University of Fort Hare – Stellenbosch collaboration
In the beginning…
Like all great things in this world, there must be a beginning. Which reminds me of one of my favourite quotes: “GREAT THINGS HAVE SMALL BEGINNINGS”. Over the past five months I have been part of something no less than great. It all began in the intriguing world of meat science. Professor L.C Hoffman of Stellenbosch University and Professor V. Muchenje from the University of Fort Hare are the driving force behind a collaboration made possible by the DST/NRF South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI Chair) in Meat Sciences: Genomics to Nutriomics. The chair was established in 2013 and i still growing strong.
The love and passion of meat science is not the only thing that has seen the success of the chair. There are fundamental values shared by the professors and ultimately transferred to their students. Part of the collaboration has opened the opportunity for an exchange program for both UFH and Maties students, of which I have been a part of.
Values shared in the collaboration
Given that this collaboration brings students from two very different institutions together (Talk about a rainbow nation), diversity is sure to be evident and very exciting. There are a number of values I observed when I became an “exchange student” (from University of Fort Hare) but one that is unequivocal, is mutual respect – first from the professors themselves and among the students. Notwithstanding the fact that we come across challenging and unfamiliar environments and in this case people, the level of respect and a sincere desire to help one another to become a better person, is among the values that make the collaboration work.
"Keep calm – Teamwork makes the dream work"
It’s amazing how being a research student will teach you more than just the skill you need to make an excellent researcher. Another value worth noting is the spirit of “BROTHERHOOD” particularly during our data collection sessions. The research students in the chair are very diverse, however, we all find the time to help and learn from each other. Here it doesn’t matter if it’s a chicken slaughter or huge springbok hunt, everyone is involved. This to me was not something sold to the students and so they bought it, however, I observed that team work is our second nature (apart from eating meat of course). I would think maybe because students understand the vision of both professors and are willing to be a part of it.
Working hard while playing harder
All work and no play make a boring scientist but we are not boring! We engage in swallow-ship- an excellent opportunity to be “human” as Prof Muchenje would put it. We occasionally have an awesome South African braai or potjiekos. Yes! We bond over meat, well most of the time (laughs) but then again it would be weird if we did over vegetables given that we are animal scientists.
House no 24 at Mariendahl experimental farm (the house that hosts exchange students) has been an excellent host for all the students who live there and some gatherings such as potjiekos nights. It was also more than that as it afforded us the pleasure of being with each other. I mean it’s on a farm and all we can do is be with each other really (chuckles). We laugh, eat and survive the hot and cold weather a farm has to offer, together.
This is truly where cultures and personalities meet, in fact it’s where lives exchange experiences and become the best they can be. It’s also a place of amazing #NOVEL research with innovations beyond awesome. For me it has been a wonderful opportunity to learn, live and grow both as a researcher and a social being.
Prof L.C Hoffman with students that are part of the SARChI chair during a social gathering