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A preview of what’s to come for SAEON’s Graduate Student Network in 2019

By Tamanna Patel, External Liaison, SAEON Graduate Student Network
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In February this year, the Graduate Student Network (GSN) held a successful committee meeting and induction for new members at the Fynbos Node, which is hosted by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) at their research hub in the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens.

The meeting commenced with introductions and an ice breaker event involving a fun and engaging club card tower challenge, which was performed in groups.

New GSN Committee

Following an overview of portfolios with practical demonstrations, the portfolios were allocated. Qondisa Mbekwa stays on as committee chairperson and secretariat, with Juan Swanepoel as deputy chairperson and secretariat. Thami Shezi returns to his portfolio of internal stakeholder communication.

New to the committee is Jessica Els, an MSc student registered at the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth, affiliated with SAEON’s Elwandle Node. She has been allocated the portfolio of Indibano logistics coordinator. Tamanna Patel, a PhD student registered at Wits University and based at the Grasslands Node, takes on external stakeholder communication.

Read more about the 2019 steering committee here.


Current and outgoing GSN Committee members. Back row (from left): Juan Swanepoel (deputy chairperson and secretariat) and Ramontsheng Rapolaki (outgoing website manager); middle row (from left): Tamanna Patel (external stakeholder communication), Athi Mfikili (outgoing external stakeholder communication), Jessica Els (Indibano logistics coordinator) and Thami Shezi (internal stakeholder communication); front: Qondisa Mbekwa (chairperson and secretariat)

Indibano 2019

Apart from allocating portfolios for the year, the new committee put in a lot of planning for the upcoming Indibano, with numerous tasks being allocated to each SAEON Node to ensure the preparations run smoothly. The Indibano will be hosted by the Elwandle Node at the Cape St Francis Resort in the Eastern Cape from 2 to 6 September.

Each Node will also host activities and workshops throughout the year to facilitate further learning opportunities for students, such as the data lifecycle training workshop held in Cape Town in February.

“I am delighted that we managed to cover so much ground in the time frame of two days, especially with regard to the Indibano and the majority of tasks going forward,” says GSN Committee Chairperson Qondisa Mbekwa.

“I would like to extend my gratitude to the outgoing members of the committee – Ramontsheng Rapolaki, Amy Marshall and Athi Mfikili. We as a committee are fortunate to have worked with you. Your undivided devotion to make the GSN a success has not gone unnoticed. We wish you all the best in your future endeavours. You have left a legacy for current and future GSN members.”

The GSN committee would also like to thank SAEON’s Kogie Govender, Sue van Rensburg, Jasper Slingsby, Shaun Deyzel, Lara Atkinson and Juliet Hermes for being present at the meetings. Sue led a very insightful, fun and practical workshop on chairing conferences. It will come in handy when preparing for the Indibano conference.


The winning team in the club card tower challenge and the intricate tower they built

We would like to encourage members of the GSN to keep visiting our website and social media pages (Facebook and Twitter) for opportunities. Finally, please keep an eye out for the first ‘call for abstracts’ for the 2019 Indibano.

Find the SAEON GSN on:


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