Engineering Faculty members share their visions for new roles

Engineering Faculty members share their visions for new roles

In January 2024, two esteemed Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Engineering staff members will embark on their new roles. Prof Corne Schutte, current Chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering, takes on the role of Vice-Dean: Research and Industry Liaison, bringing a wealth of experience and academic excellence. Prof Schutte earned distinctions in BEng, BEng (Hons) and MEng in Industrial Engineering. His career includes international contributions to projects in France, the UK and the USA. Since 2005, he has played a pivotal role at Stellenbosch University, earning accolades such as Lecturer of the Year in 2017, Research Excellence awards in 2018 and 2021 and the Kris Adendorff Award for Most Prominent Industrial Engineering Professional in 2022.

Simultaneously, Prof Joubert van Eeden, the incoming Chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering, brings a diverse background to the faculty. Holding a PhD in Industrial Engineering (2018), an MBA (cum laude) in 2007, an MEng in 2002 and a BEng in Electronic Engineering in 1996, all from Stellenbosch University, Prof van Eeden specialises in container flow modeling, logistics and supply chain management. Serving as the Secretariat for the Sustainable Road Freight Research Group in South Africa and consulting for various companies over the past two decades, Prof van Eeden is well-equipped to lead the Department.

In a question-and-answer format, we uncover more about them.

Prof Corne Schutte

As you step into the Vice-Dean: Research and Industry Liaison role, what do you envision for the growth of research initiatives within the Faculty of Engineering?
While our faculty boasts successful research initiatives, my vision is to actively encourage and enable joint research projects across different disciplines and faculties. By identifying faculty research focus areas and establishing strategic partnerships, we aim to create a nexus where academia and industry converge, driving impactful research outcomes.

How has your journey as the Chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering prepared you for your upcoming role as Vice-Dean?
My 11 years as Chair provided invaluable experience in building a formidable team and expanding the Department from the smallest to one of the largest in the faculty, which were crucial milestones. The key was appointing the right talent and staying innovative. By reaching out to colleagues in other departments, I learned the power of collaboration and achieving more together.

Tell us something about yourself that people would not expect and how do you spend your free time?
After spending a significant part of my life in the industry internationally, I returned to South Africa, where I met my wife. Together, we shaped a unique path to family life through adoption and foster care. Now, as a proud father of three energetic young children, we live in Somerset West, with weekends and holidays often enjoyed in Betty’s Bay. During my free time, I’ve always liked fiddling around with technology, and recently, I’ve started doing home automation, which occasionally adds to my wife and kids’ frustration!

Prof Joubert van Eeden

How do your past experiences prepare you for your upcoming position as the Chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering?
Before embarking on my university journey, I spent a decade in the industry, accumulating practical experience that spans various sectors, including mining, manufacturing and services. Serving as the Department’s postgraduate coordinator for three years, I deepened my understanding of the faculty’s staff and processes. Leading a UK-funded research project on Sustainable Road Freight enhanced my perspective on cross-departmental research integration. This positions me well to take on the role of Chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering.

Please share your vision for the growth and development of the Department of Industrial Engineering.
Industrial Engineering has experienced significant growth over the past decade, and my focus is on consolidating and strengthening our initiatives. Addressing challenges in our country’s logistics system is crucial, and I envision the Department playing a pivotal role in logistics and supply chain education and research. Collaboration with the Engineering Faculty on e-mobility is an exciting opportunity.

Tell us something about yourself that people would not expect and how do you spend your free time?
Approaching 50 in March 2024, I find it therapeutic to work with dough, frequently baking bread for my family. My wife’s successful battle against cancer nine years ago instilled a profound compassion for others in my heart. As a significant achievement on my bucket list, I ran the Cape Town Marathon last year alongside my wife, Ronel.

Photo: Prof Corne Schutte and Prof Joubert van Eeden.