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14 January 2019 | Story Eugene Seegers | Photo Anja Aucamp
Study Bug Bites Historian Early
Prof Corene de Wet, South Campus researcher, is a dedicated historian and educator.

From a childhood dream of being a historian, to a decades-long educator and double doctorate-holder, Prof Corene de Wet has led an eventful life. Realising that her undergrad qualification on its own would not get her a job, she completed the Higher Diploma in Education at the then Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education. However, “just to buy some time for myself,” she decided to study part-time while teaching in Winburg.

Prof De Wet calls it “being bitten by the part-time study bug.” By 1991, she had obtained her BEd (an honours degree at the time), MEd, and DEd degrees. In 1999, she graduated with a PhD in History. Today, Prof De Wet is still a research associate on our South Campus.

Tremendous milestones and mentors

Dr Lynette Jacobs, co-researcher on several projects, says, “Prof De Wet was the first woman to receive a full professorship in the Faculty of Education, and the first woman in the faculty to obtain an NRF rating. She received her professorship at a time when the academic world belonged to men. She outclassed her peers, rising head and shoulders above the crowd.”

Prof De Wet says her superhero is Prof Daniella Coetzee, South Campus Principal and long-time colleague. “Prof Coetzee is a brilliant academic and organiser. She makes every member of her staff feel special. I am ever thankful that she saw the need for a researcher on the South Campus and that she appointed me in this position,” says Prof De Wet.

“She is a seasoned academic who
still enjoys international recognition.”
—Dr Lynette Jacobs.

Generational history and work ethic

Although much has changed in education since her initial research, Prof De Wet believes that both her doctoral dissertations still bear scrutiny. Regarding the zeitgeist and its impact on the written history of a nation, Prof De Wet says, “We regularly hear many voices today who say that history must be ‘rewritten’. My thesis dealt with exactly that: How different generations of historians wrote histories influenced by the spirit of the time, or by textbooks, or by their own political or world views, or their philosophy on life. Thus, different generations interpret the same events differently.”

During a career spanning more than four decades, Prof De Wet has upheld a strong work ethic. This has enabled her to maintain her C-rating as an NRF researcher. “If one doesn’t dare, if you are too afraid of critique or failure, you won’t get anywhere in academia,” she says, adding, “Criticism is part of academic life. Therefore, take chances, and learn from healthy, constructive criticism.”

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