Published on March 3, 2023
After a three-day visit at the University of Missouri from Feb. 20-22, guests from the University of Western Cape in South Africa expressed a sentiment native to their culture about the campus they visited: ‘Oh, shame!’
In South Africa, ‘shame’ is an endearing term, used to express strong admiration. Three visitors from UWC gave this ‘warm approval and respect’ for MU after touring its departments and student success initiatives. They found their experience to be beneficial and also affirming.
“It’s also the passion that has come through from the meetings,” Dr. Ahmed Shaikjee, Deputy Registrar at UWC, said. “The staff at MU seem to be really passionate about what they do. They are passionate about supporting students.”
MU has collaborated with UWC for about 35 years through mutually beneficial exchanges, such as this most recent visit; However, coming to the Midwest was a bit of a culture shock for UWC delegation.
“This is my first time in Missouri, but I’ve been elsewhere in the States,” Shaikjee said. “It is quite different as you move around, the same as it is in South Africa. But I think one of the things that we came to realize, especially with our discussion is also the similarities in terms of the challenges that we face in terms of inclusivity, diversity, and sense of belonging to the University. Even though our demographics might look very different in the country, we still have the exact same issues and problems because of our history.”
As Shaikjee acknowledged, having similar challenges means UWC could potentially benefit from utilizing similar strategies to that of MU.
The Center for Academic Success & Excellence hosted the visitors as they learned about various student success initiatives on campus. Director of CASE Dr. Andre Thorn escorted delegation from one location to another which offered UWC a holistic view of implications for their own University’s efforts in student success.
Elizabeth Booi, Business Intelligence Data Analyst at UWC, reflected that a common theme in the delegation’s engagement with MU is how we use data to drive and measure the initiatives that support students.
“I think it’s something that many universities do not do because we always rely on gut feeling” Booi said. “But when you bring the data into play in your discussion, as well, it gives another side that you normally do not see.”
Each day contained its own set of enriching and comprehensive discussions with the first day consisting of an introduction to administration, International Programs and how students are overall supported by MU’s institutional structures. But the remaining two days of the UWC visit focused on student success through planning, analytics, individualized coaching, and services like the Student Success Center.
“I think what excited us most was MU Connect,” Dr. Subethra Pather, Associate Professor at UWC, said. “That was really an eye opener for us. Something that we can use to build our different services and units that presently have a very siloed way of working. By making use of this system, it’s actually bringing everybody together, and then getting a holistic kind of view of a student.”
Beyond academic success, the UWC delegation also received the opportunity to see how MU connects with the student body through campus activities. Specifically, the Missouri vs Mississippi basketball game on the evening of Feb. 21 at the Mizzou Arena demonstrated to the delegation the strong community within the MU student body.
“I’m very impressed to see how they come out [to the games],” Booi said. “Not only just to come out [to the games], but when I arrived on Sunday, I saw a lot of families wearing Mizzou proudly. In our institution, these things don’t happen…I felt like [MU] is a community supporting one another and it’s like a family. And everybody’s welcome. And it clearly showed with the basketball game yesterday too.”
UWC is thrilled to continue collaborating with MU. The delegation plans to replicate systems and strategies for supporting students, through academics and building a sense of community, at their institution.
“We want to thank all the student support services,” Pather said. “They made time for us to share their experiences and share their practices so openly, it was really great. And we hope that they got some value out of our sharing as well.”