Alumni Impumelelo 4

From student to academic

“I like to refer my academic journey being completely incidental. I had the bare minimum understanding of what tourism is. I’m ashamed to admit I thought that it was just about travelling.” But, she grew to fall in love with this industry. The STH developed her passion for tourism and hospitality and was instrumental in her success which includes winning the World Tourism Young Talent Award. “To me, the school signifies growth and transformation for the individual and the industry at large.” Mrs Nanikie Mhlongo-Zungu, Academic Head for Hospitality Nanikie’s journey with the STH is a thread of breaking boundaries. She was among the first group of black graduates in the country to obtain a Diploma in Food Service Management. Then, in 1995, she was the first black female lecturer at the then Wits Hotel School’s Department of Food Service Management. Today she is the academic Head for hospitality at the School. “It has not always been easy, but this leads me to another key theme worth mentioning – the role of strong women, particularly other black women who have supported and nurtured my continued growth within the STH. I am particularly grateful to my

predecessor, Dr Hema Kesa, and Dr Diane Abrahams for allowing me room to thrive and grow as an academic. Ms Ita Geyser, Lecturer Ita believes that her career in the hospitality industry has come to full circle. An alumnus of the STH, she studied Catering Management at the then Wits Hotel School. After working in the industry for a few years she returned to the School as a lecturer and for the past 12 years has been ploughing back her knowledge to the next generation of hospitality professionals. “Hospitality can be a tough environment to work in,” she says. “However, what I appreciate most is that it is a happy industry. It is an industry of working in beautiful environments, meeting incredible people and making people happy.” She believes that the hospitality industry is the one sector where you can provide anyone with skills and those skills can quickly empower them to run their businesses and make a living for themselves. “Looking forward to the next 50 years, I foresee more growth. Institutions like the STH have a significant role to play in developing the next crop of industry leaders.”

The School of Tourism and Hospitality (STH) is celebrating its 50th anniversary. We spoke to some of the School’s lecturers who were once students but returned as academics. Mr Donald Brain, Senior Lecturer An STH alumnus, Donald has been a lecturer at the School since 1989. He qualified with a Diploma in Hotel Management at the former Wits Hotel School, after which he spent some time in the industry before returning to the School as a junior lecturer. “I began my lecturing career as a restaurant practical lecturer and later moved on to food and beverage studies,” he says. “I’ve had many wonderful experiences and my time with the STH has been most joyous and fruitful.” Thinking back to his time as a junior lecturer he is thankful for his mentors - Dr Renier “Dok” Mornet, Felix Sullivan, and Pieter Viljoen. But he is most grateful for the privilege bestowed upon him to help prepare so many young people to work in the wondrous industry of tourism and hospitality.

Ms Refiloe Lekgau, Assistant Lecturer

Refiloe’s first interaction with the STH was in 2015, when she enrolled as a first-year tourism student.

Mr Donald Brain, Senior Lecturer

Ms Refiloe Lekgau, Assistant Lecturer

Mrs Nanikie Mhlongo-Zungu, Academic Head of Hospitality

Ms Ita Geyser, Lecturer



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