Although Cindi De Doncker only recently joined the Faculty of Engineering as Research and Postgraduate Manager, she is no stranger to Stellenbosch University (SU), having previously worked as Senior Advisor and Coordinator: Postgraduate Enrolment Support at the Postgraduate Office. In this Q&A, she shares more about her new role, what priorities she will focus on, and what she enjoys doing in her free time.
Q: You have been appointed as Research and Postgraduate Manager, a new position within the faculty. What does this role entail?
A: The role focuses on the operational aspects of research contracts, managing the Faculty and University bursary programmes as well as national and international institutional funding programmes, postgraduate management, marketing activities and advancing the Faculty’s REACH (Research Development of Engineering Academics in Higher Education) course.
Duties for each responsibility area include the following:
- Research-related matters: Managing the administration and logistics of all research contracts, applications and proposals within the faculty. I act as a first point of enquiry for staff who intend to conclude industry and research-related contracts, review full cost project-budgeting and project proposals, and manage the Intellectual Property within the Faculty. Given my previous affiliation with the Division for Research Development, the administrative burden will be significantly minimised for academic staff from hereon.
- Postgraduate management: Analysing postgraduate processes at the University and managing the logistics of postgraduate processes within the faculty (maintenance of forms, creation of online processes, interfacing with the SUNStudent system). Being a role player in systems renewal and innovation pertaining to the postgraduate lifecycle. Monitoring and identifying trends for postgraduate enrolments within the faculty. Promoting postgraduate management through the representation of the faculty’s interests on various fora. Acting as a first point of enquiry by responding to calls of interest and maintaining internal/external stakeholder relations.
- Marketing activities: Managing and running the postgraduate and industry related marketing initiatives of the faculty, with a specific focus on the organisation of the annual Industry Showcase.
- REACH course: The Faculty’s REACH short course aims to introduce new staff (who have completed PREDAC) to the research side of being an academic by providing the skills to navigate the complex space of research, publications and funding.
Q: You previously worked as Senior Advisor and Coordinator: Postgraduate Enrolment Support at the Postgraduate Office. How has your experience prepared you for your new role?
A: Serving at the Postgraduate Office for nine years, the experience gained has been instrumental to my new role. My background knowledge in the interpretation of international qualifications onto the South African framework has given me a comprehensive overview of international curriculums and the progression pathways of prospective students entering the postgraduate environment.
Some of my previous areas of responsibility included:
- Managing the Postgraduate Enrolment Support unit of the Postgraduate Office;
- Proposing and advocating best practices for postgraduate enrolment support at the University by keeping abreast of national and international regulations;
- Contributed to the institutional strategy for postgraduate success;
- Managed student administration for collaboratives programmes (double- and joint degrees with partner institutions);
- Setting the administrative framework for the postgraduate application process and devising an administrative framework for alternative pathways of access to postgraduate studies at the University;
- Promoted the University’s postgraduate programme offering through the representation of SU at national and international gatherings;
- Custodian of the prospective postgraduate studies website; and
- Fostering internal and external stakeholder engagements.
Q: What do you look forward to in your new role?
A: I am yet to discover the role in its entirety but learning something new with each passing day. Both students and staff have been very supportive and welcoming and only in a few short months, the faculty has become a place I call home.
Q: What are some of the top priorities in the near future?
A: Some priorities include:
- Increasing postgraduate enrolments within the faculty by monitoring trends within the postgraduate lifecycle (i.e., conversion from application to admission, registration and graduation [within the normal period of enrolment]);
- Streamlining administrative processes to support the SUNStudent system;
- Promoting postgraduate education within the faculty through marketing initiatives, such as the Alumni Office’s World of Work and creating a prominent social media presence promoting our research- groups and opportunities.
Q: Please tell us more about some of your career highlights up until now.
A: I have been privileged to attend many collaborative events on behalf of the University, both nationally and internationally. Engaging with people from all walks of life, sharing ideas, goals and values, and participating in initiatives promoting higher education and training are also highlights.
Q: Please tell us something about yourself that not many people know.
A: I am a jigsaw puzzle enthusiast with a passion for analysing data. I love figuring out how things fit together 😊. My happy place is fellowshipping around a fire with loved ones while enjoying good food. I approach life with a smile and high energy levels by drawing from Roy T Bennett’s motivation, “Believe in yourself. You are braver than you think, more talented than you know, and capable of more than you imagine.”