The Makerere University Deans Forum (MUDF) on Friday 3rd September, 2021 held a training session during which newly appointed Deans were inducted and the members of the new Executive Committee elected.
Organised by the Interim Executive Committee, the training held at Hotel Africana was presided over by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs)-DVCAA and Patron MUDF, Dr. Umar Kakumba.
Welcoming both physical and virtual participants to the launch, the Chair of the opening session Dr. Sarah Ssali congratulated the Chairperson of the Interim Executive Committee and Dean School of Public Health (MakSPH), Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze and her team upon the strides made since they volunteered to serve MUDF.
She equally thanked the Patron for hatching the MUDF idea and his untiring support to the Interim Executive Committee and individual Deans.
On 14th June 2019, the Office of the DVCAA in collaboration with the Directorate of Research and Graduate Training (DRGT) organised the Inaugural Deans’ Workshop. One of the outcomes of that workshop was the formation of MUDF.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Kakumba said that the MUDF was platform for Deans to engage and share experiences for the advancement of research, teaching and learning beyond Senate meetings where the business of the day and formalities cannot permit.
“The objective of MUDF is to promote academic excellence through collective action, capacity building and harnessing each other’s expertise, experiences and best practices” noted Dr. Kakumba.
He added that the day’s training would specifically recapture momentum of MUDF that was interrupted by COVID-19, foster implementation of the Forum’s work plan, and build cohesive leadership especially between new Deans and their senior colleagues.
In the training’s first session, Dr. Ronald Naluwairo, Acting Deputy Principal at the School of Law presented the revised constitution of MUDF, which provides for the composition, leadership, functions of the Executive Committee, meetings of the Forum, among other articles.
Under article 4, Dr. Naluwairo outlined the core values of MUDF as; (i) Leadership, (ii) Integrity, (iii) Equality, (iv) Transparency and Accountability, and (v) Solidarity.
Equality, he said, was particularly important in ensuring that members have the confidence that their Schools have the same say in Forum matters as their bigger or older peers.
Furthermore, MUDF’s Constitution Article 5 on Leadership makes provision for an Executive Committee that will comprise of “a Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, Secretary, Treasurer and three other members all of whom shall be elected by members of MUDF.”
The constitution was debated by members present both physically and online, and the changes agreed upon will be incorporated into the final document.
Members nevertheless unanimously agreed that election to the Executive Committee shall be by simple majority of members voting, an exercise that was conducted at the end of the training to appoint the first office bearers.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America is quoted to have said in 1736.
It was in line with these wise words that two Deans who had each served two consecutive terms were asked to share their experiences in delivering on their mandate.
Prof. Johnny Mugisha the outgoing Dean (2013-2021) of the School of Agricultural Sciences shared that his leadership on the whole brought good feelings that he looked forward to.
“I always felt good to see staff getting promoted, winning research grants and other awards, graduate students passing their viva voce examinations especially at PhD level, and students graduating in large numbers” remarked Prof. Mugisha.
He shared a few pointers on how to maintain this ‘good feeling’ as highlighted below.
Deanship is full-time service. Make yourself accessible to staff, students and guests but delegate a lot, especially where circumstances don’t allow
Strengthen team building activities such as social gatherings and recognise achievers
Involve each staff in different assignments based on their strengths
Hold informal interactions with all categories of staff in their offices, corridors, etc.
Hold formal and informal interactions with students especially those facing challenges
Establish close working relationships with offices and Managers that are a priority to your School
Regularly conduct self-assessments on whether you are delivering on your mandate
“Always lead by example; teach, supervise students, do research, publish and manage your time” concluded Prof. Mugisha.
Continuing with the pointers based on his terms of office, Dr. Andrew Ellias State, the Dean School of Social Sciences shared that one of the most taxing responsibilities leaders at this level have to deal with is curriculum review. “Curriculum review is a very tedious process that can take its toll on you. However, I am happy that all the programmes we submitted were considered, reviewed and passed by the National Council for Higher Education.”
He equally cautioned colleagues to always look at examinations as an intricate process with various stages of preparation of scripts, rooms, invigilation all the way to submission of final scores from marking exercises. The latter, he noted, ought to be handled expeditiously as it is one of the triggers of unrest. Dr. State on this note agreed with Prof. Mugisha’s position of maintaining formal and informal interactions with student leaders, as a way of putting out feelers to preempt any unrest.
“Allow yourself to serve outside the School, especially on committees constituted by the university leadership,” Dr. State further advised. “Your service to Makerere University is service to community and the experience you acquire should be shared with colleagues at the School” he added.
Making the day’s final presentation on how to maintain a vibrant grants and partnerships portfolio, Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze emphasised the need for Deans to ensure that the pursuit of research funding goes hand in hand with the teaching and learning experience. “You cannot move grants forward if you are neglecting education.”
She explained that students, especially those at graduate level, are in some instances already well-placed in Government and other organisations, whose funded activities could be in line with Schools’ research interests. In this regard, she stressed the need for teaching staff to treat students as assets and prospective collaborators.
Prof. Wanyenze further noted that maintaining a vibrant grants and partnerships portfolio calls for striking a delicate balance between large and small grants, as well as staff’ and funders’ interests. “As Dean, you should be ready to perform the uncomfortable task of asking colleagues, who in some instances might be senior, to step aside from the role of Principal Investigator for the sake of maintaining a good relationship with the funder.”
On how to ensure a good mix of both large and small grants, Prof. Wanyenze asked Deans to deliberately equip everyone in their Schools, particularly the smart young ones with grant proposal writing skills. “At my School, we expanded the base of people bringing in grants by equipping our students with these skills. This paid off when two of them under the mentorship of a colleague won a grant worth 100,000 Canadian Dollars.”
She additionally urged Deans to use their offices to knock on the doors of line ministries and organisations whose work relates to their disciplines. Citing a Memorandum of Understanding signed between MakSPH and the WHO Uganda country office in 2019, Prof. Wanyenze shared that this collaboration born out of a deliberate effort had resulted in 29 projects being conducted between the two institutions in the last three years.
“We ought to partner with our line ministries and community. We need to step out and engage at the highest level and expand our collaboration networks” she concluded.
At the close of the training, a new MUDF Executive Committee was elected in a brief ceremony conducted by Dr. Grace Kibanja. Following a unanimous simple majority vote, the following four officials and three members were elected as the new Executive Committee.
Chairperson – Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze, Dean MakSPH
Vice Chairperson – Dr. Edward Bbaale, Dean School of Business
Secretary – Dr. Grace Kibanja, Dean School of Psychology
Treasurer – Prof. Robert Tweyongyere, Dean School of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Resources
Member – Dr. Ronald Naluwairo, Ag. Deputy Principal School of Law
Member – Dr. Gilbert Maiga, Dean School of Computing and Informatics Technology
Member – Dr. Dorothy Okello, Dean School of Engineering.
The DVCAA and Patron MUDF, Dr. Umar Kakumba in his concluding remarks thanked the New Executive Committee for accepting the call of duty as well as Dr. Aaron Mushengyezi for his service to the Interim Executive Committee. He requested members of the MUDF to draft a memorandum from the action points raised in the training, which he pledged to present before Senate.