College of Economic & Management Sciences

Going viral in a chaotic world

The annual Consulting Psychology conference celebrated its 10th year of existence and the first virtual conference presented new challenges. Prof Michelle May from Unisa’s Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology reports on the events.

The Consulting Psychology Conference, presented by the Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology in the College of Economic and Management Sciences (CEMS) and the Department of Psychology in the College of Human Sciences (CHS) has become an annual event for those interested in reflecting on their consulting practices. This year we were challenged to present the first virtual conference on 12 and 13 August.

The theme was Breaking boundaries through consulting psychology - #goingviralinachaoticworld. The conference was organised and hosted by the 2020 PhD Psychology students participating in the Consulting Psychology Programme.

Prof Rodney Lowman (San Diego, USA) using a pre-recorded video clip, opened the conference by welcoming the speakers and participants. The speakers were Dr Pieter Koortzen (London, UK), Mooketsi Maphane (Gaborone, Botswana), Dr Elne Janse van Rensburg, Francois de Wet and Dr Candice Booysen (Dubai, UAE).

This conference provided fascinating views and lively presentations centring on the pandemic and consulting psychology - the presenters used their expertise to provide thought-provoking ideas about resilience (a golden thread throughout the conference), hope, meaning and perseverance as we are navigating the challenges and opportunities of this pandemic. The conference participants also enthusiastically contributed their personal experiences and insights to the theme. By means of the conference we also continually develop consulting psychology into a more dynamic, sought-after and future-focused profession building multi-partner engagements with our clients and organisations as we experience "living at work".

Three panellists - Dr Lerato Motsoaledi, Dr Edwin Nharirire (Harare, Zimbabwe) and Dr Neo Pule, alumni of the PHD Consulting Psychology programme - provided their insights into dealing with Covid-19 and how consulting psychologists can make an impact during this pandemic from an Afrocentric perspective. The 2020 doctoral students, joined by five alumni and two colleagues from the Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology facilitated the interactive virtual breakaway sessions.

Prof Karéndra Devroop from the Unisa Music Foundation entertained everyone with soothing saxophone music.

The conference was a success because of the hard work and excellent organisation of the doctoral students. From Unisa’s side, Linda Steyn, who ensured the timeous actioning of different planning activities, Dr Portia Maphala, Prof Vasi van der Westhuizen, Bahia Singh and Mabel Campher also contributed to the event. Laura Schultz contributed to the look and the feel of the conference. Her knowledge and experience ensured that there were no blank screens during times when there were no activities. The contributions from the Department of Institutional Advancement, Rivonia Naidu-Hoffmeester (CHS Marketing) and Ilze Crous (CEMS Marketing) were invaluable to the success of the conference. Essential technological back-up was provided by the ICT team, Tracy Holdcroft, Bethuel Malele and Olona Peter. It can be said about them that "if you have commitment and trust as a team, you can accomplish a project that seems impossible".

The second virtual Consulting Psychology conference will be held on 12 August 2021.

* By Michelle May, Professor, Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology

Publish date: 2020-09-16 00:00:00.0