In Conversation with Prof Willie Chinyamurindi, Y2-Rated NRF Researcher

Read time: 6 mins

Affectionately known to the university community as “Willie”, Prof Chinyamurindi is a full professor in the Department of Business Management.  He holds a Doctor of Philosophy specializing in Organisational Behaviour,  from The Open University Business School (2012) in Milton Keynes (United Kingdom). He also holds a Master of Philosophy qualification on Strategy and Organisational Behaviour from Dublin Institute of Technology (2009) and a Masters in Industrial and Organisational Psychology from Nelson Mandela University (2007).  In 2019, he graduated cum laude with a Master’s Degree in Theology from UFH. His research,  framed within the branch of Systematic Theology, explored the role of females as agents in a patriarchal system and the ensuing organizational dynamics that accompany not only issues of faith and religiosity but the exercise of voice in such systems.

In the past five years, he has worked as the Research Niche Area Leader for the Faculty of Management and Commerce. Under his leadership, the Faculty has managed to publish 25 articles in local and international journals and also managed to conduct a number of community engagement efforts.

His work has earned him several awards and recognition from leading professional bodies. In 2018 the Council on Higher Education (CHE) gave a national teaching commendation to Prof Chinyamurindi through his contribution to the country’s Higher Education sector. https://www.dispatchlive.co.za/news/2018-11-24-high-praise-for-top-fort-hare-academic/

His outstanding research excellence and academic achievements have certainly earned him a seat at the table of academic stars and the university proudly counts him among its greatest ambassadors.

This Week @FortHare asked some questions to find out more about Prof Willie, his work, and the drive behind his academic career.

Who is Prof Willie?

I obtained my primary and high school education in Zimbabwe. I really enjoyed this upbringing especially my experience at Churchill Boys High School where I believe the love for academia was developed. It was an amazing school that produced international cricket stars, rugby players such as Beast Mtawarira and soccer stars such as Tinashe Nengomasha who has played for Kaizer Chiefs. I often feel that maybe I am an academic star in view of these great names and their contribution.   I was an average student but Churchill Boys High taught me the ethos of hard work. Much of my high school was a mixed experience for me and a ground in developing this early grounding in terms of my academics. I obviously loved reading and taking part in cultural activities such as debating and the school newspaper.

My formative higher education qualifications were obtained from the University of Port Elizabeth,  now known as Nelson Mandela University. I owe my entrance into academia to two people. First, Prof Peter Cunningham who did a lot to develop my writing and critical thinking skills. The second person is Mrs Fayruz Abrahams who made me appreciate a lot around management sciences,  particularly issues concerning Organisational Behaviour as a discipline. My international experience was gained in the United Kingdom and Ireland where I worked as an academic and also completed postgraduate studies. This experience helped to develop my writing skills.  Over the years I have mentored a number of local and international students.

I have also learnt the importance of work-life balance. My pet projects these days outside academia are photography, playing club cricket, and also making mocktails and a growing Instagram following: @soberhararebartender. These hobbies bring a much-needed balance and escape from academia.

I thrive on challenging the status quo. Often, as a young academic you are not taken seriously and are reduced to an over-achiever who lacks experience. I also enjoy challenging stereotypes about the quality of academics that come from institutions such as the University of Fort Hare. I think I have been a great ambassador for the UFH.

 

Please share some information about your research field, including past and current projects:

As a broad theme, I research along aspects of human and organizational capabilities and how they contribute towards the theme of development. This entails aspects such as:

a)       Human Resources Development (HRD) and Organisational Psychology covering sub-themes such as careers, employability, decent work, technology in HRD.

b)       Interpretivist research methods within the management sciences.

c)       Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management especially the intersection of strategy in organisational behaviour.

Further, I am also interested in research that improves my teaching practice. The nexus between humans and organizational capabilities becomes important especially considering the role of technology and even socio-economic systems. In essence, the thread is around making the human experience better through harnessing and improving individual, organisational, and community capabilities.

What do you think are your most significant research accomplishments?

  • A number of awards from professional bodies such as the South African Board for People Practices and the Psychological Society of South Africa.
  • Serving as an executive member at the South African Young Academy of Science. Being a National Research Foundation rated researcher – Y2.
  • Receiving funding from a number of local and regional bodies such as the National Research Foundation; Medical Research Council; Council for Scientific Industrial Research; National Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences to mention just a few.
  •  A National Commendation from the CHE for Excellence in Teaching in Higher Education South Africa
  • Being a guest editor for local journals such as the South African Journal of Human Resources; South African Journal of Industrial Psychology, Transdisciplinary Research, and Acta Commercial.
  • Winner of the Zimbabwe Achievers-South Africa Academic Excellence Award 2019.
  • Authorship of chapters in three nationally prescribed management textbooks.

 

How do you ensure your research is well communicated, digested, and acted on?

I always follow up on my published research with media engagement. This entails newspaper articles published in most of the well-known South African and African newspaper platforms. Namely, the Daily Dispatch, Mail and Guardian, City Press, the Herald, and Forbes Africa.

Also, I am an avid participant on a number of Talk Radio platforms. This has helped me realise that I need to make sure my research speaks to people on the ground.

 

What has been the greatest impact of your work?

The recognition one gets is always some form of validation for the hours of work one puts in. I enjoy it when I get a call from media houses in Kenya and Nigeria wanting to use me as a guest based on my research.  It is also pleasing when, based on my research, I receive calls from provincial and national government seeking my opinion on policy matters.  Finally, being invited by researchers from across the world to work on international collaborative efforts is humbling and an acknowledgment of my contributions

What advice would you give to Young Researchers out there?

Three things:

1)      Build expansive networks with others.   I work with at least one collaborator on six of the seven continents of the world (except Antarctica). This has been a useful platform for learning and improving myself as a teacher, researcher, and human being. It comes with cross-cultural challenges, which on its own is a useful learning experience.

2)      Seek to make your work impactful. This means not only conducting good quality research but also making sure that this research makes its way to outlets such as policy and community efforts on the ground.

3)      Keep trying to be a better version of yourself each day.  The biggest room in the house is room for improvement.