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Reasons to be Proud - #R2bP: Mandela University Geosciences lecturer Navashni Naidoo, has been awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study towards her PhD at the University of Illinois in the Unites States.

She will be based on their Urbana-Champaign campus when she takes up residency in August this year.

“The sheer number of courses offered at the University of Illinois makes me spoilt for choice; if there is anything you're confused about there will be a course that you can take to remedy the confusion.  Studying internationally also gives you a different perspective in how to approach your research and teaching”, Navashni says.

“I think I was successful in attaining a Fulbright scholarship as I was confident.  I knew what I wanted to do for my PhD, and I was confident in my research and social abilities. 

“Another important factor is the South African high school mathematics and English syllabus.  To be accepted at an American institution one has to take the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), the equivalent of our National Benchmark Test.  If one does not score well in these tests,  Fulbright cannot grant you the scholarship”, she says.

Currently Navashni is doing her PhD through distance learning, working on her PhD proposal and then attending online lectures and seminars between 10 pm and 2 am South African time, “challenging yet interesting” she says.  

Some of her modules include Feminist Science, Landscape Archaeology and even French.  French is an obligatory course that she has to take to acquire a PhD as the Anthropology Department believes that students should be fluent in two academic languages. 

“Learning French is quite fun, especially as the class is full of undergraduate students.  It's very interesting to hear their perspectives and see the difference in the undergraduate system in the USA vs South Africa, Navashni says.  

“I have been privileged enough to have been involved on several field research projects with American PhD students.  I was always impressed with the vast array of topics that they had a firm hold on.  

“I realised that this knowledge was attained through their PhD coursework and felt that I too would benefit from such an in-depth programme.  I also wanted to expand my networks and my knowledge on isotopes and hunter-gatherer behaviour.  A PhD in the States was therefore an obvious choice”, according to Navashni.

Currently Navashni is still in the coursework stage of her PhD and she still needs to run a pilot study to see if her tentative research project, in its very early stages, will work next year.  This could possibly be the role of herbivores related to the modern human adaptability to the last interglacial and glacial environments on the south coast of South Africa.

“Studying in the USA has already been a great benefit to my career, it has allowed me to meet, interact and network with a vast array of people” she says.

Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160