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Entrepreneurship in the DNA of PhD Graduate!

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Entrepreneurship in the DNA of PhD Graduate!

April 22, 2016

Entrepreneurship is surely in the DNA of Dr Thea van der Westhuizen, who was awarded a PhD in Leadership Studies based on a thesis titled: “Developing Individual Entrepreneurial Orientation: A Systemic Approach Through the Lens of Theory U”.


Dr Thea van der Westhuizen with her parents Professors Philip (l) and Betsie (r) van der Westhuizen and her supervisor Professor Kriben Pillay.

Entrepreneurship is surely in the DNA of Dr Thea van der Westhuizen, who was awarded a PhD in Leadership Studies based on a thesis titled: “Developing Individual Entrepreneurial Orientation: A Systemic Approach Through the Lens of Theory U”.

According to van der Westhuizen, her passion for entrepreneurship developed at a very young age when she traded anything from silkworms to homemade cookies and lemonade with primary school colleagues. These business passions furthered when she started two businesses in the Garden Route after she completed her master’s degree.

After intense corporate involvement over a period of 10 years, including visits to more than 20 countries, she felt she needed a break from business and returned to South Africa, choosing Durban as a place to develop her academic career as a Lecturer in the Discipline of Management and Entrepreneurship at UKZN.

Her study involved the establishment of a progressive social entrepreneurship programme now known as SHAPE (Shifting Hope Activating Entrepreneurship) which is aimed at instilling a culture of entrepreneurial self-confidence among UKZN students through various support interventions, including forming business friendships between aspiring young entrepreneurs and existing entrepreneurs.

According to van der Westhuizen, she was inspired to tackle the systemic action learning and action research programme because she wanted to contribute to a deeper and more radical change in young people that would help to develop their Individual Entrepreneurial Orientation and their levels of entrepreneurial self-confidence. She said: ‘In doing so I was hoping to contribute to developments in the microsystem which in turn might hopefully lead to positive development in meso- and macrosystems, ultimately assisting in long term socio-economic development in South Africa.’

She says the PhD journey was not easy but through financial support from the National Research Foundation (NRF), the Durban Chamber and eThekwini Municipality she was able to take her research further.

Van der Westhuizen is from a family of academics with both parents being NRF-rated researchers. Her parents are pleased with her academic achievement and they travelled from the North West to be at her graduation.

Her supervisor, Professor Kriben Pillay, Dean of Teaching and Learning in the College of Law and Management Studies, congratulated van der Westhuizen on her achievement.

Hazel Langa




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