The Centre for Applications, Student Accommodation and Client Services (ASACS) in the Registrar’s Division delivers vital student services to ensure that Stellenbosch University (SU) continues to be an excellent residential higher education institution. At the helm of ASACS is Dr Celeste Nel, who is in her element navigating the dynamic higher education environment along with her team.
As part of SU’s Women’s Month celebrations, Celeste tells us more about her role and the leadership qualities it requires.
Tell us more about your role at Stellenbosch University
I work in ASACS, which is at the forefront of student services at the University. It is a fast-paced environment where we review more than 70 000 applications, manage 8 000 residence beds, accredit 5 000 private beds, and manage as many as 1 000 contacts from our clients (prospective students, enrolled students and alumni) daily.
I am privileged to head up this dynamic centre, with my competent management team and staff at my side.
What do you enjoy most about this role?
I most enjoy the energy of my team. Almost 80% of the team are Millennials or Gen Zs. They keep me at the top of my game. They ask critical questions, push the boundaries, and are not scared to take risks. I learn a lot from them every day.
I also enjoy the higher education sector, which is an ever-changing landscape. The challenges and constant change keep me stimulated and engaged.
Moreover, I enjoy being part of a greater purpose.
What do you think are the key leadership qualities required to fulfil your role?
Listening in order to understand, and be agile, intentional and purposeful. One should be solution-driven as well as supportive, and never stop learning.
Leadership roles are demanding. What keeps you motivated?
I am motivated by my team. Being part of education also energises me. Nelson Mandela’s famous words continue to inspire me: “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”
What would your message be to the next generation of aspiring female leaders?
- Do not get stuck on the traditional role expectations of women. Create your own.
- It is possible to have it all. You can have a family, lots of friends, a hobby, even a pet, as well as a thriving career.
- Try to be congruent and true to yourself. It is not always easy, but it will bring fulfilment at all levels of your life.
- Never stop learning and growing.
- Be kind to others and yourself.
Photographer: Stefan Els