Joha van Dyk

While everyone is reeling from pre-and post-exam anxiety in November, the top final year and post-graduate students from Stellenbosch University’s seven faculties are chosen to partake in the annual Think Tank.

The Think Tank was established through an agreement between Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and Maties, allowing top students to converse with one another over the course of ten months, starting each February.

Recently the “Think Tankers” from KU Leuven have arrived to start their residency period and at the end of November, the Maties students will travel to Belgium to take part in delivering the final presentation.

Dr van Rooi is the Director of the Frederick Van Zyl Slabbert (FVZS) Institute, which is partly responsible for managing the partnership with KU Leuven, along with the Division for Student Affairs and the Postgraduate and International Office (PGIO).

Van Rooi is very enthusiastic about the possibilities and effects of the Think Tank for both universities.

“Through Think Tank you have the opportunity to engage with global and local challenges from an academic and experiential perspective,” he said.

Through group discussions, the “Think Tankers” establish an agreed-upon theme, which will make up the focus of the programme for that course.

By allowing students, not only from different faculties, but from across the world, to take part in this discussion, the universities are paving the way to finding “global solutions for local challenges” by drawing on the diverse perspectives these students can provide for one another.

Van Rooi added that it is entirely possible to duplicate the model of the Think Tank and apply it with different universities across the world.

“The model allows for intercontinental conversations that place virtually with complementing residency periods.While the model might differ, depending on geographical location and cultural orientation, SU might collaborate with different universities in the future.”

For now, the “Think Tankers” are hard at work grappling with the issues their theme, “Arts and Science – an enduring relationship?”, has provided for them this year.

“In the application process for the Think Tank, we were asked to explain how we interpret the theme. For me personally, the theme in particular formed a large part of my motivation to decide to apply for the Think Tank,” said Annegret Muller, a mathematical statistics student from SU.

The coordinators of the program run the discussions in a formal setting to create a “respectful environment in which one can easily voice your opinion”, said Venita Januarie, a sociology of education student from SU.

Tafadzwa Gurupira, an electrical engineering student from SU, added that the Think Tank is “in a really good position to serve as a breeding ground for reform and innovation. Most of the challenges we are trying to tackle are complex in nature and ought to be approached from not only an interdisciplinary standpoint but also a multidisciplinary one. I believe that the Think Tank is truly a progressive and productive program.”