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26 February 2019 | Story Eugene Seegers | Photo Eugene Seegers
Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Daniella Coetzee, South Campus Principal, Tshegofatso Setilo, Director Access, Prof Prakash Naidoo, Vice-Rector Operations
Prof Francis Petersen, Prof Daniella Coetzee (Principal: South Campus), Tshegofatso Setilo (Head: Access Programmes), and Prof Prakash Naidoo (Vice-Rector: Operations) on the South Campus for the welcoming of first-years.


“Welcome to the South Campus of the University of the Free State!” Addressing a packed Madiba Arena, Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, said he was happy to see not only first-year students, but also parents and guardians, student leadership, and support staff from both the Bloemfontein and South Campuses.

 “I would like to congratulate each of our first-year students for making the decision to come to Kovsies to further your studies here. But I would also like to thank you for making this choice,” he continued.

Prof Petersen further emphasised that the students’ experience and success as individuals are important to the UFS as an institution; therefore, academic and support staff are on hand to guide them through their journey to becoming well-rounded individuals. “We will surely take care of you,” said Prof Petersen. He also reassured parents and guardians that their loved ones would be well looked after.

The Rector also focused attention on the role of student-leadership structures, such as the newly-formed Institutional Student Representative Council (ISRC) and South Campus SRC, members of which were present in the audience. He thanked them for playing a key role in the student constituency, highlighting their support and guidance to help first-years cultivate a sense of belonging at the UFS.

Turning back to first-year students, Prof Petersen stated that they have the unique opportunity to study on a campus specifically focused on developing their full potential, a campus where they can realise their dreams. “Your arrival on the campus marks a new chapter in your life. This chapter is slightly different, as you are the author thereof. The previous chapters in your life were largely written by others—your parents, guardians, families, teachers, and others. You will now be the main author in the next chapter of your unique story.”

“At Kovsies, we believe in developing students in their totality as human beings, not just the academic side. May your time with us equip you to make a success of your life after university!”

Prof Petersen’s Message to First-year Students
  1. Take responsibility for your academic programme.
    • Keep your focus. Study and study hard. You will reap the rewards and see the advantages of making success in your studies a top priority.
    • Make sure that you have enough time for your studies; balance your social life and your time set aside to study.
  2. Realise and remember that you are not alone.
    • If you find things difficult, seek help.
    • Our Department of Student Counselling and Development has trained staff and tailor-made programmes that can assist you.
    • Look after your mental health—and look after each other’s mental health.
  3. Make the most of your time at Kovsies.
    • Join one or more of the student organisations; why not try something new?
  4. Embrace difference and diversity.
    • Get to know students who are different from you.
    • You will lose valuable opportunities to grow if you only associate with your own all the time. It is important to get to know students who are different from you. It could be someone from a different part of the country, or from another country, a different ethnicity, a different religion, someone who has different views from yours, or who has different interests and perspectives.

News Archive

Compassion improves psychological well-being and reduces emotional distress
2017-09-27

Description: TEDxUFS   Tags: TEDxUFS

Participants in the Kindness Project sharing a
Random Act of Kindness with the cleaning staff,
Mathabiso Sehlabaka and Madineo Mokoena.
Photo: Thabo Kessah

Various studies have reported that the cultivation and practice of compassion may result in improved self-esteem, a decrease in depression and anxiety, increase in subjective well-being, and overall improvement in physical and psychological health. This is according to Counselling Psychologist, Tobias van den Bergh, during the Kindness Project (KP) on the Qwaqwa Campus.

“Students that are involved in this project have shown statistically significant improvements in overall well-being and compassion towards themselves and others,” said Van den Bergh, the project leader and Head of Department: Student Counselling and Development, Qwaqwa Campus.

“In addition, student participants of the compassion-based intervention showed a decrease in their experience of debilitating emotions and depressive symptoms, as well as a significant increase in measurements of positive affect (an indication of life vitality), self-compassion, and well-being. Humans appear to be genetically programmed to be kind. Studies have shown that the same brain structures that are activated when we procreate (i.e. have sex) or eat chocolates, are activated when we are kind. Thus, it means showing an instinctive predisposition towards compassion for our kin and others. Kindness also appears to be contagious. Whenever we observe kindness or experience kindness ourselves, we are much more likely to be compassionate towards our fellow human beings,” he said.

The KP is based on the Science of Compassion, with participants completing a four-week compassion-based intervention where they learned about and practised self-compassion and compassion towards others. In the last week of the programme, participants completed various Random Acts of Kindness off and on the campus.

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