Nomathemba Ndlovu – Of Relocation, Resilience and Renewal

My first interaction with Flinders University was through pure serendipity when I stumbled upon the vlog series from Professor Tara Brabazon just over a year ago. I was initially enrolled at a university in Zimbabwe as a part time PhD candidate with a demanding full-time job leading the largest events company that organises and hosts the country’s premier international exhibitions. Within the first year of my candidature my family relocated to Kuwait and a year later, we were off to the other side of the world to start a new life in the United States of America. All this was happening alongside the preparations for my confirmation of candidature and data collection phases. Abruptly, we were hurled into a COVID-induced lockdown just as I was finishing off the data transcription and analysis. I will never forget the drafting of my chapters while juggling caring responsibilities and home-schooling three young boys. Through it all, I resolved that I would let nothing delay or derail my progress. When the going got tough, I had immense support from an intellectually generous online community of scholars in virtual writing rooms that motivated me to keep going when it would have been perfectly understandable to defer or give up.

Tara’s effervescence and the infectious enthusiasm with which she provided an array of targeted online resources helped me to keep up the momentum. Without her knowing it, she became my de facto virtual supervisor. In the face of the temporary closure of my university in Zimbabwe, I had to make the difficult, but necessary, decision to transfer my studies so that I could still fulfill my personal goal of completing my doctoral degree within three years. I knew it was a huge risk to make such a move so close to completion, leave alone the challenge of finding a university to take me on. However, Tara’s warm reception when I contacted her enquiring about a possible transfer was all the confirmation I needed to look no further than Flinders University to complete my studies. Since then, WOW! What an amazing privilege and pleasure it is to be mentored by such a scholar of high standing. Looking back, I would not trade the immense growth and self-discovery on this journey for anything.

I am passionate about exhibitions and through my research, my vision is to be positioned among the leading voices in the transformation of post-evaluation practices in the African exhibition industry, particularly in Zimbabwe. My significant and original contribution to knowledge, a multi-dimensional model to measure attendee satisfaction, is a first step towards developing a self-evaluation tool for the improvement of quality in the exhibition industry in Zimbabwe. To borrow a poignant phrase from Tara’s vlog 192, “Beginnings matter, but endings matter more.” As a first-generation PhD candidate, the conclusion of my candidature is the befitting culmination of my professional career and the bridge to the next exciting stage in my life. I look forward with optimism to building value-adding networks through my association with Flinders University and to exploring more avenues to disseminate African research paradigms to new audiences.

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