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Who is Professor Siverts?

Staff Reporter

MASERU – “I hold hands until people can fly, giving support as needed so they are successful and the institution thrives.”

That’s how Professor Sharon Siverts describes herself in a CV she submitted to the National University of Lesotho (NUL) for the vice-chancellor’s job last October.

Siverts, an American professor, flew out of Lesotho on Friday after agreeing that she will be taking over as the NUL vice-chancellor as soon as a few contractual issues are sorted out.

She is likely to start her new assignment early February, according to those close to the talks.

But others have already started ask ing who she really is.

“Does she have what it takes to revive the struggling NUL?” so goes the question in some quarters. 

Still others ask if she has the mettle to survive the never-ending squabbles that have rocked NUL for the past few years.

Only Siverts herself can answer these questions adequately but the Sunday Express this week tried to get some answers from her CV, the people she listed as references and her psychometric test results.

Having been born on February 6, 1946 chances are that she will celebrate her 65th birthday with a new job, in a new country. 

But those whom she has worked with like Brian Nolan, whom she met in March 2009 while working at the America University of Ras Al Khaimah (AURAK) in the United Arab Emirates, says she is still quite energetic and driven.

At that time Nolan was the chief executive of the Investment and Development Office of the government of Ras Al Khaimah and his role was to advise government on its investment at the AURAK.

Siverts was still employed by the George Mason University, which had invested in AURAK.

She had been tasked to oversee George Mason University’s investment in AURAK. 

Nolan’s recommendation letter for Siverts for the NUL job dated October 15, 2010 had glowing praises for the professor.

Siverts, Nolan says in his letter, “is tireless in her approach to tackling a project and she is successful because of her ability to deconstruct large issues into manageable components in order to solve them”.

Nolan describes Siverts as a “strong consensus builder able to amalgamate often conflicting views into an agreement.”

Nolan says he witnessed this when they sat together on the AURAK’s board of governors for 18 months.

“There were several instances of decisions required of the board where members were initially quite divided, but Dr Siverts’ persuasive ability won out in the end: consensus was achieved and the decisions implemented”.

At NUL Siverts will inherit a divided institution whose key stakeholders have been drifting apart for some time now.

Time has failed to narrow this divide.

Reconciliation among stakeholders will be one of Siverts’ major roles if she is to turn NUL around.

The government, NUL’s major funder, is not happy that the university’s books have been qualified for the past six years and management does not seem able to live within the budget.

Employers say the university’s curriculum has failed to meet the human resources needs of the economy.

The management and the council rarely agree on how the college should be run.

Turf wars have been fought between management and staff.

The academic staff says they are demoralised by what they call unsatisfactory salaries and poor working conditions.

The non-academic staff complains that they are marginalised. 

The students too have a battery of grievances and in the past they have not hesitated to stage violent protests to get them addressed.

Previous vice-chancellors have failed to bring these stakeholders to share a common vision.

This task has now fallen on Siverts’ laps.

She has to succeed where other professors who have held the same job have failed.

The people whom she listed as references all agree that she has what it takes to prevail given the immense challenges facing NUL.

Perhaps the most crucial references for the NUL job are from individuals who worked with her during the five years that she spent as vice-chancellor of the University of Botswana.

NUL and the University of Botswana share a history – they were both born out of the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland.

The challenges they face as they try to transform themselves into modern universities are quite similar.

Richard Neil was the director of institutional planning at the University of Botswana when Siverts was appointed vice-chancellor in 1999 and witnessed her in action. 

In his letter of recommendation Neil, who has since become the director of operations and projects, says when Siverts arrived the University of Botswana had suffered a “dearth of leadership”.

“The outcome of this had been a ‘middle-out’ change initiative with vision and strategy being provided from the centre (at director level where professional expertise resided). That describes the situation she faced on her arrival at the University of Botswana,” Neil says.

He however says Siverts managed to turn around the university by refocusing the strategic plan, launching a capital development programme and putting in place what he calls “cutting edge governance and management capacity”. 

“I would highly commend her to the VC position at NUL as she brings a lot of experience and enthusiasm to the post.”

Others like Hillary Masundire, with whom she worked in Botswana, agree.

Masundire, who is listed as a reference by Siverts, did not submit his recommendation but he agreed to answer questions from the Sunday Express about his former colleague. 

“She always gave colleagues (including subordinates) a chance to show themselves. She would create an enabling environment for her colleagues to shine! Yet she would be very strict on delivery,” Masundire said in his written responses.

She attended and fully participated in birthdays and wedding celebrations as well as funerals of friends and families of colleagues, Masundire adds.

“She completely integrated herself into the community of Botswana.

“She can dine with, at the homes of, those that society calls “nobodies” and yet have her next banquet with the “rich and famous” with ease.”

During her five-year-stint at the helm of the University of Botswana Siverts semestered the academic programme and launched a foundation – a fundraising arm of the university through which many citizen graduate students have been educated.

But her term was not without glitches.

Some of her policies like the privatisation of the university’s bookstore courted the ire of students who responded with protests.

Her decision to abolish the position of the bursar and the registrar also created problems.

When the university constructed a luxurious house for the vice-chancellor she was maligned by the media even though it would later emerge that the project had been approved before she was appointed.

There were also allegations of financial misappropriation that however failed to stick.

“Towards the end of her contract with the University of Botswana, she was heavily maligned in the public press. The accusations and allegations against her all proved false.

“She did not show to be unbalanced because of the much negative publicity – she remained positive, serving the university to her last day,” says Masundire. 

In her letter of application Siverts lists one of her attributes as her ability “to look for alternative solutions so that there will be success in any controversy”.

But she warns: “While I listen and am willing to compromise, I will not compromise if it means that the institution cannot meet its mandate”.

Yet a psychometric test that she took as part of the job interview detected that she had exhibited weaknesses in numeracy and interpretation.

The selection panel also noticed that she lacks persuasive skills. 

Siverts admitted as much during her oral presentation when she said impatience was her biggest weakness.

This, she said, is caused by her demand for high expectations and quick results that sometimes make her underestimate the individual family needs.

In Lesotho, Siverts will be judged by what she will do for NUL in the next five years.

48 Responses

  1. Bartowel
    Bartowel at |


    1. Judith
      Judith at |

      Apparently the American University in Phnom Penh did not see your post before they hired Siverts as president, or maybe they just didn’t take seriously your comments or those about what she did at the other places she worked. Siverts is now practicing the same old kind of management in Cambodia, and has got rid of almost all of the teaching staff who were there when she arrived. Two vice presidents have also left. I was thinking of applying for a job there, but after I saw this and other posts about her I made some inquiries, and was advised by several current and former employees in Cambodia that she has been ruthless, arbitrary, and deceitful there too.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous at |

    If anybody reads these comments please trust me that Sharon Siverts is an international manipulator who is racist and only seeks money for her own benefit. After seeing her work for years in the Emirates and the damage she has caused to dozens of people (literally) I can only use this comment box as a warning to those who are now under her control. She is one of the most corrupt unethical leaders I have encountered in my entire life. I just cannot believe others cannot see through her facade upon the first interview. She really has a knack for fooling people into giving her power and then once she has it—-the place will undoubtedly go downhill. When she feels the boat sinking she immediately starts applying for other international gigs so that she can start a fresh new scam all over again. I’m curious as to why various articles have her down as having only a masters, others with a PhD in home economics, and others with a PhD in teacher education—-what is the real truth? Only God knows.

  3. Anonymous
    Anonymous at |

    I know Sharon both personally and professionally. The comments above accurately reflect her ability to cheat, scheme and defraud. Lesotho is a proud nation who seek the services of professionals and entrepenuers – Sharon Siverts is neither of these but is very adept at scamming, schemeing, cheating and theft. I also know 2 of the referees named above. Both were terminated for similar reasons. I hope NUL are reading this and take appropriate actions. Be very aware if she is given responsibility of designing and delivering courses – I can tell you which “consultants” she will use and how much they will charge you!

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous at |


  5. Anonymous
    Anonymous at |

    Online Moderator: I hereby request that my opinon posted on February 27, 2011 as anonymous be deleted from this article permanently.

  6. bystander
    bystander at |

    I know sharon siverts since a decade. I witnessed how she swindled money at American University of Ras Al Khaimah. She duped the sponsors by submitting fake contracts and made millions of dollars. She was tried and terminated from UAE. I am not sure if NUL did any research on Sharon before hiring her. I pity the NUL management for taking such a wrong step. if the NUL management wants information about her they can write me on iwritetheyread@gmail.com


    There was one crazy OLD lady (Assnt. VP Academic Affairs) who once tried to wage a war against Prof. Siverts while she was working in AURAK (UAE). She tried to go behind Prof. Siverts to the board of directors thinkin she could hijack the president’s position! LMAO, now we all know she calls herself a “Bartowell”(see the first comment…)

    I had the “honor” to work with Prof. Siverts for about 4-5 years and from what I know for a fact, she was one of the best education professionals I have ever met in my long career in this industry.
    For an industry filled with so called professionals, it is a shame to post such silly & vulgar comments – really, grow up people!
    Leaders are always subject to allegations and the truth has always prevailed.
    Prof. Sharon, I think because of her stubborn nature to get things done in her way (perfection), some people got “pi$$ed off”, and some really picked her brains and learned from this great visionary leader. I had several professional disagreements with Prof. Sharon during my tenure, but in no way that had biased my judgement towards her as a professional!
    All those who had posted their hatred may have some personal vendetta against her and should just “back-off”.. move on with your life people!

    I am pretty sure that she will do just fine to revive the struggling NUL to all its glory..
    Best of luck Prof Sharon,
    God Bless & God Speed..

    1. Keith Vaz
      Keith Vaz at |

      Darling, Bartowell is “Daniel Kirk” from AUS. He did the work and Sharon didnt pay him the money. What she did with that fund only Accounts may tell. Ask the accounts of AURAK for numerous reminders from Kirk.
      If you do not know who-is-who, its better to watch the game rather than participate with half-cooked info. LMAO

  8. Suspekt
    Suspekt at |

    Well,well,well….I really don’t know if our beloved “university” will raise to its feet in Sharon’s hands.Anyway,let’s hope and see.

  9. Google SS
    Google SS at |

    Sharon Siverts was a racist and a great manipulator known for twisting situations to her advantage.
    HER STRENGTH: command over the oppressed; and act like a pauper in front of Rulers and Board members. Precisely a spineless woman.
    I dont know what made VOICE OF ARABIA write praise for such a cheat. There are always undertones and self interests for statements which are against the current.
    Regarding Sharon, the Provost of George Mason University, Dr. Peter Stearns will be the right person to take reference I am sure he will not distort facts.

  10. Sheik_Ahmed
    Sheik_Ahmed at |

    One year down the line I understand Sharon Siverts is taking the Lesotho university down the spiral. She can not even publish her dubious ‘restructuring’ plan. She has hand picked unqualified people to senior management position. I understand she has appointed her boyfreinf who has Phd in Chemistry to head and IT department. How scary are the things unfolding at Lesotho university. I understand a lot of professors and high caliber staff members are leaving the Lesotho university. I understand she does not give a demn what the statutory bodies like senate and university council say or do, rather she does what she deems feet. I understand by year end she will have destroyed the university to zero and by then she will be leaving for another job. Imagine a 66 year American professor working in Lesotho (The poorest country in Africa)

  11. eamomara
    eamomara at |

    Siverts was loathed by the majority of people who had to deal with her in RAK. Most of your correspondents have stated the truth. She is a classic example of a type, the ‘Ugly American’. She was culturally insensitive, boorish, and arrogant. Anyone can Google ‘American University RAK’ and read for themselves. That so-called ‘university’–it never was, and it certainly was not ‘American’–is regularly described as ‘ailing’ and ‘struggling’ in the UAE’s own newspapers.

    Lesotho deserves better, but it must make the choice. It cannot say it has not been warned very clearly indeed.

    1. Seila
      Seila at |

      Sharon Siverts is now doing same thing at the American University of Phnom Penh in Cambodia. She destroy it.

  12. Motho
    Motho at |

    SIVERTS must go and go for good. That old lady is destroying our University. She must go. It’s shame that some 66 year old pensioner from such a rich Country (United States of America) still want to work in one of the poorest countries in the world. SIVERTS, GO HOME. PLEASE JUST LEAVE. Sharon, GO back to US. I beg you.

  13. Lekase
    Lekase at |

    Ba buang le nna ke lona. moleko o shaaz hee oa leka.nxa . nul u entse ha mae!

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    Masheane at |

    Friends! I have read your comment and indeed they are coming true, NUL is struglling and I think we must take this comments seriously from now on because material information now comes out.

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