Change the world


Highly intelligent, talented, vibrant, inspirational, emotionally mature, humble and solidly grounded – are just some of the words that come to mind in attempting to describe Prof. Tania Douglas, the keynote speaker who enthralled guests with her captivating talk on “Women in 21st Century Leadership” during a recent NMMU Women’s Day event held at the Hyatt Regency International Hotel in Oubaai.

Dr. Bridget Johnson (Programme Director) commenced the event by warmly welcoming about 40 guests comprised of staff, students plus community members, and amplified the phenomenal role that women play in shaping society.   She introduced Prof Douglas, who matriculated at Pacaltsdorp High School where many years ago her father, Dr. Aubrey Douglas, was Principal. Prof. Douglas, who is the current Deputy Dean for Research at the University of Cape Town, shared her experience and views on societal transformation and the role of women in this context.

Picking up on the theme of women empowerment, Prof. Douglas pointed out that despite the constraints of a patriarchal system which had excluded women from many spheres of life in the past, great strides have been made in the professional advancement of women over the past twenty years.  Using universities as her point of reference, she indicated that these institutions have a developmental role which should extend beyond teaching and research for its own sake.  She emphasised the need for environmental context, social responsiveness and engagement, citing the NMMU George Campus as “an excellent example” of how these principles are applied in educating leaders for sustainable futures.

Prof. Douglas, who has expertise in electrical, electronic and biomedical engineering as well as executive management, explained that innovations in the field of medical devices need to be suitable for local markets, so that they can be implemented. She also indicated that the current academic model does not reward “frugal innovation”, and should do so.  International rankings of universities, which affect their reputation, are based on research and publication outputs but disregard context, as well as indicators relating to impact and use.

Prof. Douglas also noted that women contribute a unique richness of different experiences to these varying environments, in which they operate.  

A lively question and answer session revealed the positive mindset which has accompanied this outstanding role model on her amazing higher education journey.  Prof. Douglas shared with guests that she has always been inspired by a sense of curiosity and eagerness to learn. Moreover, she views life as a suit of choices, rather than sacrifices that need to be made.   She advised that it is important for women in the professional world not to be discouraged, but to persevere and have flexible goals. When asked about how she handles obstacles, this community icon smiled and revealed that she simply works hard “to come around them” and always remembers to have some “fun in life”.

Prof. Quinton Johnson, Campus Principal at NMMU George, expressed his delight that the university could catalyse this annual Women’s Day engagement, and encouraged all the delegates to pursue their dreams.

About Prof. Tania Douglas

Prof. Tania Douglas matriculated at Pacaltsdorp High School in the Southern Cape, whereafter she undertook an amazing higher education journey that has culminated in her present appointment as Deputy Dean for Research, at the University of Cape Town since June 2013.

Prof. Douglas completed degrees in electrical, electronic and biomedical engineering at the University of Cape Town, Vanderbilt University and the University of Strathclyde where she obtained her PhD in 1999. She then conducted postdoctoral research in image processing at the Japan Broadcasting Corporation in Tokyo. She has been a Junior Associate of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, an Honorary Senior Research Fellow of University College London and a Humboldt Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research in Cologne. She is a Fellow of the South African Academy of Engineering and a Member of the Academy of Science of South Africa.

Prof. Douglas recently completed an executive MBA at UCT and was awarded the Gold Medal for Outstanding Achievement. She is the Director of the MRC/UCT Medical Imaging Research Unit and a Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the Department of Human Biology. As a professional, she continues to be concerned with education and research that promotes the contextually appropriate use of technology, to address an important array of public health challenges.


Women's Day 01

NMMU George Women’s Day keynote speaker, Prof Tania Douglas (centre), flanked by her proud parents, Dr Aubrey and Mrs Rita Douglas, and Dr Bridget Johnson (far left) and NMMU George Campus Principal, Prof Quinton Johnson (far right)

Women's Day 02

Prof Tania Douglas (left) enthralled NMMU guests with her Women’s Day talk on “Women in 21st Century Leadership”.  She is joined here by her mother, Rita Douglas, Dr Bridget Johnson, Dr Aubrey Douglas, Ald Charles Standers (Executive Mayor of George), Miss NMMU George – Danicka Riehl  (Miss NMMU George) and Prof Quinton Johnson, the NMMU George Campus Principal

Women's Day 03

Student Council members Awonke Kampie, Asafika Mzinjana, Ms Vuyiswa Mentile-Gozongo (Residence Manager), Amy-Cai Simmons and Miss NMMU George, Danicka Riehl, also attended the recent Women’s Day proceedings held at Hyatt Regency Oubaai.

Women's Day 04

The Executive Mayor of George, Ald Charles Standers (seated, centre), was amongst the guests who joined the NMMU George Campus Principal, Prof Quinton Johnson, staff and students in celebrating Women’s Day 2014.  The keynote speaker for the event was Prof Tania Douglas, the Deputy Dean for Research at the University of Cape Town, who had matriculated at Pacaltsdorp High School.  She inspired guests with her captivating talk on “Women in 21st Century Leadership”.

Women's Day 05

Prof Tania Douglas, who matriculated at Pacaltsdorp High School and subsequently pursued an academic career, inspired guests with her talk on “Women in 21st Century Leadership”.  She was the keynote speaker at the recent Women’s Day event hosted by the NMMU George Campus

Women's Day 06

Dr Bridget Johnson, who co-ordinated the recent NMMU George Women’s Day proceedings, with the guest speaker, Prof Tania Douglas, and Ms Adele Potgieter who delivered the vote of thanks.

Women's Day 07

CELEBRATING ELOQUENCE…  NMMU George BTech student in Nature Conservation, Nombuyiselo Duma (right) not only cares deeply for the environment.  She also has strong thoughts on what it means to be a woman.  She wrote a very touching poem honouring women, which she recited to guests at the recent NMMU George Women’s Day event.   She was congratulated on her sterling efforts by the keynote speaker, Prof Tania Douglas (left).

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