New Dean of Students appointed

The new Dean of Students says her passion for student affairs led her to CPUT.

Prem Coopoo, a seasoned student developer with a master’s degree in social work, joined CPUT last month.

She intends to develop a holistic student development plan and that starts with coming up with a framework that will guide each of the departments reporting to her on what is expected of them.

“Everyone needs to know that we need to be student-centred and contribute to student success and not hinder it. Each one should ask themselves ‘are we promoting student success or are we hindering it?’ ”

CPUT is a good institution which is robust with strong union involvement,” says Coopoo who has previously held the position of Dean of Students at both Wits and the North West University in the last 14 years.

During her reign CPUT students can expect a supportive and responsive environment which is proactive rather than reactive.

“They can also expect strict adherence to the university’s rules because we need to assist them with acquiring certain soft skills and if we don’t enforce compliance to our rules we won’t be helping them develop the right skills not only for the world of work but also life in general.”

She adds that students will have an opportunity to become the good citizens of the world. “We will provide the programmes but the responsibility lies with the students to grab the opportunity to grow and develop, so they can expect a positive student experience throughout their career at CPUT and beyond.”

She says that the university would like for its graduates to return for postgraduate studies or be involved in university life as alumni.

The dean is interested in creating “high performing residences”. These should be places of learning where students have a 100% chance of excelling academically and personally, where no violation of any residence rule will be tolerated.

“CPUT must encourage student activism through affiliation with clubs, organisations and student societies with very clear outcomes.”

Staak conquers Athens Marathon

It was a question of mind over matter when Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic, Prof Anthony Staak, joined thousands of runners from across the world to take on the Athens Marathon.

Staak and his wife Wendy recently conquered the historic marathon, known as The Authentic, and said it proved to be one of their toughest marathons yet.

“But it was well worth the effort. Nothing could beat the finish in the iconic 77 000 seat marble stadium where the race officially ended. Both my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, the crowd support almost every step of the way, with shouts of ‘bravo, bravo’ to urge you on, the strong international representation and camaraderie that went with it, it was just great being part of this tradition.”

Staak has been involved in athletics and various sporting activities since his early school years. He took up distance running seriously in 1994 when he and his wife ran the Boston Marathon and New Orleans Marathon while he was studying abroad.

He’s lost count of how many marathons he has run but believes it to be close on 30 standard marathons. Staak has also completed 13 Two Oceans Ultra Marathons and one Comrades Marathon.

His favourite, “without doubt” is the Two Oceans Marathon.

“That is why I did it 13 times! It is promoted as the most beautiful marathon in the world. I can attest to that.”

Staak said he decided to participate in the Athens Marathon because of the strong tradition and history associated it.

It is known as the “Authentic marathon” because this is where marathon running has its historical roots. In around 500 BC a Greek soldier ran from Marathon to Athens to announce the victory of the Greek army over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon. The distance was exactly 41,195 km. The standard marathon distance remains 42,2km to this day.”

The race proved to be a challenge and Staak said there was a steady climb from 18km to 32km to an elevation of about 350m.

“I can’t recall any other marathon having such a long steady climb. Legend has it that the Greek soldier died from exhaustion after delivering the victory message!”

Asked about his main takeaway from the experience Staak replied: “Any goal can be achieved with hard work, discipline and commitment. During the race it was certainly ‘mind over matter’.”

Farewell founding fathers

The Engineering Faculty said goodbye to six staff members this year, some of whom were described as founding fathers of the faculty.

Hosting a lunch for the retirees, acting Dean of Engineering Prof Mellet Moll spoke warmly about his colleagues, praising not only their work ethic and research capacity but also their ability to bring humanity to their teaching process.

“In academia we see how people reach their prime at an advanced point in their career,” said Moll, pointing out that CPUT loses almost 150 years of experience in one go.

While retiring head of the Chemical Engineering Department Prof Daniel Ikhu-Omoregbe has only been at CPUT for ten years, Moll pointed out the department has under his leadership become the biggest contributor to research papers in the faculty despite having no research centres.

Ikhu-Omoregbe said he is glad to have achieved one of the goals he set himself over the past decade which was to leave a visible presence of Chemical Engineering at CPUT in the form of the new building on the Bellville campus.

Moll described Prof Rainer Haldenwang, retired head of the Flow Process and Rheology Centre, as a calming influence who over the years became one of the world’s leading authorities in the field of rheology.

Director of the Centre for Mechanics and Technology and a recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Scholarship, Prof Bohua Sun, said one of the best parts of having worked at CPUT since 1995 was the freedom to study what he wanted to explore. Sun most recently published a paper exploring the three-body problem from the perspective of dimensional analysis in academic journal Science China Physics, Mechanics & Astronomy.

Head of Programme: Surveying, Jacobus Raubenheimer, who collected a Long Service Award for 40 years at CPUT earlier this year, said being part of the development of education in the engineering field was just one of the many positive features of his career: “Your colleagues are a highlight because they make your life easier,” said Raubenheim.

Prof Alvin Lagardien, founder of the Centre for Water Supply and Sanitation Research, was unable to attend the farewell lunch but was fondly mentioned by all attendees. Head of the Civil Engineering & Surveying Department Aashadia Kamalie, mentioned how proud the entire faculty was of Lagardien’s work in the field of water sanitation: “He has been key in the relationship building between CPUT and other institutions,” said Kamalie.

Also honoured at the retirement lunch was Prof Anthony Staak. While Staak is Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning he noted that his heart will always be in engineering.

“When I think of the university’s vision to be at the heart of technology education and innovation in Africa, for me that’s engineering at CPUT. I was fortunate to also study at MIT and 50% of their students are engineers. I would like the day to come when 50% of the students here are engineers,” said Staak.


Written by Theresa Smith

Simulating reality to skill future nurses

The Nursing Science Department is staying ahead of the curve in terms of training staff in the latest treatments and technologies.

Students are already reaping the rewards after lecturer Suveena Singh recently attended a simulation course at the University of the Free State.

The department’s Clinical Skills Laboratory also recently received a multi-million rand upgrade.

Singh said participants ran several simulation scenarios during the course.

Among other things her group ran a simulation with a manikin that simulated a five-year-old having an allergic reaction to Penicillin.

Another focus area was on learning how to do moulage.

“This is the art of applying mock injuries for training purposes. I practiced a few of the techniques on myself and I got quite a few stares as I went out in public. Since coming back I used subtle moulage for the practical exams of the students. The course was a great learning experience but more than that I got to meet attendees from different parts of South Africa & Africa. We have now become a simulation family,” said Singh.

Staff unwind at wellness day

The Faculty of Informatics and Design recently showed its appreciation for non-academic staff members by treating them to a Wellness Day.

Dean of the Faculty Prof Johannes Cronjé said the aim of the event, which was also attended by heads of departments, was to say thanks to non-academic staff for “going the extra mile”.

“This is the second year that we’ve had this event and we’ll definitely do it again in future,” he said.

The Public Relations Programme pulled out all the stops to make the event, themed High Serenity, a success.

Deidre Porthen, senior lecturer and programme head in the Public Relations Department, said she approached the second-year part-time Public Relations students to help conceptualise the theme as well as the activities. “Our non-academic staff are the backbone of a well-functioning faculty. We wanted staff to come and relax but also to learn,” she said.

The speakers were Cronje, academic Dr Carol Ashley, Watkins Valeur managing director Hesté-Mari White and Integral coach and senior lecturer in Applied Design at CPUT, Janet Purcell van Graan.

Student Portia Mbele said the event was a great learning experience for students.

Rewarding excellent teachers

The Faculty of Engineering recently awarded three Teaching Excellence Awards.

Lecturers who really go that extra mile were awarded with a certificate and monetary award for their teaching and community engagement efforts during 2018.

Cheryl Belford of Civil Engineering & Surveying won the Faculty Award.

Felicity Harris (Mechanical Engineering) and Bronwyn Swarts (Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering) won their departmental awards.

This is not the first time Belford has scooped this particular award – she also won it in 2016. Her efforts to finish her teaching year in 2016 using OER were so successful she was selected to deliver a paper on “the use of open educational resources within a disrupted higher education context” at the Open Education Global Conference in 2017.

Like Belford Swartz has been at the forefront of creating Open Educational Practices at CPUT while Harris recently had her hands full working on the logistics of getting the students entering the Sasol Solar Challenge South Africa, 2018 on the road.

In handing out the awards at the Engineering Faculty Board Meeting Acting Dean Prof Mellet Moll said he hoped other lecturers would be motivated to enter “because it is a real honour and something you can write on your CV.”

He pointed out that an award like this is something that is considered in procedures such as considering ad hominem promotions.

Dr Trunette Joseph explained that applicants were encouraged to enter for the Awards which is judged by a Faculty Adjudication Committee. While five lecturers had applied this year she said only three of the portfolios met the strict criteria.

She complimented the three lecturers on the exemplary level of their work: “Well done Cheryl, Felicity and Bronwyn, for showcasing your excellence in teaching so successfully. You are setting the bar very high for those who will follow in your footsteps. Enjoy spending your award money!” said Joseph.

Written by Theresa Smith

Managing Risk

CPUT recently welcomed Khula Poulten as the institution’s new Risk Manager.

Poulten joins the university from Eskom and says his main focus will be to embed a risk management culture from management to student level (the SRC).

“The institution has certain objectives that have to be achieved – some over a short term and others over a long term period. As a risk manager you look at risks (operational and strategic) that will affect the achievement of this. Furthermore, as a risk manager you also have to identify opportunities that will assist management to reach their objectives,” says Poulten about his new role.

“I enjoy what I do in terms of risk management. It’s an exciting feeling when people say to you ‘wow, we didn’t know we were facing such a risk’. When I add value to the process it’s such a good feeling.”

On top of his agenda will be to revive CPUT’s strategic risk register.

“Management has identified strategic risks in the past. Going forward we’ll have to look at these on a more frequent basis.”

He said risk champions have already been nominated by Faculties/Departments and the plan is to work with them to embed the risk management culture i.e. identify risks and maintaining risk registers.

Poulten completed his degree in Internal Auditing at the Durban Institute of Technology and started his career at KPMG. He them moved to Bidvest where he worked in the Bidvest Port Operations Division.

“I then took up a senior risk officer position in the Newcastle Local Municipality in KZN. After that I joined Eskom where I worked on a project at the Koeberg Power Station called the Steam Generator Replacement Project. I was risk officer there for more than two years.”

Poulten enjoys travelling and describes himself as an adventurer at heart.

As the eldest of five children he also strives to be a role model to his siblings who still reside in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal.