Professor Liezel Cilliers is certainly among the most decorated female academics in the country boasting not less than five qualifications under her belt. Her recent accolade is the National Research Foundation (NRF) C3-rating. This is a rating whose allocation is based on a researcher’s recent research outputs and its impact as seen by international peer reviewers. In addition, it encourages researchers to publish high quality outputs in high impact journals or outlets.
Currently, Professor Cilliers is the acting dean for management and commerce at the University of Fort Hare (UHF). She obtained the following degrees, which would certainly remain an unassailable record for some time:
- Master’s in Public Health, (2006), University of the Western Cape
- B.Com Honours (Information Systems), (2010), University of Fort Hare
- M.Com (Information Systems), (2011), University of Fort Hare
- DPhil (Information Systems), (2014), University of Fort Hare
- Post Graduate Diploma in Higher Education – Cum Laude, (2016), University of Fort Hare
- Master’s in Education (2019), University of Fort Hare
Becoming an information system expert
Professor Cilliers joined the university about ten years ago as a junior lecturer in the UFH’s department of information systems. She continued studying and obtained a PhD in Information Systems which saw her promoted to senior lecturer position in 2014. She ultimately became head of the Information Systems department from 2017 to 2018. The following year she was promoted and became an associate professor.
Exploiting the power of technology
Professor Cilliers tapped into her information systems background to undertake research into mobile health with specific reference to electronic and mobile health records. As part of her research she harnessed social media to search for health-related information and if South African users have the e-health literacy to understand such information. This became even more crucial during the Covid-19 pandemic to enable the public to easily distinguish between fake and real news. “I have a particular interest in how Twitter is used to disseminate health information during health pandemics and this will be my research focus going forward into my professorship,” said Professor Celliers.
In 2020, working together with her colleague Professor Willie Chinyamurindi in the business management department, Professor Cilliers served as a guest editor of a special issue titled ‘Mobile technology within the 4IR era – Africa answering the call ’, published in the Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa.
Prior to joining UFH, Professor Cilliers was the head of department: physiotherapy at both Frere and Cecilia Makiwane Hospitals. She taught at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels during her ten years at the university. She was also responsible for two courses at undergraduate level and one at honours level including supervising honours, masters and doctoral students in the department of information systems. To date, she has graduated 23 honours students, 12 masters and two doctoral students. She also does reviews for several international and national journals as well as examining extensively for various universities in South Africa. In 2020 Professor Cilliers was appointed to the role of deputy dean for research and internationalisation in the faculty of management and commerce and was permanently appointed to this position.
Re-inviting the university to meet community needs
Professor Cilliers’ wish is for the university together with other departments to re-invent themselves and becoming more efficient and offer impactful and relevant academic programmes to their students. Her vision also includes attracting excellent researchers and scholars to partner with her faculty and the broader UFH in offering unique insights and contributions to the community of the Eastern Cape and beyond.