Dr Ronel Retief is a trailblazer. At the start of this year, she officially took up the role of registrar at Stellenbosch University (SU), making her the first female to hold this key position at the institution.
Dr Retief boasts an excellent academic record, extensive experience and plays a key role in the South African higher education sector where she provides input on placement tests, selection opportunities, academic administration and student support.
As part of Womens’ Month celebrations at SU, the corporate communication division spoke to Dr Retief about her career success.
You have had a successful career and held various posts over the years. You were the Deputy Registrar at the SU Tygerberg Campus and you are the first woman to hold the position of registrar at SU. To what do you attribute your success?
Most recently, I have come to appreciate the gift of a partner (in my case, my husband) who believes in my abilities and never ever holds me back.
I therefore have to attribute my career progress thus far to the people and circumstances that enabled me to pursue the opportunities that came my way as and when they did.
What motivates you?
I am hugely motivated by a challenge and finding a solution in collaboration with others. I love the dynamics and diverse insights that individuals bring to a team.
My position affords me the opportunity to engage with a variety of people, including students, and I am motivated by the notion that I might be able to make a positive difference in their lives.
Are there any women that inspire you and if so, why?
I would have to say my mom. She is one of the most resilient, positive people I know.
She has a very low tolerance for self-pity and has always encouraged us to be outward-looking, to think about the needs of others before our own.
I also admire her open mind – she never judges people, but would always give them the benefit of the doubt. She is totally selfless, without losing herself.
If I could be a little like her, I would really feel that I have achieved something worthwhile.
I am also inspired everyday by the women that cross my path – some of them colleagues, some students, many of them friends.
I admire those that are wise and have the ability to engage meaningfully with others, as much as I am inspired by those with a good sense of humour and the ability to keep perspective.
Do you have any words of advice for women students at SU?
Be open to opportunities and the possibilities that they bring.
Take pride in your work, even if you are not pursuing your passion at the time.
Empower others on your way up – it is truly liberating to give credit where it is due and, contrary to popular belief, does not take away anything from you.