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16 September 2020 | Story Xolisa Mnukwa | Photo Supplied
UFS Division of Student Affairs plans to extend their annual research colloquium to involve other universities, establishing the university as a pioneering institution of higher education and learning.

The annual University of the Free State (UFS) Division of Student Affairs Research (DSA) Colloquium aims to promote a culture of research embedded in data-driven and evidence- based practices in the field of Student Affairs. The purpose of the annual colloquium is to create a safe, enjoyable space for staff members to share their experiences, knowledge, research and practices.

The 2020 Student Affairs Research Colloquium was the first virtual Research Colloquium held by the university. As noted by DSA Researcher Ruben Langenhoven, this year’s theme Virtually Human: Connecting Meaningfully in a Digital World was inspired by the challenging times we live in, and thus commemorated the resilience and adaptability UFS Student Affairs practitioners, academic staff and students. 

As most of the projects and programmes in the DSA were negatively impacted, the Colloquium was threatened by a lack of “hard data” emanating from the 2020 academic year. The division consequently decided to reframe the colloquium by profiling distinct human voices that focused on qualitative experiences. As such, this Colloquium comprised of numerous sections where the emphasis was placed on shared experiences and shared understanding where UFS staff members and students discussed the challenges they faced in the last six months.

DSA staff engaged one another with staff and student-centered lived experiences, and professional staff development sessions that visited the impact of technology on their psychological well-being and how to improve their relationship with technology in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Also forming part of the programme that will inform the future of the division going forward, reflected DSA success-story presentations of the past year. 

The colloquium proved as beneficial for the DSA and the entire institution in its pursuit of a research-based working approach within the Student Affairs discipline. 

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