Maties' renaissance woman is a genius, a doctor and she also sings

13 December 2018 - 17:45 By Tanya Farber
Xanthe Hunt, with a doctorate at the age of 27, has published 30 academic papers this year, more than many academics contribute in their entire careers.
Xanthe Hunt, with a doctorate at the age of 27, has published 30 academic papers this year, more than many academics contribute in their entire careers.
Image: researchgate.net

She is only 27, has been described as "an academic phenomenon", and has published more than 30 academic papers in a year.

And on Thursday Xanthe "Zee" Hunt was awarded the coveted Chancellor’s Medal at the University of Stellenbosch, where she is also the first psychology department student to have her master's degree converted to a PhD with no changes needed.

Professor Awie Greeff
Professor Awie Greeff

Now Hunt, from Pietermaritzburg, is set to revolutionise our understanding of people with disabilities’ constructions of their own sexuality - and how able-bodied people perceive them.

Hunt recently attended an international disability conference in Europe where she was described by global leaders in the field as a genius.

According to Prof Awie Greeff, chair of the department of psychology, her 30 academic publications this year are more than many academics have contributed in their entire careers.

Hunt's academic tenacity was also proven when she completed a course cum laude that the convenor had initially wanted to refuse her entry to: It was the notoriously difficult biostatistics course at master's level, and she had not even done matric mathematics. She came second in the class and has passed cum laude in every subject since joining the university.

According to a statement by Martin Viljoen on behalf of the university, "Her research spans disability studies, public health, monitoring and evaluation of early childhood interventions, and academic communication".

Xanthe Hunt is a singer and voluntary counsellor as well as a 'genius'.
Xanthe Hunt is a singer and voluntary counsellor as well as a 'genius'.
Image: Twitter/Xanthe Hunt

Hunt holds a bachelor’s degree in the humanities, honours in journalism and psychology, a master’s in biostatistics, and now a PhD in psychology.

Hunt told TimesLIVE: “I was very fortunate to have had a lot of amazing mentors – particularly in the field of psychology – to work with. A PhD is that moment where you contribute something – its the first time in your career when you do something original. And that is built on the back of years and years of mentorships, classes and information.”

Asked how it felt to be called a genius and an academic phenomenon, she said: “It is very kind and generous to call me that, but I have never seen myself in that way. I am however very hard-working and I have always studied extremely hard.”

She is, however, also a renaissance woman, excelling in other spheres of life too. She was part of her residence’s acapella choir, and worked as a volunteer counsellor in community projects near Stellenbosch and Franschoek.

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.


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