03 February 2021 | Story Dr Nitha Ramnath
Reimagining universities for student success

As a public higher-education institution in South Africa with a responsibility to contribute to public discourse, the University of the Free State (UFS) will be presenting the first webinar in its Thought-Leader Series for 2021:  

Date: 4 March 2021

Topic: Reimagining universities for student success  

Time: 14:00-16:00

RSVP: Alicia Pienaar, pienaaran1@ufs.ac.za by 1 March 2021  

A university degree is still viewed as one of the most powerful tools to change the economic prospects of students, their families, and communities. In this sense, universities can be the generators of greater equality, social justice, as well as economic prosperity. Improving all students’ chances of success is a notoriously difficult goal that requires collective action.

The webinar forms part of the establishment of the Student Success Collaborative Forum (SSCF) under the auspices of Universities South Africa (USAf). The SSCF aims to bring together different government, business, civil-society, bursary-provider, and student-success initiatives and universities to look at ways to enable student success. The panellists will share innovative approaches to improve student success in the USA and South Africa.


Prof Heather Nel
Senior Director: Institutional Planning
Nelson Mandela University

Introduction and welcome:

Prof Francis Petersen
Rector and Vice-Chancellor, UFS


Prof Ahmed Bawa
Chief Executive Officer: USAf

Dr Tim Renick
Executive Director, National Institute for Student Success
Georgia State University, USA

Mr Bill Moses
Managing Director: Education
The Kresge Foundation

Prof Nthabiseng Ogude
Dean: Mamelodi Campus
University of Pretoria

Prof Francois Strydom
Senior Director: Centre for Teaching and Learning
University of the Free State

Bios of speakers:

Prof Ahmed Bawa

Prof Ahmed Bawa is the Chief Executive Officer of Universities South Africa (USAf).  Until 2016, he was Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the Durban University of Technology. He also served as Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the Durban Centre of the University of Natal (later the University of KwaZulu-Natal).

At the City University of New York, he was faculty member in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Hunter College and a member of the doctoral faculty at the Graduate Center. He has been appointed Associate Provost for Curriculum Development. He holds a PhD in Theoretical Physics from Durham University in the UK.

As the Programme Officer for Higher Education in Africa with the Ford Foundation, he led the foundation’s African Higher Education Initiative. In this portfolio he has worked in South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt, and Palestine.

Prof Bawa serves on a number of advisory boards such as the South African Institute for Distance Education, the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research of South Africa, and the Higher Education Support Programme of the Open Society Foundation.

Dr Tim Renick

Dr Tim Renick is the founding Executive Director of the National Institute for Student Success and Professor of Religious Studies at Georgia State University in the USA.

At the Georgia State University, he has served as Chair of the Department of Religious Studies, Director of the Honours Programme, and as Senior Vice-President. Between 2008 and 2020, he directed the student success efforts of the university, overseeing a 62% improvement in graduation rates and the elimination of all achievement gaps based on students' race, ethnicity, or income level. For six consecutive years, Georgia State University has graduated more African-American students with bachelor’s degrees than any other not-for-profit college or university in the nation.

Dr Renick has testified before the US Senate on strategies to help university students succeed and has twice been invited to speak at the White House. His work has been covered by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Time, and CNN and was cited by former President Barack Obama. He was named one of the Most Innovative People in Higher Education by Washington Monthly, was the recipient of the Award for National Leadership in Student Success Innovation and was awarded the 2018 McGraw Prize in Higher Education. He has served as principal investigator for more than $30 million in research grants focused on promoting better and more equitable outcomes for college students.

A summa cum laude graduate of Dartmouth College, Dr Renick holds an MA and PhD in Religion from Princeton University in the USA.  

Mr Bill Moses

Mr Bill Moses serves as Managing Director of the Kresge Foundation’s Education Programme, which supports post-secondary access and success for low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students.

The key architect of Kresge’s education programming, Mr Moses leads the team’s continuum of domestic and international grant activities from developing programme strategy, reviewing preliminary ideas, and helping grantees develop proposals or initiatives, to awarding funding and monitoring existing grants. Since his arrival at Kresge, Mr Moses has served as a programme officer and senior programme officer, was instrumental in developing Kresge’s Green Building Initiative, and has spearheaded the foundation’s grant-making in South Africa.

Before joining Kresge, Mr Moses served as Executive Director of the Thomas J Watson Foundation in Rhode Island and as a senior analyst at the Investor Responsibility Research Center in Washington, DC. He also worked as a research officer at TechnoServe and held various administrative positions in Alaska’s state legislature and the federal government, including the US Embassy in Cape Town, South Africa.

A graduate of Claremont McKenna College, Mr Moses holds a master’s degree in International Relations from Yale University in the USA. He is the author of A Guide to American State and Local Laws on South Africa and co-author of Corporate Responsibility in a Changing South Africa.  He was the co-chair of the seven-foundation Partnership for Higher Education in Africa and serves on the steering committee of the Africa Grantmakers’ Affinity Group, an organisation he co-founded. Mr Moses is also a member of the National Advisory Board of the College Promise campaign.

Prof Nthabiseng Ogude

Prof Nthabiseng Ogude is a Science educator and currently Professor and Dean at the Mamelodi Campus of the University of Pretoria. She obtained a PhD degree in Chemistry Education at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. She has 29 years’ experience in tertiary education, thirteen of which were in strategic leadership positions.

Prof Ogude is passionate about student access and success and using data-informed approaches for the holistic development of students, especially among disadvantaged and female students. She serves on the Advisory Board of Siyaphumelela (We succeed) and also as one of six Siyaphumelela student success coaches who assist 13 universities in South Africa to institutionalise student success initiatives through an evidence-led approach.  

In her role as Dean, her responsibility is to oversee the anchor strategy of the university, the Mamelodi Collaborative.  At the core of the anchor strategy is the responsibility to broaden educational pathways to tertiary attainment for learners in the Mamelodi township educational ecosystem and beyond through the Pre-University Academy at the University of Pretoria.

Prof Ogude serves on several boards and councils and is currently the Vice-President of the Pan African University Council, a continental effort under the African Union that brings together research capacity from existing institutions to address common problems such as climate change.

Prof Francois Strydom

Prof Francois Strydom is the Senior Director of Teaching and Learning at the University of the Free State. He has been the project leader of the South African Surveys of Student Engagement (SASSE) since 2007.

The SASSE project, sponsored by the Kresge Foundation, currently works with 19 public higher-education institutions across the country.  The SASSE has influenced national quality assurance practices and is a key component of the Siyaphumelela (We succeed) network, focused on improving student success in higher education through the use of data analytics. Prof Strydom has collaborated with higher-education consortiums on various higher-education initiatives related to access and success.

Prof Strydom is the recipient of various research grants and has published several articles focused on higher-education issues. His research interests include student engagement and success, improving the quality of teaching and learning, and evidence-based change in higher education.  

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