From the time she started her academic journey, Dr Shandré Jansen van Rensburg wanted to complete a PhD by the age of 30. However, the cum laude overachiever exceeded her own expectations when, by the age of 28, she became UNISA’s youngest female PhD graduate.
Born in Manenberg and raised in Pretoria, the now 29 year old Shandré’s achievement was acknowledged when she received the 2017 Elsevier Women in Research award for being the youngest female PhD graduate. The award also acknowledged her past accomplishments, research excellence, outstanding academic achievements and innovative thinking.
Shandré started her road to academic excellence at the University of Pretoria, where, in 2009, she graduated cum laude with a degree in Criminology and Psychology. She completed her honours at Pretoria and in 2011, she registered for her Masters Degree in Criminology at UNISA. It was also in 2011 that she started working as lecturer at UNISA’s Department of Criminology and Security Science. She completed her Masters in 2013, once again graduating cum laude.
Her PhD thesis is titled, ‘The human element in information security: An analysis of social engineering attacks in the greater Tshwane area of Gauteng, South Africa’. She says that social engineering is the use of manipulative and deceptive techniques against human nature in order to access sensitive and confidential information as a means to achieve some sort of illicit action or omission of action. This study sought to provide an exploration, description, explanation and analysis of social engineering attacks.
When asked how she managed to balance work, her studies and family life, she says that it all comes down to meticulous planning. She says that if you want to achieve your goals, you have to work hard but you also have to work smart. She admits that a point was reached where the PhD and work took over her life and she had very little time for anything else. It was the support of her family that kept her going, especially her husband who was her pillar. He also works and studies fulltime but together they are a team so he did his fair share of cooking and cleaning.
Shandré is currently working on three main projects in the fields of information security, xenophobia, gender issues and safety. She was recently awarded a grant by Women in Research for her study on the holistic well-being of women working in safety and security industries. She is also involved in a community project that aims to prevent substance abuse in high schools. Going forward, she aims be in charge of research projects on a full-time basis.
Given her passion for empowering women, Shandré dedicated her thesis to her niece and every little girl who has a dream. She strongly believes that women are the backbone of every society and should be recognised and treated as such. Her own personal motto is, “if she can, I can and if she wins, I win”. To those that want to pursue a PhD, she advises that the road is long and challenging, but in the end, it is worth it.