Cape Town – Described by academic staff at Stellenbosch University as "an academic phenomenon" and a "genius" by world leaders in the field of disability studies, Dr Xanthe Dawn Hunt has been awarded the university's coveted chancellor’s medal.
The 27-year-old, who hails from KwaZulu-Natal, received the medal yesterday at the university's seventh graduation ceremony in the Coetzenburg Centre.
The medal is awarded annually to a final year or postgraduate student who has not only excelled academically, but also contributed to campus life in various ways.
At the ceremony, Hunt also received a PhD in psychology. Hunt already has some 30 academic publications to her name.
This is more than many academics in psychology have contributed in their entire careers, said Department of Psychology chair Professor Awie Greeff. She is also the first Master's student in the history of the department whose degree was upgraded to a PhD.
Another academic highlight during her PhD studies was where she enrolled for a course in Biostatistics at Master's level, despite not having completed mathematics at matric level.
She completed the course cum laude and her results were the second best in the class.
In her years of study which commenced in 2010, she won: the political science award for excellence for top achieving first-year student; the Department of English's award for excellence for top achieving first-year student; the rector's award for academic excellence top faculty achiever (on three occasions).
She was also offered the prestigious Babette Taute English Scholarship.
Amazingly, Hunt passed cum laude in every single subject she took, with the exception of a single service module. During the first five years of her studies, she achieved an average of 82.08%.
Her research spans disability studies, public health, monitoring and evaluation of early childhood interventions, and academic communication.
She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Humanities, Honours degrees in journalism and in psychology, a Master's Degree in biostatistics, and now a PhD in psychology.
In her undergraduate years, she was part of her residence's a cappella choir and worked as a volunteer counsellor in community projects near Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.
Her PhD will be published next year as a book titled Through a different lens: Examining commonality and divergence in constructions and depictions of the sexuality of persons with physical disabilities in South Africa.