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.
Last Friday, Academic Leader in the School of Arts, Dr Nicola Jones, and PhD student and contract lecturer from Media & Cultural Studies, Ms Sandra Pitcher, were invited to present their ideas surrounding the future of social media at a seminar hosted by artSPACE Durban. The seminar, entitled “Looking Forward: Our Lives in 2034”, brought together academics from various disciplines from across South Africa to discuss changing social, cultural and technological trends that could emerge in the coming future.
Dr Jones led the discussion and began by looking at the importance of free speech and gossip in the development of culture. The discussion then went on to highlight the role of social media in this development and the impact that it may have on individuals’ responses to future events.
However, the most interesting aspect of their presentation was the idea that those policies which attempt to govern social media are outdated and require careful re-consideration to protect both the individual and the power of a shared online community.
Pitcher remarked that, currently, policy is too in favour of Western ideals and the wants of large capitalists, while Jones emphasised the benefits of creating a platform in which anyone has the ability to contribute. It was acknowledged that social media is still in its infancy, but both Jones and Pitcher agreed that as the medium develops, the more important it will become in social discussions and global culture.
The seminar aimed to inspire local artists in preparation for their exhibition, “Looking Forward: Our Lives in 2034”, curated by artSPACE and hosted by Gallery 4 in August.