“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Curwyn Mapaling



Organisation / Company

University of Johannesburg


Curwyn Mapaling, 31, is a senior lecturer and clinical psychologist at the University of Johannesburg where he integrates psychological principles into higher education and beyond to promote well-being in the Global South. He holds a master of arts in clinical psychology and community counselling from Stellenbosch University. Curwyn is reading for his PhD in education and his working title is Academic Resilience of Engineering Students: A Case Study. Through teaching, research and clinical work, he has strived to create transformative and humanising educational experiences that prioritise mental health and holistic development.

He has worked to collaborate across disciplines to inform policies and practices that foster resilience, adaptability and lifelong learning. Some of his notable achievements include being awarded an East and South African-German Centre of Excellence for Educational Research Methodologies and Management, the University of California-Los Angeles Tirisano Training Project Scholarship and the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship. He is committed to advancing the United Nations’ sustainable development goals three (good health and well-being) and four (quality education).


  • Bachelor of Psychology (Counselling), Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
  • Master of Arts (Clinical Psychology and Community Counselling), Stellenbosch University
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Education), Nelson Mandela University


Completing my PhD was one of my proudest achievements, but also one of the most challenging. It truly was a journey of resilience, where I found myself demonstrating the very trait of academic resilience I was researching in my engineering student participants.

Throughout my doctoral studies, I faced numerous obstacles: personal challenges, health issues, the demands of work and family, and the disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Looking back now, I realise how much I grew, not just intellectually but personally, through that process. I learned the power of resilience and discovered wells of strength in myself I didn’t know I had. I figured out how to balance competing demands, reach out for support when I needed it, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when the path seemed impossibly steep.

So, while I may not have taken much time to celebrate at the moment, I now recognise what a tremendous accomplishment it was. Completing a PhD is never easy, but every challenge I overcame along the way has made me a stronger researcher, psychologist and, more importantly, a stronger person. The resilience I had to practise myself gave me an even deeper understanding of and appreciation for the experiences of the students I now teach and support.


I have been profoundly influenced by several exceptional mentors who have left an indelible mark on my personal and professional growth. Their wisdom, encouragement, and example have challenged me to think critically, pursue excellence in my work, and approach learning and development with a fresh perspective. By leading by example, they have demonstrated the power of innovation and empathy in driving meaningful change.

The invaluable insights and constructive feedback provided by my mentors have been instrumental in shaping my identity as a scholar and lecturer. They have pushed me to step outside my comfort zone, embrace new challenges, and continuously refine my skills and knowledge. Through their guidance, I have learned to navigate complex challenges, seize growth opportunities, and develop a strategic mindset.

The impact of these mentors extends far beyond academia have instilled in me a strong sense of purpose, encouraging me to leverage my expertise and platform to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Their unwavering belief in my potential has fueled my determination to be a catalyst for change and contribute meaningfully to my field and community. I am committed to honouring their legacy by paying it forward, serving as a mentor to others, and by doing so, hopefully creating a ripple effect of positive change.