Change the world

Championing Youth Marketing and Sports Excellence

Welcome to the dynamic world of Mandela alumnus Jonathan Dicks, a visionary in the field of technology and innovation, who has left an indelible mark on the industry. With a career spanning over two decades, he has consistently pushed the boundaries of what's possible, driving advancements and inspiring others in the process.

Jonathan Dicks, a proud BPsych (Sport Psychology)'04 alumnus of Mandela University, hails from a family of four and spent his formative years in Fourways, Johannesburg. His early education journey began at Bryandale Primary School, after which he continued as a weekly boarder at St Stithians College. From a young age, Jonathan exhibited a deep passion for sports, engaging in a variety of activities from golf, rugby, cricket, soccer, to tennis. One notable exception was his aversion to swimming, except for the occasional weekend enjoyment.

With a solid academic performance of 65-70%, Jonathan's primary focus remained on outdoor activities and sports. He developed a keen interest in the great outdoors, including camping and bird watching, passions that have continued to shape his adult life. One intriguing fact about Jonathan is that he managed to visit every continent (excluding Antarctica) before his 18th birthday, instilling a lifelong love for travel both domestically and abroad.

His journey began with a gap year in Perth, Australia, where he not only broadened his horizons but also acquired a taste for beer. Throughout his early life, he achieved remarkable milestones in sports, representing Gauteng in rugby, Eastern Province in golf, captaining the SA University golf team, and competing in the Boyd Quaich golfing tournament at St Andrews, Scotland, where he earned the distinction of being the top South African finisher in 9th place.

Jonathan's path to success is characterized by distinct phases that propelled him to where he stands today. His school years were dominated by sports, leaving him uncertain about his future academic and career choices, which led to his gap year.

During this year abroad, he encountered a diverse range of people, made lasting friendships, and discovered his academic calling, eventually opting for Biokinetics and Sport Science. He chose Nelson Mandela University (formerly UPE) for its proximity to the Humewood golf course, the availability of his desired degree, and the opportunity to step out of his comfort zone and grow in an unfamiliar environment.

His tenure at the university saw him taking an active role in campus life, joining the golf club, various societies, and becoming involved in leadership roles. This engagement helped him develop essential soft skills and confidence that academia alone couldn't provide. Notably, he led the Human Movement Society and Sport Committee portfolios, alongside participating in the Cultural Committee.

Jonathan's involvement extended to running for six SRC positions as part of a new team called "TEAM," which marked a departure from traditional student organizations. Winning all six portfolios affirmed the value of his campus engagement. Upon graduating, he leveraged his high school network to secure his first job at Graffiti, a vehicle branding company.

A year later, he joined Student Village, steadily advancing within the organization by immersing himself in all aspects of the business. His proactive approach and involvement across various areas, from activations to client interactions, provided a comprehensive understanding of the business. This diverse experience paved the way for him to excel in client-facing and sales roles.

In 2023, Jonathan celebrates his 17th year at Student Village, where he serves as the Chief Growth Officer. In this role, he collaborates with clients to execute brand and marketing strategies aimed at connecting with South African youth. An important facet of his job is nurturing and mentoring the next generation of colleagues, including account directors, account managers, and activation managers.

Despite his demanding professional life, Jonathan remains dedicated to sports, focusing on golf and triathlons. He has completed two full Ironman races and over a dozen half Ironman races. Additionally, he takes pride in his role as a husband and father, being married to Nicola Drabble for five years and raising two wonderful children, Maya and Jordan.

Jonathan's commitment to giving back centers around two areas. At Student Village, he actively contributes to developing young talent, providing mentorship and opportunities for growth. He derives immense satisfaction from witnessing young, ambitious individuals thrive in their careers.

Furthermore, he is a staunch supporter of the Smile Foundation. Since 2013, he has been involved in raising funds for the organization, primarily through his sporting endeavors, such as cycling and participating in Ironman races.

In the next five years, Jonathan envisions a continued deepening of his involvement with Student Village. With the support of the multinational shareholder Smollan, he aims to unlock more opportunities for clients and uphold his commitment to developing young talent within the organization.

Jonathan finds motivation in the people he interacts with daily, both in his professional life and his personal pursuits. Understanding their needs and providing solutions to help them achieve their goals energizes him. The satisfaction of developing individuals and guiding them to success is another source of inspiration.

He also Jonathan derives pleasure from convincing his friends to join him in adventurous undertakings, like Ironman races or stage races, pushing their boundaries and exploring new horizons.

Jonathan's time at Mandela University is filled with cherished memories, including forging lifelong friendships, serving as the SRC president, and enjoying the splendid golf courses along the Eastern Cape coastline. The scenic campus and the refreshing runs in the reserve remain etched in his memory. His active involvement in various aspects of university life is another significant highlight of his time there.

Jonathan's message to fellow alumni is a reminder that initiative is the key to unlocking doors of opportunity. “No one is going to do it for you. At any stage or crossroad in your life, you have to initiate. And when you do, doors you had not even considered, start to open and give you more than you had expected.