04 February 2021 | Story Nicole Morris | Photo Sonia Small (Kaleidoscope Studio)
Nicole Morris, Acting Dean of Student Affairs.

It is with a great sense of gratitude coupled with relief that I greet and welcome you to the University of the Free State (UFS), after what was one of the most unique years of the millennium. Your mere presence at the university this year is an accomplishment in itself, as you have bravely traversed the year that was, learning to adapt and – most importantly – to accept a new normal. 

We are indeed in the midst of a global pandemic that has brought the global economy to its knees, changed the way we live and work, and delivered on the mandate to disrupt through 4IR. We also lost friends and family along the way. It has, however, shown the true resilient nature of humankind, teaching us one simple lesson that I would like you to digest throughout this coming year, namely, to be ‘certain about uncertainty, comfortable with discomfort’. This also happens to be the motto of the Department of Student Affairs.

Your arrival comes at a time when the world requires a new approach to doing things, and it is absolutely desperate for critical thinkers and problem solvers. The soil is fertile and ready to absorb many different types of seeds, whether in Economic and Management Sciences – how to manage South Africa’s economic woes and rising poverty, the Humanities – dealing with the social impact of the virus, or Health Sciences – solving the longer-term effects of the virus on the body, in addition to Theology, Law, Natural and Agricultural Sciences (NAS), and Education. All of these faculties have their own pre-existing way of doing things and lessons based on history, but 2020 has challenged them and the world at large in ways unimagined hitherto. The challenges posed are, in fact, opportunities and obligations to forge and craft answers to the challenges of the future. So, the onus is now on you to learn, challenge, and present a fresh perspective to the world. Discharging the onus will require analysis, interpretation, inference, explanations, self-reflection, and self-regulation in an open-ended and open-minded manner. I therefore encourage you not to be passive recipients of knowledge, fence-sitters, or disinterested bystanders in 2021, but rather to be active self-agents of change, development, and success in your academic and co-curricular programme. 

As Student Affairs, we seek to ensure that the UFS is a transforming university, one that strives for social justice in everything it does. The foundational values entrenched in the Constitution, being equality, dignity, and freedom, are necessarily of importance to the university. Leading with care is a fundamental element of our philosophy, as we seek to care for fellow humans, all other life forms, the natural environment, and the self – the very essence of Ubuntu. Your multifaceted and diverse life experiences and cultures are a strength that must be brought to the foreground to ensure that we are all stronger in our diversity.

A Chinese proverb says “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now”.  So, I challenge you to re-imagine the world as you know it, to learn from the past, but to actively formulate the future by planting the seeds of change today, rethinking what the world ought to look like, yet remembering always to show compassion in everything you do.
If you want to learn more about the Student Affairs Strategic Plan or Strategy Framework, please visit our homepage

Nicole Morris
Acting Dean: Student Affairs
To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power.
Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget … another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing."
Arundhati Roy

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