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Women rugby: Every try to inspire girls A Parallel universe: A Maties parking story To the internet and beyond for Rhodes scholar Tessa Ubhiyozo lwenkcubeko yakwaNtu kwi-dyunivesithi yase-Stellenbosch  

by Taro Sameulson

When Tessa Malan, a BScHons Computer Science student at Stellenbosch University (SU), found out she received a full-ride two year scholarship to the University of Oxford, she said it felt surreal. The prestigious Rhodes scholarship is only awarded to ten exceptional students in Southern Africa each year. The Rhodes Scholarship boasts many prestigious alumni, including SU’s chancellor, Justice Edwin Cameron. However, the scholarship, administered by the Cecil Rhodes Trust, has shared the controversies of its founder. “I know that Rhodes has a complicated history,” Malan admitted, “and I think it’s important that we have conversations on his legacy, what that represents, and whether things like the scholarship should still be named after him.”

The scholarship honours academic excellence as well as virtues like morality, bravery, and honesty. Malan says she is eager to have the chance to travel and learn alongside individuals from other countries. “But beyond that, it means I can spend two years focused on learning more about the things I am really interested in and passionate about at one of the world’s knowledge hubs,” Malan explained. 

Malan’s achievement has given her the chance to reflect on her journey. After completing her undergraduate degree in physics, Malan was motivated to pursue an honours degree in computer science, as she wanted something more “hands-on and practical.” Malan’s Honours studies explore the intersectional field of information and communication technologies for development, which, according to Malan, is all about using technology for good in areas where it can aid development. Though, no road to success comes without bumps, twists, or turns. “In my third year, in the first semester, I failed a module quite drastically. It was like an advanced maths course, and that definitely set me back,” said Malan, “but it was really validating to me to be able to recover from that, work hard, and prove that I could do it and do a good job.”

In embarking on her journey as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, Malan stands at the threshold of an extraordinary chapter in her academic pursuits. With a fervent commitment to leveraging technology for societal advancement, Malan’s trajectory from a physics undergraduate student to a prospective expert in the Social Sciences of the Internet exemplifies her tenacity and visionary outlook.

Malan will pursue her MSc in Social Sciences of the Internet starting in October 2024. Thereafter, she plans on completing a master’s degree in Comparative Social Sciences.  “I think it’s going to be fun, definitely challenging, but it’s stuff that I’m interested in,” said Malan. Malan also wants to delve into policies concerning the development of ethical artificial intelligence and examine thoughtfully crafted privacy measures for the utilisation of large-scale data. “I think learning about the internet from a social science perspective by studying, for example, the inequalities the internet has deepened, will equip me well,” she explained. She hopes that by building on her already impressive skill set, she can understand the complex nature of the internet, of privacy, and use this knowledge to look at how one can potentially make the policy sphere more ethical and facilitate a fairer distribution of resources, especially tech resources. As she prepares to traverse continents and engage with a global academic community, her aspirations to effect positive change in South Africa through her expanding skill set resonate with purpose.

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