NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on May 27, 2014.
Professor Mashudu Maselesele is “unapologetic” about the “special attention” she will pay to developing young black women in her office as the new campus rector at the University of the North West (UNW).
Maselesele was recently appointed as the first black, female campus rector and will remain in the post for the next six years, in these years she hopes to champion and spearhead the advancement of black students, female students in particular.
“I am aware of the challenges that black women go through in an academic environment as I have experienced them,” shared Maselesele.
She sees her appointment as an effort for transformation by UNW, but doesn’t consider it as an affirmative action appointment. Instead Maselesele views her appointment as a shift from the male-dominated academic environment, “the culture is changing, women are now preparing to take up the challenge,” she said.
Along with this she believes that, if anything, it makes her “a role model” for the young people she wants to support.
In 2012, when Maselesele received an award for being one of the top eight women in higher education, she realised “how few women are in leadership positions in academic institutions in South Africa. We are currently in the majority yet a small fraction is in decision making process”.
Coming from a nursing background Maselesele recalled when she first realised where she wanted her career to go.
“I was inspired by the uniform that nurses wore when I was still a young girl from Balanganani village in Ha-Davhana: Limpopo Province.” This led to her studying nursing and becoming a profes-sional nurse.
As a working mother and one who was still studying part-time towards her Master’s degree, Maselesele thanks her late parents for their help in “playing the parent role” when she could not.
Maselesele’s academic career started when she taught at the University of Venda in Limpopo. “At this stage I completed my doctoral degree at the University of Johannesburg and post-doctoral studies with University of California,” she said.
Along with this she has supervised masters and doctoral students and been published widely on the topic of “sexual and reproductive health, as well as caring for the caregivers (nurses) in the context of HIV and Aids”.
Her CV is just a sign of what one can do, “no matter where they come from”, said Maselesele.