Let it not be said that industrial psychology is a “soft” discipline. Marelie Botha, final-year industrial psychology student on the NWU’s campus in Vanderbijlpark, has just received her second Dan in karate.

Third-generation industrial psychology major packs a
mean punch




Marelie says

karate taught her about discipline

and respect for others.

Marelie was born and raised in Vanderbijlpark, where she finished matric at the local Hoërskool Driehoek. Even back then, the balance between academic and sport activities – which included water polo, gymnastics, tennis and karate – had to be carefully managed. “My daily sport programme would end at 21:00,” she remembers. “Then it was time for homework; studying was done in the morning.”


Learning outside of the classroom


When not practising or coaching karate, Marelie is tending to her final-year industrial psychology studies.


She attributes her interest in this field of study to her family and the conversations around the table at Sunday lunch: her grandfather, Prof Joppie van Graan, is a respected retired professor who taught at the NWU for many years. He is married to Dr Karen van der Merwe of the NWU’s Psychology subject group. Marelie’s mother, Prof Elrie Botha, heads up the Industrial Psychology subject group at the campus in Vanderbijlpark. Her uncle, renowned artist Danie van Graan, took a different direction and has a unique art therapy programme for children.


“My grandfather’s research interest lies with the psychological concept of energy, so in the second-year psychology class, when we learnt of ways that stress can help you, I was already using it in my sport and in my life,” she says.


She still practices some of the same routines that she had to master for her yellow belt. This kind of commitment to excellence is what she loves about the sport: “That same commitment to doing better and better can be applied in everything that you do.”


What next?


She is certainly not afraid of hard work. Marelie is all set to start studying towards her honours degree in industrial psychology in 2019. She plans on stepping into the world of work soon afterwards, while completing her master’s degree part time.


“I already do assistant and field work as the opportunity arises,” says Marelie, who also works as an au pair in the afternoons, tutors a child with autism and of course coaches karate.


“I hope to then return to academics, do my PhD and lecture full time,” she says. This would mean following in the footsteps of her mother, whom she describes as her best friend. “There hasn’t been one day in my life when my mom didn’t think about me,” she smiles. “Every decision she has made was with me in mind.”


This relationship has given Marelie a strong sense of self and a clear view of where she wants to be and how to get there.