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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

Maize breeder rewarded for his research to enhance food security in Africa
2016-08-26

Description: Maize breeder rewarded  Tags: Maize breeder rewarded

Prof Maryke Labuschagne from the UFS Department
of Plant Sciences, Berhanu Tadesse Ertiro, a
postgraduate student in Plant breeding at the UFS,
and Dr Peg Redinbaugh of the US Department of
Agriculture in Wooster, Ohio.
Photo: Supplied

Ethiopia is one of the African countries, deeply affected by food insecurity. Berhanu Tadesse Ertiro, a citizen from Ethiopia started his career - after graduating with his undergraduate degree in 2003 - as a junior maize breeder. Today he is pursuing his doctorate degree in Plant Breeding at the University of the Free State (UFS).

His research had made some great strides in contributing to food security in Africa. He recently received a fellowship from the prestigious Norman E. Borlaug Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program (Borlaug LEAP).

This fellowship is only awarded to students whose research has relevance to the national development of the student’s home country or region. The aim of these fellowships are to enhance the quality of thesis research of graduate students from developing countries who show strong promise as leaders in the field of agriculture and related disciplines.

Low soil fertility a major maize production constraint
Berhanu is also a visiting student at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Kenya, where he is running field experiments for his PhD thesis dissertation. His research focuses on Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) and Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) disease tolerance. Low soil fertility and MLN are among the major maize production constraints in eastern and southern Africa, where maize is staple food.

Such hybrids have the potential to contribute greatly
towards food security among farmers and their
families through increased productivity.

The use of new tools could increase breeding efficiency and reduce the time needed for the release of new stress tolerant hybrids. Such hybrids have the potential to contribute greatly towards food security among farmers and their families through increased productivity. Berhanu is looking at the feasibility of genome wide selection for improvement of NUE in tropical maize.

Fellowship includes mentorship and supervision across borders
The programme supports engaging a mentor at a United States university and Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR). During his fellowship, he will be supervised and mentored by Prof Maryke Labuschagne of the UFS, Prof Rex Bernando, a professor of Corn Breeding and Genetics at the University of Minnesota and Dr Biswanath Das of CIMMYT, Kenya.

As a LEAP fellow, Berhanu was invited to attend the 30th Annual World Food Prize events to take place in October 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. The week will include his attendance at the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development meeting, participation at side-events at the Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium and the World Food Prize.

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