Change the world


The excellence of 24 top students and graduates were recognised at Nelson Mandela University’s second, virtual annual student Academic Awards ceremony on 28 September 2021.

Vice-Chancellor Prof Sibongile Muthwa in her address, thanked the 2021 achievers for making excellence a habit. “While you have done us proud with your excellent academic achievements, we also know that you will be exemplary Nelson Mandela University alumni and ambassadors, as you make your way in the world as caring, well-rounded, responsible and civic-minded citizens, she said.

The recipients of the prestigious four Vice-Chancellors’ awards for the top achievers in their category were only announced during the screening.

The Rupert Gesinstigting awards are awarded to the best full-time doctoral students registered for the current year at the University in Social Sciences and Humanities and Science, Engineering and Technology.

These winners range from second-year students receiving awards for their first year of study right through to masters’ degree graduates, all of whom have had to deal with the realities of studying during the COVID-19 pandemic for more than 18 months.

Eight recipients, including one master’s graduate, achieved an average of 90% and above for their studies. 

A number of these achievers admitted to missing face-to-face interaction and struggling to adapt to studying online, but all learnt to adapt, persevere, better manage their time and become less distracted.

Watch the video recording of the event

Rupert Gesinstigting Awards

The recipients of the prestigious Rupert Gesinstigting Awards for the best masters were Priscilla Moyo for Social Sciences and Humanities for her LLM in Law and Justin Impey for Science, Engineering and Technology for his Masters in Human Movement Science.

Priscilla’s LLM focused on the constitutionality of selected aspects of the National Health Insurance Bill and found that the NHI Bill is likely to be unconstitutional, because of the differential treatment afforded to non-nationals in the Bill. It also lacks details with respect to certain material aspects.

For her LLD, she is researching socio-economic rights and assessing the role of section 36 in the adjudication of the right to access health care services.

Priscilla, who hails from Zimbabwe, is a lecturer in the University’s Law Faculty. She aspires to “one day be one of the world’s prominent human rights lawyers and what I do now makes a difference in my future successes”.

Her dream job is to be a Human Rights Litigator at an NGO that advocates for the protection of socio-economic rights.

Justin’s research was the first of its kind and centred around investigating the effects of neuromuscular agitators, such as caffeine and post-activation performance enhancement (PAPE) on key performance indicators in soccer and hockey goalkeepers. He has also published two articles in academic journals.

His PhD research focuses on the mechanisms that separate sustainable from non-sustainable exercise and using this information to enhance individual performance regardless of sport or ability.

Justin also played for Mandela Uni’s premier tennis league. His dream job would be to work in Manchester United's sport science department.

Four Vice-Chancellor awards

The four Vice-Chancellor Awards were presented to the top achievers in their categories, namely the best first diploma and degree awards to Jessica Schoeman and Ludévin Parkinson. Jessica achieved an average of 91% overall for her Diploma in IT Software Development (first diploma in Engineering, the Built Environment and Technology) and Ludévin 97% for his BSc in Computer Science (first degree in Science).

Jessica hopes to become a very successful software developer. “I always give my everything in what I do, I love animals and working with people, I like to help out where I can and I enjoy logical thinking and challenges”, she says.

Jessica was hired as a developer before she had graduated, based on her work ethic and skills level. She is also the youngest staff member in her current international company where she works as an E-commerce Back-end Developer. 



For Ludévin, the most important aspect of Computer Science is problem solving as it is an invaluable skill that we apply daily in everyday life. He is especially interested in Algorithms and Complexity Theory, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Interaction Design.

He currently works at BBD Software Development in the graduate programme and is preparing for his AWS Developer Associate Certification.

“I enjoy being part of a team that develops software and systems to improve quality of life”, says Ludévin. His dream job would be a game developer at a well-recognised video game company or a software engineer at a tech giant, such as Google”.

Kimberley Welsh received the best postgraduate award in Social Sciences and Humanities with an average of 93% for her Postgraduate Diploma in Financial Planning.

Kimberley wants to “really make a difference in the lives of South Africans in the financial context, to educate and to improve the overall level of financial literacy in the country”.

She is now in her second job and at her dream company PW Harvey & Co in Gqeberha, where she works as a para-planner and client administrator. She also played hockey for Madibaz and coaches hockey at Summerwood Primary School. 

The best postgraduate in Science, Engineering and Technology award went to Luan Naude for his BSc honours in Mathematics with 93% overall.  

Luan’s top mark was 95% for Functional Analysis and Abstract Algebra. He is now focusing on functional analysis for his masters because of its interesting concepts and techniques.

He is also a maths tutor and has been a student assistant for first years. “It's a lot of fun engaging with students on the material”, he says.


Masters awards

Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology graduate Neil Pretorius received the Masters by Coursework in Social Sciences and Humanities award with an average of 82%.

Neil’s research focused on a psychobiographical study of Harvey Milk. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man elected to public office in the United States and a pivotal figure in the Gay Rights Movement before being assassinated by a colleague in 1978.

Neil’s research shares how Harvey constructed and performed his identity within particular sociocultural contexts and provides a psychological understanding of who Harvey was and how he came to be.

Neil is excited about pursuing his career as a clinical psychologist in private practice, institutional work and academic research. He also wants to one day obtain his PhD.

“Microfinance’s efficacy in promoting sustainability of women-owned SMMEs”, is the title of Kundai Koti’s Master’s degree by dissertation in Development Studies and she is the award winner for the Social Sciences and Humanities category with an average of 82%.

Kundai’s research revealed that although microfinance funding is a key and major component in the sustainability of SMMEs, other vital non-financial factors are necessary for sustainability, including prior business experience, business training, leadership skills, a high-risk appetite and sufficient and efficient marketing.

“My passion is to contribute to improving the socio-economic conditions of South Africa and Africa as a whole using research to explore innovative ways of addressing socio-economic challenges we face as a nation and continent”, Kundai says.

Her doctoral studies in Business Management involve investigating SMME sustainability and specifically in a crisis environment, such as one caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Steven Molteno achieved an overall 92% for his Master of Science in Botany and winning him the Masters by Dissertation in the Science, Engineering and Technology category award.

Steven managed to complete his thesis in two years, despite working full-time at his day job.

“I love to explore and botanise in the South African veld and my heart is in the Karoo. I also like to research and write on various subjects, but mainly Botany, he says.

He hopes to move into Botany full time and has published a number of scientific articles.

The award for an MTech by Dissertation in the Science, Engineering and Technology category went to Sydlynn Hambury for her MTech in Environmental Health.

Sydlynn is a lecturer in Environmental Health at Mandela University and her motto in life is to never give up on your dreams and to always try your best in life.

She obtained 83% average for her research on the knowledge, attitude and practices regarding schistosomiasis (bilharzia) among schoolchildren in Grades 4 to 7 from four selected primary schools in KwaNobuhle.  

She hopes that her research will assist to put effective preventative and control measures in place to eliminate the disease from the area.

BTech or Advanced Diploma awards

The BTech award for Social Sciences and Humanities went to Stefan van der Poel, who obtained an average of 84% for his Advanced Diploma (Business Studies): Management Practice.

Stefan believes that “being successful at a particular endeavour is often a conscious decision; people through their actions, decide to be successful or they choose to fail.

He’s currently doing his BCom Honours (Business Management).


Tertius Venter, an Assistant Nursery and Research Manager at Merensky Timbers in Tzaneen, received the BTech Award in Science, Engineering and Technology for his BTech in Forestry with an average of 80%.

He wants to leave a noticeable mark in the Forestry industry, especially within Tree Breeding, to improve certain qualities of trees and the timber it produces, which is a timely process.

“What I enjoyed most about my studies on the George Campus was the focus on the practical aspects of Forestry”, he says.

He is currently studying for his honours degree focusing on tree breeding.     

First degree awards

Lara Potgieter achieved 89% for her BMus degree and received the First Degree Award in the Humanities Faculty. She also passed eight English Literature modules with distinction including 97% for one.

She wants to complete her MMus in Piano Performance and her licentiate in voice next year. She also has qualifications in clarinet and classical voice.

Lara wants to pursue a career in education focussing on neurodivergent and disabled (visually impaired) students, as well as young learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. She believes that music is a valuable tool that can facilitate self-expression & confidence, and improve well-being & academic performance.

Kristin Giddy was the award winner for the First Degree in the Business and Economic Sciences Faculty for her BCom Accounting Sciences (Computer Science & Information Systems) degree with an average of 85%. She is currently in her CTA year.

“In a world of corruption and negativity, I wish to be honest and considerate. I want to lead in a way that is kind and encouraging, uplifting others to better themselves, she says.

She enjoys problem-solving, strategising and making decisions in accounting. Her dream job is to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

Mishale Futcher obtained an overall average of 87% for her BEd (Intermediate Phase Science and Mathematics) and was the Education Faculty’s First Degree winner.

Mishale’s favourite part of her studies was the school-based practical learning programme which she competed at schools with different contexts, which exposed her to many different types of learning, teaching styles and disciplinary systems.

Her dream job “is definitely teaching!” She is currently working as a Grade 6 and 7 teacher at Heatherbank Primary School.


Justin Tulleken, who received the First Degree Award in the Faculty of Engineering, the Built Environment and Technology, wants to contribute to scientific research, but also hopes for a stimulating career that allows him to pursue his interests and hobbies freely.

Justin scored 79% overall for his BEng degree in Mechatronics and currently works at S4 Integration. He was part of the team which won Mandela University’s annual programming competition as well as reaching the national rounds of the ICPC and SBTIC competitions.

He also hopes to publish his computer science research.

Nicole Marchenko, who is now completing her Honours in Psychology, scored an average of 86% for her BA Psychology degree with her final year average 91.5% and was the winner of the Health Sciences Faculty’s First Degree Award.

Nicole is currently also involved in a mentor programme for first-year Psychology students.

Despite the global pandemic bringing immense hardships and particularly transforming academic settings, she believes it showed people what they are capable of achieving, even in the most difficult of times. “I have learnt and practiced resilience, determination and acquired an increased sense of responsibility over my studies, she says.

Her dream job is to be a Clinical Psychologist specialising in treating children. “Childhood is such a defining period in a person’s life and being involved in bettering lives from such a young age and hopefully preventing future problems in adolescence and adulthood, is a passion of mine”.

Brandon Price, who received the Law Faculty’s First Degree Award, achieved 85% on average for his LLB and obtained more than 90% for five modules. He currently works as a candidate attorney at Bowmans Law Firm.

Brandon believes “Live life to the fullest, appreciate every moment and don’t take anything for granted,”



First diploma awards

Music is a soul language, it's deep and it has the ability to change any atmosphere or mood says Samuel Kleinbooi, the Humanities Faculty’s First Diploma recipient, who graduated with a Diploma in Music and is currently in his second year of BMus. Samuel averaged 80%. 

His main instrument is Contemporary Voice and his second instrument is Drumset.

He hopes to complete his DMus degree, lecture at Mandela University and teach music in his community.


Hanli Lintvelt, who received the Faculty of Business and Economics Sciences’ First Diploma Award, scored an average of 91% for her Diploma in Logistics, achieved 18 distinctions out of her 19 modules and achieved 90% and above for 12 of them. 

In Logistics it is important for a firm’s supply chain to have some level of agility to maintain competitiveness, and she believes that Covid-19 assisted her to become more academically agile.

Hanli also served on the Logistics Society Executive Committee and tutored Business Management as lecturing assistant.

Sinazo James obtained 100% for her Sport Management Practice Module and 76% overall for her National Diploma in Sport Management and is the winner of the Health Sciences Faculty’s First Diploma Award.

She played tennis for the University’s first team and currently works as receptionist/administrator at The Youth Cricket Academy. She wants to coach part-time and study physiotherapy in future.

Being a “sporty” person, she was part of the administrative team for the 2018 USSA Soccer Tournament, seconded to the COSAFA/FIFA Female Referee’s dept for the 2019 COSAFA tournament and was a scorer at the 2019 EC gymnastics tournament.

Chanelle du Plessis, the Science Faculty’s First Diploma Award recipient, obtained 87% for her Diploma in Game Ranch Management and hopes to continue gaining knowledge and helping the wildlife industry grow and develop. The industry is facing many threats, such as poaching, global warming and loss of land due to overpopulation. 

She is currently working as an au pair in a cultural exchange programme in America and wants to return after a year and work in the wildlife industry, while studying environmental management.

First year undergraduate awards

The First-Year Undergraduate Diploma Study Award in the Humanities Faculty went to Dean Adams, a second-year Diploma student in Music, who obtained 100% in three of his first-year modules and an average of 90% overall. 

“I hope to one day make a living out of creating and participating in music”, he says. His main instrument is the piano or keyboard and he enjoys it because “it is limitless, it covers a wide range and is therefore great for composing music and unmatched for input into digital music production”. He wants to gain a greater understanding of all music.

Kayla Osmond, a second-year BHSc Medical Laboratory Sciences student averaging 91% for her first year, received the Health Sciences Faculty’s First-Year Undergraduate Degree Study Award.

Microbiology is her favourite subject. She wants her life “to be of service to the research, diagnosis, and treatment of patients in need”.

She also tutors a Grade 7 boy in maths, runs a little knitting business with her grandmother and works part-time for an American transcribing company where she edits documents.

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