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Cecilia Van Zyl
Cecilia Van Zyl, the last recipient of the Dean’s Medal for the April 2024 graduations.

During its recent April graduation ceremonies, at which at least 9 000 new graduates received their qualifications, the University of the Free State (UFS) also celebrated 19 recipients of the various faculties’ Dean’s Medals. These medals symbolise academic excellence and unwavering dedication, recognising exceptional students with remarkable talents and achievements.

The April graduation ceremonies conferred various qualifications across the UFS’s seven faculties at the Bloemfontein and Qwaqwa Campuses from 12 to 20 April 2024.

Cecilia Van Zyl, a graduate of the Faculty of Education who received her Bachelor of Education (Foundation Phase Teaching) degree, was awarded the final Dean's Medal, concluding the April graduations on a high note.

Van Zyl said her journey was more about getting the best results than receiving accolades. “Throughout my academic journey, my focus has always been on doing my best rather than seeking accolades. Upon careful reflection, I realised that this recognition is a by-product of my dedication and hard work in pursuing my passion. I firmly believe that my difficult experiences and challenges, such as teaching practice sessions or daunting assignments, have shaped my success. While initially daunting, these trials pushed me out of my comfort zone and compelled me to work harder and strive for excellence. I would also like to acknowledge the wonderful support and encouragement of [the UFS’s] highly knowledgeable lecturers, professors, and helpful tutors.” 

Beginning of the journey

During the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences graduations, Wikus Vorster (BSc Actuarial Science), Mienke Botha (BSc Agric Animal Science), and Rinus Behrens (BSc Honours Food Science) were awarded an amount of R50 000 each in addition to their medals, for their academic dedication by Dr Snowy Khoza, a seasoned adviser, strategist, and development activist in infrastructure development.

She encouraged graduates to view graduation as just one milestone in their journey. "Regardless of your career path, remember the importance of continuous research to stay relevant and contribute to the community,” she said. [Click here for her full speech.]

Lifelong learning

Likeleli Monyamane, a chartered accountant registered with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), shared her journey with the other graduates during her congratulatory address. She advised students on lifelong learning, professionalism, the power of mentorship, and leadership.  

“As we move from one chapter to another and transition from one season of our lives to another, we ought to remember to keep on adding new tools to our ‘toolbox’ – the toolbox of knowledge, skills, and competencies. While the university may have prepared you for the next few years of your career, you will need to continue to learn and get knowledge to remain relevant and to have longevity in your career.” 

She said education played a crucial role in helping her get to where she is. “If I had the whole day, it wouldn’t be enough to describe the tremendous role that education has played in my life and how, as an orphaned child, educators became a critical part of my upbringing to provide guidance and mentorship, as well as to call out my gifts and talents based on my interactions with me. For this reason, it gives me great pleasure to stand before you today and congratulate you on your wonderful achievement of obtaining a qualification in the field of education.” [Click here for her full speech.]

The other recipients of the Dean’s Medal included:

• Damian James Foreman (Bachelor of Psychology Honours)
• Daniel du Preez Goosen (Master of arts with specialisation in Philosophy)
• Dineo Mosolodi (Bachelor of Social Science)
• Abigail Ruth Caroline Webb (Bachelor of Social Work)
• Arran Daniel Wood (Master of Architecture)
• Elrike Wolmarans (Bachelor of Medical Science with specialisation In Radiation Sciences)
• Marisca Stander (Bachelor of Science in Physiotherapy)
• Shezree Tiel (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery)
• Chanie Burger (Bachelor of Medical Science Honours in Human Molecular Biology)
• Juan Venter (Bachelor of Divinity)
• Hané Pieters (MMedSc degree with specialisation in Medical Physics)
• Louwrens Lodewikus Vorster (Bachelor of Science majoring in Actuarial Sciences)
• Kegomoditswe Iris Makhorole (Bachelor of Theology Honours with specialisation in Old Testament)
• Ubenita Remmelien (Bachelor of Laws)
• Charlene Black (Bachelor of Accounting)

• Christopher Adolph Strydom (Bachelor of Administration Honours)

Across all faculties, recipients of the Dean's Medal embody the UFS's Vision 130 core values of excellence, integrity, and social responsibility. Their achievements reflect their dedication, hard work, and the university's commitment to fostering academic excellence and producing graduates who will positively impact the world.

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