership and support to staff with the ultimate goal of ensuring that students achieve academic success within the designated time.

In addition, she has expertise in online teaching from teaching and staff development perspectives. She has been facilitating an online module for a number of years and was considered by her former colleagues a resource for online teaching and learning in her previous institution. Her extensive list of publications in peer-reviewed journals and book chapters adds to her stature and will make it easier for her to empower those that she leads at UMP.

“I am very impressed by UMP. The motto of the institution is ‘creating opportunities’, pursuant to this, the university creates opportunities for not just student success, which is the core of our work, but also opportunities for staff success. For students we have excellent and dedicated teaching staff, academic support services and student affairs staff focused on creating opportunities for students’ holistic development.”

On welcoming Professor Sommers, UMP Vice-Chancellor Professor Thoko Mayekiso said: “Prof Mthethwa Sommers is eminently qualified for the position of Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning. She has an in-depth understanding of teaching and learning in terms of epistemology and pedagogy. She has moved through the ranks to full Professor, distinguishing herself on this trajectory by dint of hard work and impact in the life of students and staff.”

“She has also worked with academic staff providing leadership in effective teaching methodologies and assessment methods for all students including students from poor socio-economic backgrounds. She has introduced innovative teaching co-curricular strategies.”

“We cordially welcome her in our midst and look forward to her contribution and value-add to our institution.”

@ Story by Lisa Thabethe. Pictures @Chrisplphoto.