CPUT student off to Germany for doctorate

Research supervisor, Dr Pieter Steenkamp, senior marketinglecturer and Master’s degree student, Simone Thomas, who will be jetting off to Germany in March 2021.

Following a stringent interview process, Simone Thomas, 31, owner and founder of KroesRocks, a natural hair movement in Cape Town, was offered full-time employment as a research assistant and registration as a doctoral candidate in Germany in March 2021.

Ms Thomas, 31, from Kuils River, who grew up in Mitchell’s Plain, Grassy Park and Parkwood, will be completing her doctorate in brand management as a registered student at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) while being involved in additional research projects and scientific presentations, publications and teaching in the area of marketing during her three-year stay in Koblenz, Germany, from March 2021 to February 2024.

“My research will be focused on discrimination in brand management,” she said.

This opportunity came from a collaboration between Hochschule Koblenz or Koblenz University of Applied Sciences (KUAS) in Koblenz, Germany and CPUT.

The call for applications for the research assistant and doctoral candidate was made public in July 2020 and students and those in academia were encouraged to apply.

The collaboration started when Professor Holger Schmidt from KUAS, who spent a semester of his sabbatical at CPUT and collaborated with Dr Pieter Steenkamp from the marketing department on a brand management-related research project. The collaboration resulted in a memorandum of agreement between the two institutions, which was signed in 2019, with the marketing department being the custodian of the agreement at CPUT.

Ms Thomas will be supervised by Professor Schmidt and Dr Steenkamp over the three years while living and teaching at Koblenz University of Applied Sciences in Germany.

She is extremely grateful for the opportunity and will be working hard to fly the CPUT banner high, she said.

“This is a life-changing opportunity for me, both personally and professionally.

CPUT has been a beacon of hope to me as a young woman who grew up on the notorious Cape Flats since I started my tertiary studies in 2008.”

Ms Thomas, who spent her high school years in Beacon Valley, grew up in Grassy Park and Parkwood.

Some of the challenges that come with this opportunity is leaving her family, especially her mother, Joalyn Briessies and her grandmother, 77, who helped raise her and her pet child, her dog Legend, behind. Her husband, Wesley Thomas, will join her in Germany afterwards; depending on the German embassy and visa requirements. She is hopeful that her grandmother, who had a heart attack a month ago, will be able to eventually visit her with her mom.

She is looking forward though to learning a new language, having a “white” Christmas and “definitely visiting Paris,” she said.

“I am looking forward to learning and working in a new environment and having allocated time to finish my doctorate, something that I did not have while finishing my Master’s degree in Marketing,” she said.

Dr Steenkamp said this opportunity is the result of relationship building with their partner university in Germany for a number of years.

“Having supervised Simone for her Master’s thesis, I know that she is ready and able to take full advantage of this opportunity. Nothing makes me happier than contributing to the improvement of a student’s life and I can’t wait to welcome Simone back as Dr Thomas,” he said.

Professor Schmidt said they are very happy with Ms Thomas’ successful application. “She is a fine, young and hard-working student who will add new perspectives to our institution’s research team and, as a lecturer, to our students. Her presence at our campus will also demonstrate our strong commitment to the partnership with CPUT, on all levels,” he said.

Head of CPUT’s marketing department, Mandy Jones, said: “We wish Simone all the best on her new adventures in Germany and we know that she will make CPUT proud.”

Professor Axel Schlich, Dean of the Faculty of Business Management at KUAS, said they are looking forward to welcoming Ms Thomas and Dr Steenkamp at Hochschule Koblenz.

“Internationalisation is an integral part of our faculty’s overall strategy and comprises both student and teaching staff mobility as well as collaborative research. It’s the first time that we will host two academics from CPUT for a longer period of time at Hochschule Koblenz, which is proof of the fruitful co-operation between our institutions,” said Professor Schlich.

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