Nadine Moodie adds youthful excellence to leadership of SU’s Council

For Nadine Moodie, returning to Stellenbosch University (SU) always feels like coming home. The newly appointed deputy-chairperson of the University’s Council cherishes the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and revisit her favourite spots around town.

“There’s just something about that Matie camaraderie, the hospitality that comes from the heart,” Moodie says with a big smile. “It’s across gender and race and age. I’m grateful to have experienced the Matie magic and to now come back to it from a different perspective.”

She has been a member of the SU Council since 2019 and currently lives in Johannesburg where she is Chief of Staff to the CEO of Discovery’s Vitality Network. Her academic journey at SU began in 2005. Over the years, she earned two degrees: BA (International Studies) and BPhil (Journalism).

“When I initially came to Stellenbosch, the diversity profile was very different. I’d been in a very English school in Cape Town, St Cyprian’s School, and I wanted a bit of a challenge, but one that wasn’t too far from home. I lived in a residence at SU and really loved it. I made friends with people from small towns who spoke Afrikaans as their home language. I’m still friends with many of them.”

As an undergraduate, Moodie already made a significant impact at SU. She was instrumental in establishing the first-generation camp and course aimed at students who are the first members of their families to study at SU.

“Although I was not a first-generation student, I could understand the issues and realised there were gaps for certain students to succeed in the SU environment,” Moodie explains. “It wasn’t because students weren’t academically gifted. It was because of a lack of support.”

The initiative she spearheaded began as a pilot with 300 students and proved highly effective. The programme boasted a 90% success rate in helping students complete their degrees within three years and 70% of these students took on leadership roles.

In 2009 Moodie received the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Service and Leadership and in 2017 she was one of the Mail & Guardian‘s Top 200 Young South Africans.

Describing herself as a “non-positional leader,” Moodie prefers to work behind the scenes, inspired by the examples set by her parents. Her mother, a teacher, and her father, who works in construction, instilled in her the values of perseverance and service.

“My parents raised my sister and I to be of benefit to society. My mom studied at the University of the Western Cape. She was a teacher for 38 years before she retired in 2021. She was an Afrikaans teacher for as long as I can remember, and she expected us to have a firm grip on the language.”

Moodie credits the journalism degree she completed in 2012 at SU for providing her with a valuable skill set that enabled her to successfully navigate the world beyond academia. When she started working as an intern at Media24’s community newspapers, she covered stories about missing children, winter floods and homelessness. “I got to do stories that took me into the hearts of communities. I think what was great about journalism was that it gave me, I wouldn’t say a rude awakening, but I grew up very quickly in terms of learning about the issues that people are faced with. Journalism taught me to think critically about the world.”

An interest in financial journalism led Moodie to a stint as a specialist at the global management company McKinsey where she was co-responsible for managing projects across Africa and spent time working on advanced analytics projects in the United States. Her writing skills enabled her to make a name as a speech writer for the partners at McKinsey.

Three years ago, she joined Discovery Limited in Johannesburg where her role as Chief of Staff involves high-level strategic responsibilities. In charge of executive and management committees, Moodie’s work also entails nurturing relationships with various stakeholders across the world and advanced actuarial thinking.

Her number-crunching skills and interest in finance is part of the reason she enjoys the challenge of serving on the SU Council, Moodie says. “I’m very interested in the business model of the University and helping to ensure the financial health of the institution by exploring new revenue streams.”

As one of the youngest members of the SU Council at 32, Moodie takes her role as a representative of the younger generation seriously. She’s philosophical about the advantage of youth. “In Africa, the average head of state is 70 years old, but the average person is 16 years old. At double that age, I think I’m able to be of service!”

Moodie’s election as deputy-chair of the SU Council is particularly meaningful given her family’s historical connection to Stellenbosch. “I thought of my family’s link to Stellenbosch and how my grandfather, who grew up in the town, was not allowed to study at the university. Of course, SU is still not a perfect institution, but so much has changed. I’m passionate about the University and I love what we stand for today. Over the last few years, my sister and many of my cousins have also become proud Maties.”

Moodie believes SU’s strength lies in its diversity. The University has an “incredible” track record of producing graduates who go on to make positive contributions to society, she notes. “Our alumni are doing really amazing things out there. At work I often bump into people who studied at Stellenbosch. The challenge is to ensure that the University continue to produce excellence at an even greater scale.”

Dr Celeste Nel, Director: Admissions & Residence Placement, speaks highly of Moodie’s leadership qualities. “Nadine is a grounded, strong and compassionate leader. We are extremely fortunate to have her in the vice-chair seat of Council,” says Nel.

She met Moodie in 2004 when she was talent scouting for SU at St Cyprian’s in Cape Town. “Nadine was head girl at the time, and she just blew me away with her warmth, spontaneity, inquisitiveness and energy,” Nel recalls. “She kept in contact throughout her years of study and when she entered the world of work. Nadine will always make time for the people around her – even if it is just a pop into your office or a quick message to connect. If I look at Nadine, I still see the young 18-year-old with the dreams and determination in her eyes. We are extremely fortunate to have those dreams and determination at Stellenbosch University in the vice-chair seat of Council.”