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What lies ahead for the SAEON Graduate Student Network in 2018?

By Athi Mfikili, External Liaison, SAEON Graduate Student Network
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The SAEON Graduate Student Network (GSN) is delighted to introduce five new steering committee members for 2018: Qondisa Mbekwa (Fynbos Node), Juan Swanepoel (Arid Lands Node), Amy Marshall (Ndlovu Node), Thami Shezi (Grasslands-Forests-Wetlands Node) and Ramontsheng Rapolaki (Egagasini Node).


The SAEON GSN Steering committee members for 2018. From left: Ramontsheng Rapolaki (Website Manager), Amy Marshall (Indibano Logistics Coordinator), Thami Shezi (Internal Liaison), Qondisa Mbekwa (Chairperson), Juan Swanepoel (Vice Chair and Secretary) and Athi Mfikili (External Liaison)]. Read more about the new committee members at

The new committee members replace outgoing members Nasiphi Ntshanga, Hannah Raven-Truter and Aobakwe Lenkwe, while Athi Mfikili (Elwandle Node) remains to complete the final leg of his term. As part of the changes made during the revamp of the SAEON GSN in 2016, the new committee members were nominated and elected into their roles from the pool of SAEON students.


During the induction of the new GSN Committee. From left: Juan, Athi, Nasiphi and Aobakwe (the latter outgoing Chairperson and Indibano Logistics Coordinator respectively)


The outgoing steering committee members pictured with invited guest speaker Prof. Mamokgethi Phakeng at Indibano 2017. From left: Hannah Raven-Truter (Website Manager), Nasiphi Ntshanga (Chairperson), Prof. Phakeng (recently appointed Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town) and Aobakwe Lenkwe (Indibano Logistics Coordinator)

We also welcome Ms Kogie Govender, SAEON’s new Science Engagement Coordinator. Kogie is an enthusiastic and dynamic new addition to the GSN team who will be overseeing and acting as a central point for communication and assistance to committee members.

The new steering committee members were officially inducted by the outgoing committee and Kogie during a meeting held at the Egagasini Node in Cape Town on 22 March 2018. Also in attendance were node sponsors Lara Atkinson and Sue van Rensburg.

A taste of what is to come...

The SAEON GSN mission statement is "to build and promote the academic and technical excellence of long-term environmental research among postgraduate students and scientists". The current GSN committee has already been challenged to use the network to forge a new transformed scientific practice among the postgraduate students and scientists.

Apart from organising the Indibano (which means "the meeting" in isiXhosa), the main GSN event, one of the major tasks ahead of the new committee is to implement node-specific activities. These may include, but are not limited to research paper discussions, guest lectures and statistical analysis workshops. The committee is meeting soon to discuss and plan their respective node activities.

The SAEON GSN Steering Committee extends its gratitude to the outgoing committee members for their contribution to the network and is looking forward to building a new generation of excellent scientists and researchers in the most "fun and exciting" way possible.

The SAEON GSN is always on the lookout for scientists to help facilitate workshops, mentors for postgraduates and any other support, so if you are interested in volunteering your time to implement activities for the GSN, please visit our website or send a message on social media.

Finally, also keep an eye on your inbox for the first ‘call for abstracts’ for the 2018 Indibano… to be hosted by the Ndlovu Node in September!

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