Department of Curriculum and Instructional Studies

From PA to PhD

Dr Mpho-Entle Puleng Modise

With immense pride, the Department of Curriculum and Instructional Studies announces their newest PhD graduate, Dr Mpho-Entle Puleng Modise. She is an inspiration to all and embodies the power of a woman dedicated to achieving her dreams. Modise started her journey at Unisa in 2001 in the Web section of the Department of Institutional Advancement and later worked as the Communication and Marketing Officer of the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute (TMALI).

Modise left Unisa after it merged with two other institutions. However, she later returned to the university to work as the Departmental Secretary and Personal Assistant to Prof Pinkie Mabunda and Prof Geesje van den Berg in the Department of Curriculum and Instructional Studies. She worked her way up by completing her Certificate of Technology in Distance Education and e-Learning in 2014 at the University of Maryland Global College (UMUG), previously UMUC, USA. In 2016, she completed her Master of Education in Open and Distance Learning (ODL) with distinction from Unisa. In 2018, she was employed as a Lecturer in the College of Education, where she proved to be a valuable addition to academia.

She recently completed her PhD study, Academic professional development and support of academics for digital transformation in African large scale open and distance education institutions. Her students and colleagues respect Modise for her remarkable work ethic and dedication to excellence in her academic career. Her PhD supervisor, Prof Geesje van den Berg, says she met Modise in 2012 when she was Chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instructional Studies.

Prof Geesje van den Berg & Dr Mpho-Entle Puleng Modise

She adds that she was impressed by her work ethic and extraordinary determination to get things done, no matter how small the task was. "Our paths crossed again when she enrolled for the MEd in ODL as I acted as the programme coordinator. Her determination – something I noticed when meeting her – became clear again as she passed her mini dissertation with distinction," she said.

When Modise approached Van den Berg to be her supervisor for her doctorate,  she knew it would be a productive and rewarding experience. Prof Olaf Zawacki from Oldenburg University in Germany acted as the Co-Supervisor and added tremendous value to her studies mainly because of his renowned expertise in systematic literature reviews. Her hard work and determination paid off when she completed her doctorate earlier this year. "I am incredibly proud of her and know this is only the beginning.

I am looking forward to her future accomplishments as an academic," Van den Berg says. She adds: "Her achievements should inspire other academics and non-academics."

Prof Pinkie Mabunda says she has known Modise since Unisa first employed her. "I worked closely with Modise and enjoyed collaborating with her. She has proven to be an inspiration and an incredible example," she says. Mabuda says Modise's move from marketing and communication to working as a departmental secretary displayed confidence. She says: "I intuitively knew when I interviewed her for the position of departmental secretary that she was an academic star in the making."

Mabunda added that after Modise obtained a master's degree with distinction and recently her doctorate, she has seen abundant evidence of what remarkable courage, marked enthusiasm and good work ethic can achieve for those seeking to thrive in the academic environment. "Modise's focus and contribution to digital transformation in the context of open and distance education are critical for the College of Education and Unisa," says Mabunda. She adds: "During all her academic work, Modise also found the energy, time and skills for her other roles as mother, wife, sister, aunt and African woman. She embodies the power of a woman dedicated to achieving her personal and academic ambitions."

There is always help in the dry valleys

Asked where or how she finds her motivation, Modise says: "There is always help in the dry valleys or up the mountains. God is always nearby, sending an angel or two when the need arises." Modise believes that where there is a will, there is always a way. "I had help, my family, Prof Mabunda and Prof van den Berg, and a whole list of other special people in my acknowledgements in my thesis. So I can say never be shy to ask for help and never be afraid to start from scratch," Modise says. 

She explains that after being unemployed for almost four years, after leaving Unisa during the merger, even with her Honours degree at the time and a good few years of work experience, she still couldn't find work, so she was desperate. Finally, in 2010, she was prepared to be a tea lady even with all her qualifications, skills and experience. Fortunately, she was called for an interview at TMALI for a communication and marketing officer post and was hired on a contractual basis.

She kept applying for other posts during her tenure, which is how she landed the departmental secretary/personal assistant post. The post was, fortunately, a permanent one which gave her job security. Modise says: "Prof Mabunda has always been supportive and knew I had a lot more to offer, and when I asked for time off from the PA work, she was the first to tell me I needed a bigger platform for my skills and talents."

She adds: "When the UMGC (previously UMUC) programme started in our department, Prof van den Berg knew I was the right person to join the team. I have worked hard to be where I am today." She adds: "Most importantly, I was supported−often by my female colleagues and mentors." She concludes: Always remember that there is support and help, but one must step out and avail themselves. I am grateful for this achievement, and I look forward to more blessings and help from God and the angels he will send in times of need." 

* By Christy Kotze, Lecturer, Department of Curriculum and Instructional Studies


Publish date: 2022/08/26