A beautiful mind

An unquenchable thirst for knowledge combined with an unwavering work ethic, is what makes Dr Patricia Kefilwe ‘Finky’ Mogomotsi nee Madigele stand out from the rest.

The 30-year-old is the youngest ever to hold the position of Senior Research Scholar (Natural Resource Economics), at the University of Botswana Okavango Research Institute (ORI) – a title she achieved at the age of 29 after just two years of service.

The Molapowabojang native completed her PhD in December 2018 after only 18 months of study at the University of North West, South Africa – an impressive feat given she studied on a part-time basis while holding down a full-time job! Dr Mogomotsi finished as one of the top graduates and was awarded a Golden Key (the world’s largest collegiate honour society).

It marked the latest academic success in a journey littered with achievement.

The brainy beauty also holds a Bachelor of Arts (Economics) from UB (2011), Bachelor of Commerce Honours (BComm Hons) in Economics at Stellenbosch University, South Africa (2013), Master of Economics at Rhodes University, South Africa (2015) and Master of Financial Management at Amity University, Uttar Pradesh, India (2016).

The Voice’s Portia Mlilo caught up with the driven Dr to pick her awe-inspiring mind.

Q. What influenced your career choice?

A. As a kid I wanted to be a medical doctor but I grew out of love with Natural Sciences when I was doing Form 5.

I then started searching for courses with strong quantitative content because I love working with numbers.

When the late Baledzi Gaolathe read his budget speech in 2006, I was instantly intrigued by economics and so I applied for Bachelor of Social Sciences, majoring in Economics and Statistics the following year.

I then proceeded to do a BA (Economics) subsequent to receiving an economics single major invitation.

I initially loved Financial Economics, but fate dragged me to Environmental and Natural Resource Economics through a chance encounter with a bursary advert for masters at Rhodes University when I was schooling at Stellenbosch University.

I have settled as an

Environmental and Natural Resource economist, something I truly enjoy.

Q. What does your role as a Senior Research Scholar entail?

A. Being a Research Scholar at the University of Botswana gives research a higher proportion of the workload than teaching.

I was initially hired as a Research Scholar in September 2015, and I challenged myself to get a promotion within two years.

For one to get promoted, you need at least ten research outputs, seven of which should be referred journal articles.

I did get the promotion to the rank of Senior Research Scholar, which now entails steeper research output targets annually.

It also requires one to attract research funding from international donors or organisations, academic leadership and supervision of postgraduate students.

Q. Wow, that’s some workload! When you started this role, how did it feel being the youngest senior academic?

A. In all honesty, I never feel like the youngest senior academic in the Institute.

This is probably because those at management positions have always trusted in my capabilities to the extent of giving me coordinating roles within a few months of joining the Institute.

Q. What are some of the challenges you faced?

A. One of my biggest challenges is research funding. For example, I wrote a research proposal in response to an internal call for funding in 2016.

I was rejected without any basis. I proceeded to use the same proposal to apply for PhD admission at the North West University and I got admitted with very good reviews of the proposal, so good that I received a bursary!

When I was doing my PhD, I responded yet again to an internal call for proposals using one of the objectives from my PhD study.

I got rejected again.

Ironically, the same study was among the top 15 percent at the Potch campus!

It just goes to show that colleagues act as stumbling blocks to emerging scholars’ growth.

Q. You completed your PhD in super quick time and were awarded a Golden Key. You must have been buzzing?

A. I actually completed it in 18 months, which was my target.

I was truly elated. The examination and awarding processes dragged the period to 22 months.

The Golden Key was a very pleasant surprise; I truly didn’t expect it.

I was left in awe.

The whole process and its good results seem unreal still.

Q. What can you say have been some of the low and highlights of your career?

A. The lows are definitely missed opportunities due to lack of funds.

For example, I have had about four papers accepted for presentation at international conferences, but I did not make it to the conferences because of lack of financial support by the University.

Managing to get quality articles and book chapters published by some of the top international publishers is one of many highs.

The networks formed through research, the co-authorship and the community reception of some of our research results are also worth mentioning as some of the highlights of my career.

Q. What is your greatest career achievement?

A. As a very high aimer, my greatest achievement is yet to be realised, not that I have less regard for what I have attained so far!

Q. Your career seems to be hectic. How do you balance work, study and family?

A. I have a very supportive family.

I am very grateful for the support I get from all my family members and their understanding when I fail to make it to gatherings due to my workload or international trips.

Q. Who is your inspiration?

A. My husband, Goemeone Mogomotsi.

He is only a year older than I am, but he is about to get his eighth degree, which is a PhD from Wits University.

Q. What advice can you give to young people aspiring to be in leadership positions?

A. Be prepared to learn, invest in knowledge and be a team player.

Q. You are only 30 but already hold numerous academic qualifications. How did you manage to remain focused on your studies?

A. I set targets and work smart towards them.

I just hate disappointing myself.

It also helps to surround yourself with like-minded individuals.

Q. Are you related to the Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Alfred Madigele? If yes, what influence did he have in your studies and career choices?

A. We are siblings.

He is the third born, I am the last.

He has always believed in my academic abilities, so much that he partly financed my studies at Stellenbosch University.

Unfortunately, he did not help me find a job upon completion of my studies! (Laughing).

Q. Is there a subject you feel strongly about in your published work?

A. Most of my research aims at finding ways of designing the institutional landscape in a participatory way in order to ensure that communities derive benefits from their natural resources.

It answers questions such as ‘how could we use our institutions (policies, customs etc.) to reduce conflict and promote coexistence among natural resource users with divergent interests?’

It is important to do research which has tangible impacts on communities.

Q. A lot of Botswana’s scholars struggle to produce published work. Why do you think that is?

A. That is a difficult question to answer.

It depends on the different academic disciplines I guess and just individuals’ work ethics.

Q. Why is research important in our lives?

A. Research answers questions without bias.

It offers solutions using scientific methodologies that can be replicated at any point in time.

It shapes policy.

Q. And finally, Thank God it’s Friday. What are your plans for the weekend?

A. I will be chasing deadlines as usual.

There is a call for research proposals that is due on Monday, so my colleagues and I will be sweating our brains to craft a solid proposal during the weekend.

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