Dr. Address Malata is the Vice-Chancellor of Malawi University of Science and Technology. She is the former President of Africa Honor Society of Nursing, the former Vice President of International Confederation of Midwives, and former Principal of Kamuzu College of Nursing. Rice 360⁰ alumna and current Rice 360° International Programs Specialist, Dr. Christine Bohne ‘11 interviewed Dr. Malata on her recent trip to Houston to learn more about her leadership journey in nursing and education. Responses are edited for clarity and brevity.
What excites you about your work as Vice-Chancellor of Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST)?
The Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) is only five years old. I have been responsible for setting up the university, establishing schools and departments within the university, and recruiting qualified faculty and staff. What is most exciting for me is to start new programs. The university is young, so we are really starting everything from the ground up. This can be challenging, but it provides the opportunity to do things differently. We can create new structures and innovations. Entrepreneurship and innovation is at the heart of our work. How do we evolve and build our departments well, but also how do we translate this innovation to the students and support their creative ideas?
Tell me about your journey from nurse and midwife to vice-chancellor of one of Malawi’s leading universities.
It is an incredible journey. I grew up on a mission station called Nkhoma and then went to nursing school. I was inspired by the principal there who supported, encouraged, and mentored me. I saw other nurses go and get their PhDs and I knew I wanted to do this too. At the time, you could not get your PhD in Malawi, but I knew that if I wanted to make strides in teaching and have an impact I needed to, so I moved to Australia to pursue my education on a scholarship. I went with a ten-month-old daughter and left a 2-year-old back home. Moving to Australia was very difficult and stressful, but I was determined and I had a supportive husband.
After I finished my studies in Australia, I went back to Malawi. There were very few people there with PhDs, so I did nearly everything. I was active in health policy, developed the curriculum for the nursing school, and many other things. I realized how important it was to move into leadership positions and shape policies. I took on leadership roles in Malawi and internationally, rising to the role of Vice-president of the International Confederation of Midwives. I was the first African midwife to get to that position. I also took on roles at universities, first as a lecturer, then as an associate professor, and finally as one of the first female professors in Malawi.
I want to use all of the privileges and many experiences I have had, including learning from visiting universities abroad, to shape MUST. We are a young baby, but we are determined to grow strong.
You have challenged yourself by taking on numerous leadership positions. What motivates you?
The motivation to make a difference comes from my background. I grew up on a mission station, where my father was a reverend and my mother was teacher. Living on a mission gave me the opportunity to go to school, and I had parents who were inspirational and pushed for education. My mother told me to work hard because no one can take my degrees away no matter what happens.
Now I meet many young women in Malawi and they say I inspire them just as my nursing professors inspired me. At the end of the day, I want to help shape the path for these young women.
What advice do you have for young people who want to have an impact in Malawi and beyond?
Focus and have a vision. Do not let yourself get distracted by challenges. You will face challenges in life, but always know what you want to achieve, do not get discouraged and focus on your vision.