16 October 2023 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Sonia Small
Dr Grey Magaiza
Members involved in the Mountain-to-Mountain collaboration between the two institutions recently met at ASU to seek further collaboration beyond the completion of the current project. Pictured here is Dr Grey Magaiza, Lecturer and Head of the UFS Community Development Programme on the Qwaqwa Campus.

A three-year collaboration between the University of the Free State (UFS) and the Appalachian State University (ASU) in Boone, North Carolina in the United States, is coming to an end. The Mountain-to-Mountain Collaboration under the US University Partnership Initiative in South Africa is funded through the US Embassy and Consulates in South Africa.

From the start, this project had four specific objectives. It wanted to develop and offer an interdisciplinary master's degree in Mountain Studies and another in Community Development on the UFS Qwaqwa Campus. 

Furthermore, the collaboration included the installation of four climate monitoring stations in the Maloti-Drakensberg (South Africa), which will form part of a global network of climate change monitoring sites.  A further objective of the grant was to establish and offer a formal leadership mentorship programme for younger black women in academia and support services at the UFS.

According to Dr Grey Magaiza, Head of the UFS Community Development Programme (Qwaqwa), mutual synergies were identified due to the mountainous locations of both campuses (Qwaqwa and AppState), and the Mountain-to-Mountain project between the two universities was conceptualised. 

The stated objectives and more were achieved.

Grant implementation progress

Dr Magaiza says four meteorological stations have been installed in the Drakensberg and data is now streaming through for climate monitoring. 

The new master's programme in Community Development has successfully received accreditation from the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and will be offered in 2024 or 2025, pending internal logistical processes. The new interdisciplinary master's degree in Mountain Studies is currently under review.

Additionally, an innovative mentorship programme was designed to support the academic and administrative development of 12 black female support and academic staff. Some have since completed their postgraduate studies, and as a result of this collaboration, an article has been accepted for publication in a book chapter. Other female colleagues have also improved their operational competencies in their workplaces. Dr Magaiza remarked, “This aspect of the project has created a network of aspiring and ambitious young female staff members seeking to expand their footprint.”

Also resulting from this initiative were two engaged scholarship initiatives with civic sector organisations in Qwaqwa. These engagements led to the formation of the Maluti-a-Phofung Sustainable Development Forum to engage on development issues in Qwaqwa.

Future steps

Dr Magaiza is excited about the future prospects created by this project. “There have been some signs of potential collaboration in the UFS Department of Geography, for example, Ethnobotany and the Centre for Appalachian Studies. All these partnerships will improve the academic profile of the UFS and enhance international collaborations,” he believes. 

He is also of the opinion that the increased internationalisation footprint brought about by this project, coupled with the much-needed partnership, will go a long way in enhancing the global standing of the UFS as a research-led institution. “The partnership will also see the entrance of the UFS into nuanced scholarly areas such as mountain studies and mountain medicinal research,” he says. 

Dr Magaiza feels a productive and impactful research agenda is critical for any university. “This partnership is supporting the UFS in achieving its strategic imperative to be a globally competitive research-led institution. The postgraduate programmes also enhance our student-centric appeal, while the mentorship programme reaffirms the institution’s ethic of care as critical to the upward mobility and support for female staff members.”

Members involved in the Mountain-to-Mountain collaboration between the two institutions recently met at ASU to seek further collaboration beyond the completion of the current project.

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.