2 July 2019

Dr Marina Joubert was one of ten staff members from Stellenbosch University who participated in a week-long academic exchange to Leipzig University from 24 – 29 June 2019. In Leipzig, she was hosted by Professors Alexander Godulla and Cornelia Wolf, both experts in communication science with a focus on digital communication. She also met with PhD candidate Rosanna Planer, who is doing her PhD on digital storytelling. Exciting plans are now in the pipeline to develop a multi-year collaboration with Leipzig University that will include staff and student exchanges, as well as collaborative research.

“Studying communication as a science is the foundation of all other types of communication research, including research in the field of science communication,” Dr Joubert explains. “I am therefore particularly excited about the future prospects of this academic partnership that will add in-depth communication expertise to our Master’s programme, along with cutting edge practical skills in the field of visual and digital communication.”

In addition to meetings with researchers and students, the Stellenbosch delegation visited the Leipzig University Botanical Garden and the Leipzig Zoo. Staff members at the botanical garden have developed novel approaches to engaging members of the public who visit, including “storytelling” with the plants themselves as the main narrators (here a plant or tree ‘tells’ its own story), as well as several garden paths that feature specific plants, such as the ‘path of love’ or ‘path of healing’.

A highlight at the zoo was the spectacular Gondwanaland exhibit and newly opened South American and Himalayan landscapes. Dating back to 1877, Leipzig Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the world, but its facilities and enclosures are all newly renovated. The zoo is a key site for the filming of ‘Elephant, Tiger & Co’, a popular weekly television programme in Germany.

This Stellenbosch visit to Leipzig builds on a long-term bilateral agreement between the two universities. On the South African side, the visit was facilitated by Robert Kotze, senior director at SU International, in collaboration with Lidia du Plessis. The Leipzig programme was coordinated by the head of the university’s international office, Dr Svend Poller, and colleague Christine Seideman.

Robert Kotze elaborated on the numerous advantages that the relationship between Stellenbosch University and Leipzig University has brought about over the years. “The formal link between Stellenbosch and Leipzig dates back to 1997,” he explains. “During these years of partnership, SU has benefitted greatly from engaging with Leipzig. Not only have many academic collaborations involving Global Studies, Chemistry, Theology, Ancient Studies, German, African Studies, Sociology, Economics and Business Management been undertaken, but through the Leipzig link SU has also developed collaborative degree programme policies (significantly a collaborative Master’s programme in German.) Moreover, the partnership has given SU access to Leipzig’s strong international network, including links with Graz, Bologna, Lubjljana, the Utrecht Network and Ohio University.”