College of Human Sciences

Distinguished nursing scholar leads Unisa's humanities incubator

In pursuit of academic excellence, Unisa appoints distinguished academics in various positions, including management roles, to assist the university towards its goal of reclaiming Africa's intellectual futures and its place at the top tier of tertiary education institutions on the continent.


Executive Dean of Unisa’s College of Human Sciences, Prof Zethu Nkosi

In a significant milestone for women in leadership, Unisa appointed Prof Zethu Nkosi as the Executive Dean of its College of Human Sciences (CHS) with its more than 50 000 students in August last year.

Poised to lead CHS into a new era of growth and transformation, Nkosi commenced her academic journey with a Diploma in Nursing and Midwifery at the King Edward VII Hospital in Durban. Her passion for education led her to Unisa, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Nursing Science, majoring in Nursing Education and Community Science. She further expanded her scholarly horizons by completing a master’s degree followed by a PhD in Nursing, with a focus on Leadership and Management, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

With her feet planted firmly in both the worlds of academia and practice, Nkosi has worked extensively as a nurse at renowned hospitals, including Groote Schuur and King Edward VII, and undertook a three-year teaching stint at a nursing school in the United Arab Emirates.

Support and mentorship are key

Reflecting on her appointment, Nkosi emphasises the significance of this opportunity for women in leadership and her dedication to student support and mentorship. "I envision leading the college to become the best in the country by implementing appropriate systems and structures," she says. "I also aim to align the college's operational plan with the university's goals, ensuring that accountability and monitoring strategies are in place."

Her plans for the college include fostering collaboration among departments and colleges, revamping the curriculum and providing comprehensive support for students with disabilities. She intends to expand the mentorship programme to encompass both academia and administration, reinforcing responsibility and accountability at all levels. Nkosi also emphasises the importance of effective communication within the college and intends to enhance its presence on various platforms.

Furthermore, Nkosi plans to prioritise support for master’s and doctoral students, encouraging academics to apply for grants that align with the college's catalytic niche areas. Armed with the many lessons learnt during the Covid-19 pandemic, she aims to upskill administrative staff and empower all CHS members to utilise the latest online platforms effectively. Additionally, she plans to strengthen partnerships with industry and external stakeholders to ensure that teaching, learning and research remain relevant and impactful.

Leadership informed by compassion

For Nkosi, leadership is a deeply ingrained principle that goes beyond administrative roles. To her, "leadership is a dynamic force that encompasses guiding and inspiring others to reach their full potential". Rooted in integrity, kindness, constructivism and naturalism, her leadership philosophy reflects a commitment to ethical and compassionate decision-making.

Nkosi believes in fostering a collaborative and supportive environment, where everyone's unique strengths contribute to the collective success. Her emphasis on mentorship aligns with her view of leadership as a continuous journey of learning and growth. For Nkosi, a true leader is one who not only manages organisational responsibilities efficiently but also invests in the personal and professional development of those under their guidance, ensuring a legacy of empowered and capable individuals in the academic and healthcare spheres.

Nkosi is dedicated to fostering excellence among young academics. Since joining Unisa in 2011, she has continued her research in leadership and management, with a focus on staff retention and job satisfaction. Her contributions include publications in reputable South African journals and international publications, including the peer-reviewed Journal of Nursing Management and Global Journal of Health Sciences.

Lift as you rise

When asked about the secret of her success, she shares her dedication to research and writing – reflected in the fact that she uses Fridays for student supervision and article writing. She encourages the CHS community to adopt this strategy and emphasises the importance of hard work, seeking help when needed, and networking with experts in the field. Nkosi's motto, "Lift as you rise", guides her mentorship efforts, as she believes in empowering others as she progresses in her career.


* By Tebogo Mahlaela, Communication and Marketing Specialist, College of Human Sciences

Publish date: 2024/02/13

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