University of Pretoria: UP launches new alumni chapter

The University of Pretoria’s (UP) Alumni Relations Office has launched a new alumni chapter for UP graduates who have been recipients of the Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Merit Award (VCDMA).

Every year since 2016, top scholars have been awarded the VCDMA, which grants recipients funding for the duration of their undergraduate studies.

“The chapter aims to promote professional and social interaction, ensure continuation and success of the VCDMA initiative, and ensure mentorship of all interested members,” explained Jaco-Louis Venter, former VCDMA recipient and Acting Chairperson of the new chapter. “The idea of forming the chapter was started by Mr Wallace Isaacs, Deputy Director of the Department of Enrolment and Student Administration,” he added. “VCDMA graduates were invited to form an initial or ‘temporary’ committee to get things going. In collaboration with UP staff, the VCDMA team, students and UP’s legal department, a draft constitution was concluded.”

For Professor Tawana Kupe, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UP, alumni chapters are an indication of a long-standing commitment to the University. “When I hear that a new alumni chapter is being launched, I know that I am about to meet people who are passionate about the things that drive us at UP – excellence in education, and a determination to create a better world with our own hands,” he said. “Launching and becoming part of an alumni chapter shows a commitment not only to your alma mater, but goes much deeper than that – it shows a commitment to helping others to access the education you’ve attained, and in that way, continuing to live the UP ethos of giving back to your community.”

Prof Kupe also highlighted the history of the VCDMA initiative. “Since 2016 and over seven years of awardees, a total of 366 students have accepted the VCDMA offer and become part of a small group of very special students. In addition to the financial support provided for three years, most of these students also experienced, among other highlights, global leadership workshops and training facilitated by Common Purpose South Africa – a visual intelligence and comprehension training programme run by EyeBrainGym – and mentorship facilitated by UP’s Department of Student Affairs.”

The Vice-Chancellor also pointed out that at the graduation ceremonies held in April this year, three VCDMA students were awarded the Vice-Chancellor and Principals’ medal for maintaining an excellent average throughout their undergraduate studies.

Samantha Castle, Senior Manager of Alumni Relations at UP, hopes this chapter will grow in leaps and bounds. “We hope it will compete with alumni chapters like our longest-running one, the Mining Alumni Society chapter, which has been meeting since 1977 with the main aim of providing mining students with financial support, job opportunities in the industry and mentorship for junior members,” she said.

Castle also made reference to the Phahama UP chapter, which was established in 2015 to provide bursary and mentorship support to previously disadvantaged students at UP and to serve as UP brand ambassadors, as well as the 60+ UP Alumni Chapter, formally known as TuksClub60+.

“All the efforts and contributions from the alumni chapters help UP to maintain its highly rated status in the global educational environment,” she said.