Reitumetse Makwea
Digital Intern
3 minute read
3 May 2021
2:16 pm

The first Oprah Winfrey Academy alumnus graduates with PhD

Reitumetse Makwea

Lindiwe Tsope says she is her ancestors' wildest dream as she graduates from Rhodes University with a PhD.

A proud Lindiwe Tsope. Picture: Twitter

The first Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls alumnus, Lindiwe Tsope, says she is overwhelmed with emotions as she graduates with a doctoral research degree (PhD).

“I cried for an hour when I received that last email that confirmed I had completed my qualification,” she said as congratulatory Twitter messages came pouring in.

In a statement Rhodes University expressed its pride in her and said the 2021 graduation ceremony marked a special day in Tsope’s life and academic career.

“Tsope is an Old Rhodian through and through. She had attained a bachelor’s degree (honours) in psychology and sociology in 2015 and a master’s degree in social sciences in 2017 from Rhodes University,” the university said.

While explaining her journey to becoming a doctor, Tsope said she faced some serious research challenges in her final year due to Covid-19 lockdown regulations and even considered extending her degree by one more year.

“Tsope’s journey to attaining her PhD was not an easy one. However, after much-needed support and encouragement from her peers and colleagues, she found the will to push herself and complete her journey within the designated time,” the university added.

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Tsope undertook several roles, including being a tutor, mentor, teacher’s assistant, lecturer and honours supervisor which is how she “received her most valuable life lessons”.

“As part of her scholarship requirement, she taught a social research methodology class at the undergraduate level. Although it was a daunting and challenging task, she took the responsibility very seriously and tried to be as relatable as possible to the students,” the university said.

Tsope said that in the beginning it was scary as she had no idea how she was going to be received by the students, especially as a young black female.

The university said some students were taken aback when they realised she would be their lecturer, as she seemed very young and not that far off from them in age. However, after a few classes, she won their respect.

“As a lecturer, I felt like my life had come around full circle, as I was also once a student in the very same class I was now teaching,” Tsope said.

The university said that her research was first of its kind at Rhodes University and proved significant for the betterment of the Rhodes University community.

“In her PhD research, Tsope focused on the topic of “a narrative study of students’ and staff’s experiences of living with HIV and Aids at Rhodes University,” the university said.

“Her research was a conversation starter in the university community. The study looked into the lived experiences of both students and support staff living with HIV and Aids at the university.”

The research also served as important reference material for stakeholders such as peer educators and nurses who wish to see genuine change and progress in the way HIV/Aids is perceived and how it affects communities.

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Tsope said she credits her family members, peers, supervisors and colleagues for being excellent support structures. She said their support was honest and unwavering.

“The level of support I received was from the ground up. I had people who believed in me so much, they started calling me ‘Doc’ even before I completed my qualification,” she added.

Tsope also expressed her gratitude to her Oprah Winfrey Academy family and thanked the “driver” of her dreams, Oprah Winfrey, for this achievement.