Ubuntu Dialogues

SU trailblazer on her way to her PhD


Stellenbosch University (SU) student Nomzamo Ntombela is without a doubt a trailblazer. She is a first generation university graduate, was the first black woman to be elected as Chairperson of the SU Student Representative Council in 2017 and now she has become one of the very few SU students with an honours degree to be accepted into a PhD programme at the Michigan State University (MSU) in the USA.

Earlier this year, Stellenbosch University (SU) made history with Michigan State University (MSU) when the two institutions signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that agreed to foster international cooperation in education, research and community engagement at both universities.

The agreement stemmed from a request by the two universities for Mellon Foundation support to deepen an existing initiative, the Ubuntu Dialogues project, over a three-year period; to develop replicable frameworks for university museums in Africa and elsewhere; and to collaborate in producing dynamic sites for the co-creation and dissemination of knowledge and practice through local and international dialogues. The Ubuntu Dialogues were a platform through which Nomzamo gained exposure to MSU prior to the MOU being signed thus illustrating the endless possibilities of such an agreement for the student community.

According to Nomzamo, lecturers from the African Studies Center at MSU encouraged her to apply for a PhD programme at the American university while she was visiting them last year as part of the Ubuntu Dialogues programme and their Year of Global Africa Symposium, where young scholars from both universities were able present their research and share ideas.

“I kept on telling them that I did not have a Master’s degree and I didn’t think I would be accepted into the programme. However, after I had had some time to think about it and consult with people at SU on my return, everyone strongly motivated me to give the application a try.”

Staff members from the Department of Anthropology, the University Museum and from various divisions at SU strongly mentored and guided to help get Nomzamo accepted into the PhD programme, a rare feat for an Honours student who has yet to complete their Master’s degree. She also successfully completed the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), which is a standardised test that is an admissions requirement for most graduate schools in the United States. As part of the PhD programme at MSU, she will also have the option of writing a Master’s thesis in the first few years of completing the PhD programme, to help bridge the gap between going from a Honours degree straight into PhD studies.

The African History PhD programme at MSU is part of the Department of History at the College of Social Sciences and will have the option of being an interdisciplinary course, which will leverage from Nomzamo’s Honours studies in Cultural Anthropology at SU, a subject she never thought she would be studying.

“I didn’t have History as an option at school. I learned about History when I came to Stellenbosch; perhaps not in the most comfortable way, as one would like to, but it was definitely a huge thing for me. It helped me discover who I am and where I’m from, and helped propel me even further to who I want to be in the future.”

Nomzamo also hopes that her journey at MSU will help motivate and make a difference in other’s lives, especially black women wanting to pursue an academic career.

“Being a first generation student has already made a difference in my family’s life. I really want to make a difference and help inspire and help more black women go into spaces where they were not allowed to enter before. I also want to help people believe in themselves through what I’m doing and have been able to achieve thus far. It really takes that one person to either believe in you or support you to do something you haven’t done before and I hope to be that person for someone else.”

By Rozanne Engel

Read original article here.

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