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Yesterday, 18 April, hundreds of students from the College of Humanities graduated at the Royal Agricultural Showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg. The School of Arts, and MECS in particular, once again featured prominently and produced a large portion of graduates for the College.
Overall, there were just over 100 Bachelor of Arts degrees conferred, with almost 20% of these coming of the MECS department. Additionally, MECS accounted for more than a third of the Honours degrees, and 14% of the Masters degrees.
However, the highlight of this year’s ceremony was the graduation of two of MECS’ staff members, Dr Sandra Pitcher and Dr Subeshini Moodley. Dr Moodley’s groundbreaking thesis considered the role of self-reflexive film in relation to telling the stories of Hindu women in South Africa, while Dr Pitcher considered if there was space for political cartoonists in a socially responsible press, using Zapiro as a case study.
Both these lecturers have begun working on various articles for publication, based on the findings of their research, which will help maintain the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s status as the top research university in South Africa.
On Monday night, Farah Sader graduated with a BA Honours in Media and Cultural Studies after overcoming a long battle with tuberculosis. Her Honours research, entitled “Constructing a South African Identity: A textual analysis of Die Antwoord’s music video Fatty Boom Boom,” aimed to explore a form of identity in post-apartheid South Africa; but her success came on the back of years of fearless determination and struggle.
Originally, Sader began her studies as a Fine Arts student in 2009, but in early 2010 was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis, and was forced to deregister from her Fine Arts degree. She told us that her “TB recurred 6 times; basically I had it for two and a half years”.
“I was on the highest dose of medication and was often too ill to attend varsity, especially having to be in and out of hospital and undergoing numerous surgical procedures”.
“Eventually my doctors gave up and told me it was either going to kill me or they would have to remove my diseased lung”.
Miraculously however, Fader began to respond to her medication and did not need to have her lung removed. Six months later, she was TB free.
“All the while I continued to study, with just the bare minimum of two modules a semester,” Sader added.
Sader commended her peers, tutor and lecturers for her motivation “I owe my entire career to the support of my peers, Mr Shaylan Janneker, Ms Desirey Viney, Ms Sandra Pitcher and Dr Nicola Jones, who supported and encouraged me throughout the times I struggled.”
Asked about her future, Sader said that intends pursuing something “in field of graphic design and public relations, as well as to complete a Post Graduate Certificate in Education, as I would like to teach at a later stage in my life.”
* We’d like to thank Merusha Naidoo for her work in writing this story.
This time last year we remembered the top five moments of 2013, so it only seems appropriate to continue the tradition and remind you of some of MECS UKZN’s highlights for 2014.
1. MECS Students Excel at National Conference This year, we were lucky enough to have five students and two lecturers accepted for the annual South African Communication (SACOMM) conference in Potchefstroom. Not only did our students impress lecturers from all over the country with their research, but Claire Keyworth and Merusha Naidoo were also featured in the conference’s special, 40th anniversary, newsletter.
2. MECS Receives Most Distinctions at Graduation This year’s graduation ceremony showed off the excellence of our students. MECS UKZN demonstrated that they attract some of the most academically-gifted students and graduated the most number of undergraduates in the Schools of Arts and Social Science with distinctions. In addition, the only postgraduate distinction to be awarded in the School of Arts was given to MECS graduate Sarah Dawson for her Master’s degree entitled Capturing ghosts and making them speak: Genre and the Asian horror film remake.
3. Google SA Invests in MECS Grad Student At the end of October, PhD student in MECS, Michelle Atagana announced that she would be joining Google South Africa as part of their communication and public affairs team. Atagana has, who after graduating with her MA from MECS UKZN, became one of South Africa’s most trusted authorities on technology and new media after working, for more than five years, as the managing editor for one of South Africa’s most popular online technology news sites, Memeburn.com.
4. Lecturer Awarded Best Paper at National Conference On top of the excellence of our students, our lecturers showed that they are among best in South Africa as well. Ms Sandra Pitcher was awarded best paper at the South African Communication conference for her work on Zapiro’s representation of Nelson Mandela. The paper, which is based on Pitcher’s PhD, argued that South Africa’s most widely syndicated cartoonist helped enhance the legend of Mandela, and undermined the nature of good political cartooning. 5. Honours Class Help Local NGOs This year has also seen our Honours Corporate Communication class work closely with local NGOs to help develop marketing and advertising plans that incorporate an active web presence. Students, guided by lecturer Dr Claire Scott, helped the KZN Language Institute, Justice and Women, the Pietermaritzburg and District Cerebral Palsy Association, RivLife Community Centre and Pietermaritzburg Mental Health Society set up social media accounts, manage their existing online presence and strategized with each organisation on how to use the media effectively.
Thanks to everyone who has been a part of an amazing year. We can’t wait to see what 2015 will bring, but we can tell you to watch this space because there are going to be a few surprising changes happening very soon.
On Friday last week, the MECS department said its final goodbyes to this year’s Honours class. Hosted by Academic Leader Dr Nicola Jones, the farewell event paid tribute to the hard work done by both students and their supervisors throughout the year.
The evening began with an award presentation for the top achievers of the year .
Warwick Jones received “The Writer’s Award” for his excellent short story Sometimes I Run and travel piece, Toward Pondoland, while Mellisa Muchena was awarded for her outstanding research presentation.
In addition, the hard work of Merusha Naidoo was recognised, winning her the “Most Improved Student” for 2014 and Claire Keyworth won the “Best Corporate Portfolio”, which also helped her get a job as the new marketing assistant at St Charles College.
However, the evening was not just about rewarding academic excellence as lecturers recapped some of the moments that will always remind them of 2014. Tawanda Kahlari was presented with an alarm clock after requesting to write his final exam standing up, so he didn’t fall asleep, and Farah Sader was given ‘a happy pill box’ filled with Rescue tablets after the class voted her the most likely to panic in every situation.
Lecturer Sandra Pitcher, playing MC, thanked the class for everything that they had done during the year, stating that their sense of humour and personalities had been a “rays of sunshine” throughout a very challenging year.
When asked about the year, Tegan Mitchell said she loved the fact that “everyone was similar … which helped the class form quite a tight knit little group”. She added that Honours has helped her grow as a person and that the practical nature of the courses have prepared her for the working world.
Sine Ngubane remarked that she values being “able to learn from such a knowledgeable group of lecturers and that their dedication to their students has been awesome”.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better year,” she said with a smile.
Over the last three days, six of UKZN’s MECS students, along with their lecturer and mentor, Dr Nicola Jones, presented their research at the South African Communication Association Conference in Potchefstroom. Of the six students, five were presenting the findings of their Honours projects as part of SACOMM’s emerging scholars’ stream, while the only PhD student, Sandra Pitcher, presented a competitive paper, based on her thesis, which she hopes to be published after the conference.
All students’ work has been well-received, with both Merusha Naidoo and Claire Keyworth featured in the SACOMM 40th anniversary newsletter as key up-and-coming academics. Keyworth was excited that her work on Disney princesses was appreciated, while Naidoo was humble in the admiration garnered by her controversial paper on Oscar Pistorius.
The response from the audience to Mellisa Muchena’s paper, on students’ use of news on Facebook, generated some of the most interesting discussions from the emerging scholars section, and was approached afterwards by several students and lecturers to continue learning about her project; while Amil Umraw’s cool and professional approach to one of the most serious issues of the conference, the representation of domestic violence, was a mature and elegant presentation.
However, the most entertaining of all the students’ presentations was saved for last when Warwick Jones presented his paper on the representation of masculinity on the dating site Only Lads. Jones, not only impressed the audience with his deep theoretical approach and understanding, but also his amusing oratory performance.
Overall, MECS UKZN have been a resounding success at the 40th anniversary of South Africa’s most pretigious academic communication conference.
On Monday, Dr Nicola Jones left with five of MECS’ top Honours students for the South African Communication Association’s annual conference in Potchefstroom. They, along with PhD candidate, Sandra Pitcher, have all been accepted to present at this year’s conference.
The group spent most of Monday travelling, the 8 and a half hour trip, on dirt roads across the Free State, stopping every so often so that Dr Jones was able to point out important South African landmarks such as Wagon’s Drift Dam and the vast farmlands that supply our country’s economy.
However, the students also gave Dr Jones a few lessons on technology as they converted their mini-bus’ backseat into a mobile UNO card playing table and pointed out the special reflectors contained in the Free State’s cat’s eyes.
Dr Jones, who was selected to present two papers, has also been invited to contribute to a special panel discussion on self-expression and the media.
Yesterday, Merusha Naidoo and Amil Umraw debuted their papers for the UKZN contingent to much success. A report of their performance will be published soon.
Earlier today, students from the MECS 3rd year class joined approximately 60 other UKZN students in a demonstration to highlight their anger at an alleged rape that occurred in the Old Main Building bathroom on Friday morning.
The students, who self-organised the protest over social media, stated that they wanted the public and the University community to know that they were disgusted at the alleged crime and that they would do everything in their power to help make UKZN PMB a safe learning environment once again.
When John Muwema, a third year MECS student, was asked why he had joined in the demonstration, he remarked that it was important that men took a front role in opposing rape.
“We cannot call ourselves gentlemen if we do not stand up for women”, Muwema said emphatically.
MECS Masters student Damien Tomaselli recently presented his Masters research at the 22nd Comic Arts Conference at Comic-Con International 2014. The conference, which is considered by many to be the most important event on the science fiction and gaming calendar, took place in San Diego, California between 24 and 27 July. Tomaselli explained that “the conference merges the latest developments in the realm of digital media, including video games, comic books, role playing games, series premieres and films”.
Tomaselli’s work focusses on the changing nature of comic books in light of new media technology, and the impact that digital mediums have had on the production and reception of comic art. He concentrates most heavily on the introduction of motion books and his own comic series The Children of Xaphan.
Other highlights at this year’s conference included a special autograph signing by Godzilla director, Gareth Edwards, as well as a special appearance by Megan Fox to help promote the release of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film.