Masters Candidate Establishes Integrated Environmental Management Student Mentorship Programme
A Masters candidate in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) has established a student mentorship programme aimed at assisting Environmental Science graduates.
Mr Kusasalethu Sithole, who is also an intern at the Institute of Natural Resources (INR), established the International Association for Impact Assessment South Africa (IAIAsa) Student Mentorship Programme (ISMP) in the hope that it will provide students with experience and opportunities as they connect with mentors working in the Integrated Environmental Management (IEM) field.
The ISMP was trialled in 2016 with eight mentors and 10 mentees (including three UKZN students). As of 2017, the ISMP is being offered to the wider IEM community. Sithole and his team have successfully increased the participation and geographical reach of the programme.
The ISMP targets IEM mentors working in government, consultancies, research institutes, academia, and industrial corporates. All mentors volunteer their time and experience, spending 80 hours within ISMP’s nine-month timeframe providing mentorship support and giving the mentees an opportunity to assist with tasks or projects they are engaged with.
‘Too often students have to make big career decisions without having had any first-hand interaction with their potential working environments, and are required to acquire experience beyond the limits of university in order to secure employment,’ said Sithole.
‘They face the dilemma of either going into the job market for experience or furthering their studies; the ISMP is tailor-made for environmental students who wish to acquire exposure and experience of their working environments without jeopardising their postgraduate studies.’
Sithole is also a co-founder and co-Director of Geographers for Change, a registered Non-Profit Organisation (NPO), and runs the ISMP with Sue George, IAIAsa’s Operational Manager. The IAIAsa NEC and provincial IAIAsa committees provide necessary authority and support in order to work towards their goal of preparing students for the professional sector.
Sithole hopes the programme will grow to become a calendar event in almost all environmental departments in South Africa (including universities, government and companies).
Sithole also sits on the National Executive Committee (NEC) of IAIAsa as a National Student Representative.
Interested potential participants will find the annual calls for ISMP participants on the IAIAsa website and/or IAIAsa Facebook page. The call for 2018 ISMP will be issued in the last quarter of 2017.
Words by: Christine Cuénod