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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

NASA Deep Space Navigation engineer presents at Naval Hill Planetarium
2017-03-30

Description: NASA Deep Space Navigation engineer  Tags: NASA Deep Space Navigation engineer

From the left: Chris du Plessis; US Consulate, Johannesburg,
Prof Petrus Meintjes; Dept of Physics UFS, Christopher Jacobs;
NASA, and Anthony Deaton; US Consulate Johannesburg.
Photo: Rulanzen Martin

The University of the Free State (UFS) hosted NASA Deep Space engineer Christopher Jacobs on 27 March 2017 at the Bloemfontein Campus. The engagement was hosted by Prof Matie Hoffman of the Department of Physics and the Department of Institutional Advancement, in collaboration with the US Consulate General in Johannesburg.

Jacobs is stationed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the California Institute of Technology and has served as the Reference Frame Calibration task manager for 25 years. In this role he has been responsible for delivering the reference frames used to navigate NASA missions such as the Mars Science Laboratory to planetary targets.

His visit to the UFS included a presentation to the Department of Astrophysics at the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and at the Naval Hill Planetarium in Bloemfontein where he spoke on Stellar GPS: Navigating the Solar System. He also spoke about the latest research and developments at NASA in Astrometry. The visit will establish and develop shared interests and possible collaboration with UFS and other institutions of interest in the country. “South Africa, because of its well-placed geographic location in the southern hemisphere, holds a lot of answers to astronomy,” Jacobs said.

He has an active interest in professional and public education, and outreach, having given public lectures around the world. “Astronomy brings people together and is a point of common interest that is key in solving environmental and geographical challenges such as climate change, therefore global cooperation is important,” he said.

Prof Hoffman welcomed the initiative by the US Consulate and the possible outcomes of joint efforts to position the UFS as a key partner in South Africa on NASA’s astronomy projects. In the coming weeks Jacobs will speak at high schools in Gauteng including the Mae Jemison US Science Reading Room in Mamelodi, Pretoria, a centre that is focused on promoting science education.

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