Siyaphumelela 2018 Conference

2018 Siyaphumelela conference themes focused on: Basic Needs; Leadership; and Design for Student Success

Fatima Rahiman

Saide serves as the backbone organisation of the Siyaphumelela Initiative which is promoting the use of data analytics to improve student success in higher education in South Africa. One of our major activities is to arrange and manage the annual conference. Fatima Rahiman provides an overview of this year’s conference which covered the following three themes: Basic Needs; Leadership; and Design for Student Success.

We were honoured to have Minister Naledi Pandor, Minister of Higher Education and Training, open the conference whose keynote presentation endorsed the use of data analytics to assist government in implementing initiatives to support student success.

Three pre-conference workshops were held on the morning of the first day of the conference:

  • A Design Thinking Workshop was facilitated by Prof Sukhant Jhag of Portland State University, which involved “Mapping the Student Journey” as a method to highlight the student voice as an integral component of student success programmes. This was elaborated in his keynote presentation Using Design Thinking to Enhance Innovation and Student Success.
  • Development of an Academic Viability Model was a workshop facilitated by a team from the Nelson Mandela University, a Siyaphumelela partner. They have adopted this approach to enhance the strategic alignment of the institution’s offerings.
  • Strategies to Address National Challenges in Higher Education was facilitated by Dr Kim Wilcox and Prof Ken Barenkleau of the University of California.
  • Workshop participants were asked to identify possible strategic partnerships for resolving these challenges. 

Professor Sara Goldrick-Rab, Professor of Higher Education Policy and Sociology, from Temple University was the first keynote presenter after the Minister’s opening address where she highlighted the importance of understanding students’ basic needs in order to realise success in her presentation entitled Securing Basic Needs to Ensure All College Students Succeed.

The first day concluded with the now established drawcard, the VC and DVC panel presentation, where leadership of the five participating institutions, namely Durban University of Technology, Nelson Mandela University, Universities of the Free State, Pretoria and Witwatersrand reflected on their respective institutions’ high impact interventions to support student success..

Day Two opened with a keynote from Prof Kim Wilcox entitled Access Isn’t Enough: Redefining Success in Higher Education  - both his and Prof Goldrick-Rabb’s address highlighted the similar challenges faced by the higher education sector in the US and South Africa.

From a local perspective Prof Yunus Ballim, Vice Chancellor of Sol Plaatje University, provided a critical gaze on academic practices. His presentation described the development and successes at the university.

Rather than have a separate student panel, this year the student voice was integrated into Siyaphumelela partner presentations. The issue of food security featured in at least two institutions’ presentations and a call was made for the development of a food security forum to further explore the issue and possible collaborative interventions.

Day Three opened with Prof Sukhant’ Jhaj’s presentation on Design Thinking at the broader institutional level, with the final keynote from Prof Alan Amory, the Siyaphumelela Project Leader at Saide, whose keynote dealt with a more granular aspect of design at the course design level.

The closing address was made by Jenny Glennie, Executive Director at Saide, and Bill Moses from the Kresge Foundation who both acknowledged the contributions of everyone to the success of the conference. Jenny also highlighted key aspects of the Siyaphumelela plans for the upcoming year.

More detail on the event is availble on the Siyaphumelela website.