The 2017 HELTASA Conference held in November at the Coastlands Conference Centre in Umhlanga, Durban, KZN, was a resounding success. Apart from its stunning location by the sea, it seems that warmth of the Indian ocean and Durban in general spilled over into conference and many delegates commented that it was ‘friendly, warm and homely’.
In response to the seamless organization of venues, accommodation, social events, transport and catering as well as the scholarly activities and engagements, the conference hosts and organisers must be congratulated on an outstanding and professionally run conference which resulted in a wonderful and memorable experience for us all. As the HELTASA executive committee, we are very grateful to DUT senior management, namely Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement, Professor Sibu Moyo; Deputy Vice Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, Professor Thandi Gwele, Director of the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching: Professor Thengani Ngwenya and the DUT conference committee, under the expert leadership of Nalini Chitanand and her very capable team from CELT, for their warmth and hospitality as hosts and for contributing to our ‘well-being’ at the conference.
The thematic focus of the conference HIGHER EDUCATION WELL-BEING: TRANSCENDING BOUNDARIES, REFRAMING EXCELLENCE proved to be timeous and apt for discussion at conference at a time when higher education faces a crisis of identity and legitimacy. The key note addresses were stimulating and provocative, nudging us to reflect on our academic development work in relation to current contexts in higher education. A variety of sub-themes enabled presenters and delegates to explore and unpack the notion that ‘well-being’ is perhaps dependent on a robust transcending and reframing of our current practices and discourses in higher education. Emerging from many presentations and dialogues was the sense that as academic developers and disciplinary experts, we might need to challenge our extant roles and responsibilities as educational developers and find ways to be more responsive and relevant in the current context of change and decolonization.
The Gala Dinner and Awards evening was a great success, with the CHE-HELTASA National Teaching Excellence Winners and Commendees receiving their certificates from CHE representative, Prof Diane Grayson. The 2017 winners of the award presented snippets of their teaching philosophy and practice at the Awards Plenary Session which afforded conference delegates a chance to see snippets of the winners’ teaching portfolios and how they conceptualise, embody and enact teaching in a context of higher education change and challenge.
We look forward to an equally engaging HELTASA conference in November 2018 which is being hosted by the Nelson Mandela University (NMU) in Port Elizabeth. The NMU conference team is led by Anne-Mart Olsen, Eunice Champion, and Thoko Batyi under the auspices of the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTLM) and the Dean of T and L, Prof Cheryl Foxcroft, with the blessings of the DVC: T and L, Prof Denise Zinn. We wish them all the best in their preparations for our next HELTASA gathering.
Have a good break everyone! 2018 promises to be a year of even bigger change and we need to be ready to rise to its challenges!
Dr Kasturi Behari-Leak (PhD)
Obo HELTASA executive committee