College of College of Graduate Studies

Addressing key issues through interdisciplinary webinars

The School of Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Studies (SIRGS), in the College of Graduate Studies (CGS), has been hosting a series of webinars. The core business of SIRGS is graduate student support through research training of students, supervisors and non-examining chairs, as well as research in the interdisciplinary domain.

With Covid-19 and the national lockdown in 2020, the school provided its offerings online and this positioned the school to provide leadership in interdisciplinary scholarship through webinars and symposia. The status quo of online platforms allowed all academic staff and postgraduate students to attend the interdisciplinary webinars as opposed to face-to-face, campus-based seminars.

Interdisciplinary webinars

Dr Genevieve James

Dr Genevieve James, who heads the community engagement division in the Department of Academic Planning, opened the 2021 CGS interdisciplinary webinars series on 19 March 2021. Her keynote address, entitled "Thinking in community: multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary praxis for high impact research", demonstrated how engaged Unisa is – through the deployment of its networks, collaborations and intellectual resources in supporting the improvement of lives, while advancing and enhancing scholarship. James emphasised that for Unisa to achieve its vision of being the African university shaping futures in the service of humanity, all disciplines should collaborate in their research projects in solving societal problems.

The second interdisciplinary webinar was hosted on 12 May 2021. The keynote speaker was Dr Given Madiba, a senior researcher and fellow of the UNESCO-Unisa-iThemba LABS (ITL) Africa Chair in Nanosciences and Nanotechnology. Madiba engaged with Unisa staff on the use and applications of research methodologies in the context of the sustainable development goals. His address was linked to the address of Prof Puleng LenkaBula, Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor (VC), at the opening of the academic year, where she stressed the need for Unisa to ensure that the academic project succeeds and outlined how the university should contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Dr Given Madiba

In his introduction, Madiba advised that to achieve the VC’s vision, the teaching and training of research methodologies at postgraduate level should adapt and evolve to generate and disseminate relevant knowledge at both national and international levels. This he demonstrated by indicating how all the colleges can build research capacity to address the SDGs through a combination of different research methodologies. "This is possible," he said, "because a variety and combination of interdisciplinary methodologies are strong, indispensable tools for day-to-day life, to address socio-economic issues in attaining the SDGs." He concluded the address by demonstrating how Unisa contributed to the innovation and development of small satellites, as well as energy harvesting and storage, through the use and application of various methodologies, and how maximising collaborations for high impact research contributed and responded to Covid-19 challenges.

Vhalinavho Khavhagali

The third interdisciplinary webinar was hosted on 18 May 2021 and focused on climate change. Vhalinavho Khavhagali, a PhD candidate at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, took Unisans through the interdisciplinary aspects of climate change and deliberated on awareness as well as approaches on climate change adaptation, mitigation actions, vulnerabilities and resilience. He cited practical examples on how climate change impacts on our societies, touching on all disciplines and not only environmental sciences.

The school anticipates hosting two interdisciplinary webinars in June under the following themes: Electrochemical bio-/sensor systems for diagnostics and environmental applications, with main speaker Dr Usisipho Feleni from the College of Science, Engineering and Technology, and Africa’s contributions to science & black scientists’ contribution to modern science, with main speaker Prof Malik Maaza, incumbent of the UNESCO-Unisa-ITL Africa Chair in Nanosciences and Nanotechnology.

Indigenisation of Postgraduate Scholarship Series

Prof Mishack Gumbo

SIRGS hosted the first Indigenisation of Postgraduate Scholarship Series on 31 March 2021. It focused on the ontological and epistemological relevance of postgraduate scholarship and Prof Mishack Gumbo delivered the keynote address. While the event was a response to interdisciplinarity in research, it was also aimed at promoting the use of African epistemologies and indigenous knowledge research at Unisa. The second series will be hosted in July and will address the methodological and paradigm relevance of postgraduate scholarship, while a third, dealing with cultural and contextual relevance, will be take place in November.

* By Tonny Matjila, Training Officer, College of Graduate Studies

* Teaser image:

Publish date: 2021/06/16