The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship is a prestigious award given to young Africans demonstrating academic excellence as well as leadership potential. Earning the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship takes a distinct type of person. The words to describe these scholars that come in mind usually include intelligent, hardworking, and perseverant. Thokozile Mcopele, a graduate of TSiBA, Tertiary School in Business Administration, is one of twenty eight 2013 Mandela Rhodes Scholars and certainly demonstrates all of these traits.
TSiBA, an innovative university located in Cape Town, South Africa, follows a “Pay It Forward” model. Students who are awarded scholarships are not expected to monetarily pay for their education; instead, they take the knowledge and skills they develop at TSiBA, and pay it forward into their communities. Thokozile immensely enjoyed the “Pay It Forward” model, doing challenging, and rewarding community development work. She maintains that her career aspirations are based on the work she has done through “Pay It Forward”. Her aspirations are also influenced by the experiential learning she has participated in, including internships.
Thokozile began at TSiBA in 2008, studying Business Administration and specializing in Entrepreneurship and Leadership. Some of her most memorable moments occurred during the Foundation Year in her studies, before beginning her degree. The year allowed her to focus on self-awareness, a concept that she found incredibly empowering. Another noteworthy achievement in her time at TSiBA was making money through ventures. It was a challenging experience, applying classroom concepts from Entrepreneurship and Innovation to real life. It involved working as a team, and dealing with dynamic, changing plans to produce tangible outcomes.
When Thokozile discovered she was a 2013 Mandela Rhodes Scholar, it took some time for the honor and prestige to sink in. Thokozile is the fifth TSiBA graduate in five years to receive the prestigious award. When she met the other scholars, she found that they all had similar reactions: “In our discussions, we discovered that all of us aspired to be something to someone and make an impact in our communities. It then validated to me that my hopes and dreams mean something to someone; clearly they did to the Mandela Rhodes Foundation and TSiBA”. The scholarship has given her new experiences that she never thought she would have, or reach for. These include speaking at conferences and other big events and becoming self aware, and this is just the beginning of her scholarship.
The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship will take Thokozile to the University of Johannesburg, where she will pursue an Honor’s Degree in Strategic Management. When asked to give advice to students interested in similar endeavors, her number one suggestion was to work hard: “No one has control over your decision but yourself, so if something does not contribute to you goal, cut it out”.