Northeastern and Wits University commit to collaboration

Northeastern Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs David Madigan and Zeblon Zenzele Vilakazi, Vice Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding expressing a shared desire to work together and find areas of collaboration and opportunity .

“We are extremely excited to build this partnership,” said Madigan, noting that Wits could become Northeastern’s anchor in South Africa.

Vilakazi, a nuclear physicist and a member of the UK’s Royal Society, said he was also pleased to see this partnership strengthened.

He quoted an African proverb and said: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, let’s go together.”

The two parties agreed last Thursday to draw up a list of action points and identify concrete projects as soon as possible.

Wits is Nelson Mandela’s alma mater and one of the top two universities in Africa. It is internationally recognized, research-intensive and committed to the common good.

The Wits delegation to Northeastern included Barry Dwolatzky, director of innovation strategy and director of the Joburg Center of Software Engineering; Helen Rees, Founder and Executive Director of Wits’ Reproductive Health and HIV Institute; and Kendal Makgamathe, Vice Chancellor’s Head of External Relations.

The connection was made possible by Northeastern’s Africa Global Initiative and Hazel Sive, Dean of the College of Science and Chair of the AGI.

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“This is a great opportunity for Northeastern,” said Sive, a graduate of Wits. “It’s a wonderful place for us to connect.”

Wits and its demographics, Sive said, changed completely after the fall of apartheid. It is now a highly respected, vibrant educational institution with outstanding research in science, technology, health, humanities and the arts.

“It seemed like this would be a great university for us to partner with,” Sive said. “It was wonderful to see the enthusiasm of this first meeting with the Vice Chancellor.”

The South African guests also met with Chancellor and Senior Vice President for Learning Ken Henderson, various deans, department heads and researchers. Henderson introduced the guests to the Northeast organization, its experiential learning model, and the university’s vision for success and the future in higher education.

Vilakazi has had stimulating, in-depth discussions with the Northeastern deans, he said, and looks forward to discussing meaningful collaboration opportunities with the Wits faculty deans. He was most impressed by the Northeast’s global vision and cooperation program, he said.

Guests showed tremendous interest in Northeastern’s Center for Law, Equity and Race, Sive said. She also sees opportunities for collaboration and research connections between Northeastern and Wits in the areas of climate solutions, health solutions, drug development, public health, epidemiology, social justice and more.

Northeastern’s physics department already has strong connections with Wits between high-energy physicists and string theorists, Sive said.

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“There is great interest in joint Ph.D. Training between the two institutions, starting with physics, but we envision a joint PhD. programs or dual Ph.D. programs over a series [of fields],” she said. “Nothing beats a joint Ph.D. bringing people together.”

One of the events organized by the Africa Global Initiative as part of the Wits delegation’s visit was a fireside chat with Vilakazi, moderated by Sive.

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