During my childhood it never occurred to me that one day I would be referred to as a ‘Doctor’. Mainly due to a lack of role models. In the small township where I come from, to my knowledge, there is only one individual who studied and obtained a PhD. This became one of the compelling reasons that kept me going.

In 2014 I applied to be enrolled into the NRF Proposal Development Programme at Nelson Mandela University. The NRF Proposal Development Programme is an enriching programme that guides one through a process of formulating a topic to a point where you understand the problem statement or the question that needs to be investigated, because “not all questions need to be researched”. This set the tone for my studies as I became confident in how, what and where to start researching for a relevant topic. My main challenge rose from choosing a topic. The process of choosing a topic meant that I should provide a space where I can interact more with the literature in my field of study. This was the beginning of critical engagement with my research project.

The second aspect of my journey involved discipline, since I have a family, a full time lecturing job, and I am also an active member of the community. I questioned, “How do I maintain a cordial relationship with my family and continue to do my work diligently at the same time? How do I maintain sound relations with the community?” My answer was in order to achieve all my goals and responsibilities, I needed to instil discipline. Being disciplined ensured that I was not compromising my studies whilst at the same time also satisfy what I need to do as part of my life. Curtailing some of my responsibilities is one of the issues that came to mind. I worked very closely with Outeniqua FAMSA and being chairperson of the organisation for a couple of years, it was difficult to come to terms with the fact  that I would no longer serve the NGO because of my studies. I also resigned as church treasurer and serving on the board of the George Chamber of Business. That was a turning point in my life that only meant I would be married to my studies. I also cut down on some family activities, whilst not compromising a good relationship with my wife and our children. My fixed study time was from early morning hours 3-5 on a daily basis without fail. By the time I prepared for work, I made it a point that I completed some house chores. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of routine work for one’s studies. It helps one in so many ways. It ensures you stay focused and your work becomes more organised and engrains the need for continuous engagement. That is a development of a habit! Someone once told me that, ‘Continuous effort – not intelligence or strength is the key to unlocking our potential’.

The third aspect of my journey involves my teachers. I say teachers because I learnt a great deal from my supervisors. They provided me with a wealth of knowledge not only from the perspective of my topic. They provided me with different approaches in life in general. I have learned that what you say, think or write is not always the ultimate. There are various and unique views out there, regardless of whether those views are wrong or right. In other instances what is wrong today may be acceptable later. When my supervisors critiqued my writing at first I was angry, but with time I understood why - because I’m not perfect. I opened myself to learning new things. This is a life skill that I will always cherish.I also learnt that information management is an important aspect of one’s studies. I managed my own work. Creating folders and working in well-defined databases makes things easier.

I also learnt that information management is an important aspect of one’s studies. I managed my own work. Creating folders and working in well-defined databases makes things easier.

The study itself was based on, ‘The influence of diversity management initiatives on business and social outcomes”. The purpose of the study was to identify diversity management practices used in South African businesses and how best these can be  utilised in order ensure successful business outcomes and social cohesion. The literature differentiates between two types of diversity management initiatives. There are those that are compulsory and those that are voluntary. The study found that when implementing these initiatives, companies do not necessarily differentiate between these two types of diversity management initiatives. Thus it is recommended that when businesses implement diversity management initiatives, an integrated approach should be adopted.  An integrated approach is one that involves creating and articulating a shared vision, senior management demonstrating their commitment, using task teams as diversity watchdogs, using a top down and bottom up approach to diversity and creating a culture of inclusivity and collaboration, affirming all employees. Therefore, a formal change strategy programme is required, which should incorporate the main elements of the change models and diversity management models presented in the study. 

ABOVE: Dr Sam Webber

Contact information
Dr Sam Webber
Lecturer/ BES Faculty coordinator
Tel: 044 801 5128