UKZN’s first-year students for 2023 were recently welcomed with a comprehensive action-packed virtual orientation week from the University’s four Colleges.
Successfully held from Monday, 6 February 2023, to Friday, 10 February 2023, the event aimed to empower first-years with the necessary skills for the best university experience – academically and socially.
The College of Law and Management’s (CLMS) programme was championed by its Teaching and Learning Unit; and featured a variety of activities, including an extended four-week orientation, workshops, and social activities. Professor Msizi Mkhize, College Dean of Teaching and Learning, said the transition from high school to university is never easy and encouraged students to take advantage of the support resources available to them.
‘We have put together a number of programmes that will assist you to navigate this transition. These include academic support, the First Year Experience to help you deal with transition challenges, and the Writing Place to assist you with academic writing. Please use these tools on your journey of independent learning and to have the best university experience,’ he said.
Students had the opportunity to ask questions about registration, financial aid and residence. Ms Diya Bhagwandeen, a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting first-year student, said the sessions were informative and helpful. ‘I’m glad that I also learnt more about my course and the career paths it entails. Everyone not only explained in great detail the important topics and subjects regarding the University, but they also gave us brilliant advice,’ she said.
The College of Humanities’ virtual sessions provided its first-year students – placed across its three campuses in Pietermaritzburg, Edgewood, and Howard College – with vital information on career paths, their academic degrees, the online registration process, and other relevant information. Deputy-Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities, Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize; Dean of Teaching and Learning, Professor Ruth Hoskins; as well as Sociologist within the School of Social Sciences, Dr Sharmla Rama, were part of the sessions. Mkhize assured students that assigned College employees would assist in addressing some of their queries. ‘As the College of Humanities, we are aware that knowledge is interdisciplinary and interconnected, and hence cannot advance scientifically if the human element is neglected, which is the key to our survival as well as the survival of the national environment,’ he said. Added Hoskins, ‘It is through the College of Humanities that you will have the opportunity to make a difference in South African society and in the world – make sure you take advantage of this golden opportunity today.’
Professor Busisiwe Ncama, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Health Sciences (CHS), welcomed the College’s first-year cohort. She said, ‘This year, the CHS received 87 653 applications for 1 036 first-year places. You are the cream of the crop and we are excited to have such young, shining stars join us. We have a proud history of producing some of the world’s prestigious health scientists and clinicians, many of whom will be teaching, mentoring and guiding you through your years with us. I wish you strength and wisdom on your journey to becoming a health professional.’
The CHS programme, which takes place over a four-week period starting in January and including postgraduate students and medical registrars, was co-ordinated by its Student Support Services (SSS) unit which provides students with the tools to assist in the transition from high school to university life, with a particular focus on mental health and wellness. Said CHS SSS Manager, Dr Saloschini Pillay, ‘Students presenting with mental health issues are a concern as they are expected to register with professional councils and ensure fitness to practice. First-time-entering students often times struggle with adjusting to the transition from school to university and those with pre-existing mental health issues sometimes do not cope with the transition and the absence of a familiar support network. We are of the view that the Academic Orientation and Integration programme is an opportune and ideal space to destigmatise mental illness, promote positive mental health and share accurate information on support and services.’
The College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science focused on giving first-year students practical tips and assistance for this exciting, if slightly overwhelming new stage of their lives. Amongst other topics, students were talked step-by-step through the online registration process, fee payments, the ins and outs of getting an email address, campus access, permits and student cards, and how to access timetables.
The First Year Experience programme was also explained. Daily afternoon interactive Q&A sessions were held throughout Orientation Week, both in English and isiZulu. Five individual TEAMS rooms – one for each School in the College – were also open throughout the week and manned by academic staff so that concerned students could access individual help with module choices and other registration queries. ‘As a College, we are committed to doing everything in our power to assist our students succeed in their academic career. We are here to help,’ said the Dean of Teaching and Learning in the College, Professor Naven Chetty.