29 September 2023 | Story Veena Naidoo | Photo Supplied
NAS Vice Deans
From left to right: Prof Johan van Niekerk (Vice-Dean for Agriculture), Prof Liezel Herselman (Vice-Dean for Teaching and Learning) and Prof Samuel Adelabu ( Vice-Dean for Research and Postgraduate Studies).

The University of the Free State is proud to introduce three esteemed academics who have been appointed as Vice-Deans within the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. These appointments, effective from 1 September 2023, mark a significant milestone in enriching our academic leadership and promoting excellence in teaching, research, and innovation. The distinguished individuals selected for these roles bring a wealth of experience, expertise, and dedication, promising to elevate our institution to new heights.

Prof Johan van Niekerk: Vice-Dean for Agriculture

Prof Johan van Niekerk is a prominent figure in the field of Sustainable Food Systems and Development. With a PhD in Sustainable Agriculture and extensive experience in academia, Prof Van Niekerk is well-positioned to lead as the Vice-Dean for Agriculture at the University of the Free State. He has a strong vision for steering the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences towards financial sustainability and global recognition. 

One of Prof Van Niekerk's primary goals as Vice-Dean is diversifying funding sources for the faculty, aiming to extend beyond government funding by establishing strategic partnerships with industries and foundations. His active involvement in regional and global agricultural forums underscores his commitment to collaborative research initiatives, further enhancing our faculty's reputation. 

In response to the pressing issue of climate change, Prof Van Niekerk's research vision is centred on sustainable agricultural production. He plans to leverage the Paradys Experimental Farm, integrating research, teaching, and practical experiences to fortify our foundation for sustainable agricultural innovation. This approach is designed to equip our students for a rapidly evolving employment market and aligns with the university's Vision 130 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

On his appointment, Prof Van Niekerk said, “I am excited about this position's prospects and am confident that agriculture will help deliver the SDGs and the UFS Vision 130. I look forward to contributing to the continued success of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences.” 

Prof Liezel Herselman: Vice-Dean for Teaching and Learning 

Prof Liezel Herselman, a distinguished academic with nearly three decades of experience, has assumed the role of Vice-Dean for Teaching and Learning. Her extensive academic journey, including various leadership roles within the university, showcases her dedication to education and academic advancement. 

In this vital role, Prof Herselman will focus on strategic matters, curriculum innovation, and compliance with academic regulations. Her objective is to align the curricula with Vision 130, making the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences the preferred choice for prospective students. Prof Herselman emphasises digital transformation and entrepreneurial projects to provide a cutting-edge educational experience for students, ensuring they meet industry needs and are ready for future employability challenges.

On assuming her new position as Vice-Dean Prof Herselman said, “I am honoured and excited about receiving this opportunity to make a positive and constructive contribution to our faculty. I am still to learn the ropes of some of the teaching and learning processes, but I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge and having to move out of my current comfort zone.” 

Prof Samuel Adelabu: Vice-Dean for Research and Postgraduate Studies 

Prof Samuel Adelabu, an esteemed expert in Geography, has been appointed as the Vice-Dean for Research and Postgraduate Studies. Prof Adelabu has a profound interest in the application of remote sensing and geographic information systems, making him well-suited to lead research and postgraduate activities within the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. 

His portfolio includes promoting impactful research and postgraduate initiatives in line with the university's Vision 130, with a special focus on visibility, renewal, and reimagination. Prof Adelabu's leadership is anticipated to foster a thriving research culture and enrich the postgraduate experience at the UFS. 

Commenting on his appointment Prof Adelabu remarked, “I am excited about the opportunity to bring my expertise and leadership as Vice-Dean for Research and Postgraduate Studies to the faculty, and work with a team of dedicated professionals to advance the institution's research and postgraduate agenda.” 

Future endeavours 

These appointments underscore the university’s unwavering commitment to fostering a culture of excellence, research innovation, and enhanced learning experiences. The collective expertise and dedication of Prof Johan van Niekerk, Prof Liezel Herselman, and Prof Samuel Adelabu promise a bright future for their respective faculties and the university at large. We extend our hearty congratulations and eagerly anticipate the positive impact they will bring to our academic community. 

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