Prof Ann Lourens

Associate Professor 
Department of Industrial Engineering
041 504 9124
North Campus, Building Nr 204, Room NumberC242

Biography / Background

Ann Lourens is an Associate Professor at Nelson Mandela University and Project Leader for Women in Engineering Leadership Association (WELA). Ann obtained undergraduate qualifications in Operations Management followed by an MBA (Cum laude) and DBA. Prior to a career in academia at the former Cape Technikon (Cape Town) and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (Port Elizabeth/Gqeberha), Ann worked in various manufacturing industries in operations-related positions. As an academic, Ann lectured a variety of modules on the Operations Management, Industrial Engineering, and MBA programmes. She has a keen research interest in the development and retention of students (particularly women engineering students) and to this end has developed and managed several co-curricular interventions.

Since 2011, one such project has been the design and management of the Women in Engineering Leadership Association (WELA) focusing on developing, supporting and mentoring women engineering students. Several conference proceedings and journal articles relating to this work have been published in addition to technology strategy research articles.

As current Head of Department and member of the Industrial Engineering team at Nelson Mandela University, close links are maintained with industry and several short learning programmes have been designed to develop employees representing various industries in and around the Eastern Cape. Notably, one of these programmes includes a leadership development programme for early-career male and females in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Production (STEP).


  • National Diploma Production Management 1991 PE Technikon
  • National Higher Diploma Production Management 1993(Cum Laude) PE Technikon
  • Baccalaureus Technologiae (BTech) Business Administration 1998 (Cum Laude) PE Technikon
  • Magister Technologiae Business Administration (MBA) 2001 (Cum Laude) PE Technikon
  • Doctor of Business Administration  (DBA) Graduated 2011 NMMU

Awards and Achievements

  • NMMU Teaching and Learning Best Team Award (2012)
  • NMMU Emerging Researcher of School of Engineering (2014)
  • NMMU Engagement Team Award (2014, for 2013)
  • Authored chapter in textbook: Implementing Lean in South African Industry (2010)
  • AIRBUS International Diversity Award – only short-listed candidate from South Africa (2016)
  • The unique Centre of Business Engineering (situated within the Department of Industrial Engineering) boasts a simulated working environment, an advanced manufacturing centre and a computer laboratory for computer simulations etc. In 2019 more funding was secured and the laboratory was upgraded in line with Industry 4.0 principles.

Professional Activities

Member of the South African Institute of Industrial Engineers (SAIIE),
South African Society Engineering Education (SASEE) and American Society Engineering Education (ASEE).

Teaching Interests

During the course of my career as a lecturer at the (former) Cape Technikon (1994-1996) and as a lecturer at the NMMU/NMU, I have lectured a variety of modules. This includes undergraduate modules in Industrial Engineering, Clothing Production Management, Operations Management, and Management qualifications, in addition to postgraduate modules for Operational Management, Industrial Engineering and MBA students.
I believe a lecture room, where the lecturer is, but a facilitator must be a safe, open environment where students and the facilitator are able to learn from each other. I believe that ethics, responsibility and ownership must be embedded in the curriculum and that students must be encouraged to develop, grow and practise self-directed learning; to broaden their minds and their thinking and learn to look at things differently. They must be encouraged to practise lifelong learning and engineering-thinking as a way of life. I like to challenge my students with research projects, practical application and teamwork as this teaches valuable skills to prepare our students for life and the world of work.

In 2011, I became the project leader for Women in Engineering Leadership Association (WELA), which is one of the 5 projects supported by the merSETA Chair of Engineering Development. The goals of WELA are to develop aspiring and working women engineers on a personal level, academically and professionally to improve retention and success. To achieve these goals, I, together with the WELA project team, have designed and developed a set of co-curricular interventions which were formalised into a NMMU short learning programme in 2013, namely, the WELA Leadership Development Programme. The WELA programme has had a profound impact on many of our women engineering students, and the programme is growing from strength to strength. I have attended several international conferences where I presented papers on WELA-related topics. In 2013 I also initiated a longitudinal research project to determine the self-efficacy of engineering students at Mandela University. Four reports have been published (2013 and 2014 findings) and the reports have already led to two accredited journal articles.

Research Interests

In the process of becoming more aware and attuned to the diverse needs of our students and the possible impact that an academic can make and has the responsibility to make, I have become very interested in developing co-curricular interventions to assist students and to embrace a humanising pedagogy. Therefore, my research interest moved from Operations type questions, technology and strategy to engineering education. Furthermore, due to this interest, I have developed and organised several co-curricular interventions such as the Early Identification System, the Workplace Orientation Workshop, and the Part-time Students’ intervention. These interventions have led to collaborations with colleagues from Student Counselling and the Centre for Teaching, Media and Learning. The collaborations have resulted in several conference papers and journal articles. In addition, I was the Faculty representative for the Siyamphumlela project and have been involved in the recruitment of and the developing of the portfolio of the academic advisor. I worked closely with the academic advisor of all related matters, and together we have developed several questionnaires to understand our engineering students better and to design interventions and activities to improve their retention. In 2018, the WELA teams designed and offered the WELA STEP programme which is a management development programme for early career males and females in the field of science, technology, engineering and production. The programme is offered to both internal colleagues and to the industry we serve.

Representative Publications

Lourens AS & Jonker JJ.  (2012). The strategic relevance of technology-related variables to the competitiveness of small- to medium-sized furniture manufacturers. South African Journal of Industrial Engineering (SAJIE) Vol 23 (3), 180 – 195.

Lourens AS & Jonker JJ. (2013). An integrated approach for developing a technology strategy framework for small- to medium-sized furniture manufacturers to improve competitiveness. South African Journal of Industrial Engineering (SAJIE) Vol 24 (3), 50-67.

Van der Merwe KR, Pieterse JJ, Lourens AS. (2014). Development of a theoretical lean culture causal framework to support the effective implementation of Lean in automotive component manufacturers. South African Journal of Industrial Engineering (SAJIE) Vol 25 (1), 131-144.

Lourens AS. (2014). The development of co-curricular interventions to strengthen female engineering students’ sense of self-efficacy and to improve the retention of women in traditionally male-dominated disciplines and careers. South African Journal of Industrial Engineering (SAJIE) Vol 25 (3), 112-123.

Lourens AS. (2015). Exploring the self-efficacy of engineering students: findings of a longitudinal study relating to student recruitment, development, retention, and success.  Journal for New Generation Sciences (JNGS) Vol. 13(1), 36-53.

Lourens AS & Pannell LS. (2017). The development of an instrument to measure engineering students’ self-efficacy to improve student success and retention. Journal New Generations Sciences (JNGS) Vol 14 (3), 163-182.

Lourens AS & Pannel LS. (2018) Self-efficacy of engineering students at a South African university - findings from a longitudinal study. International Journal of Engineering Education Vol 34 (6), 1741-1753

Lourens AS. The design of a leadership development programme for women engineering students at a South African university. American Society for engineering education (ASEE), Annual conference (Atlanta, USA) 23-26 June 2013.

Lourens AS. Engineering Co-Curricular Role Model Interventions to Develop Women Engineering Students’ Self-Efficacy at A South African Comprehensive University. The International Academic Forum: European Conference on Education (ECE) 2014 (Brighton, UK) 9-13 July 2014.

Lourens AS. Exploring the differences in male and female engineering students’ motivation to successfully complete engineering studies: Findings from a longitudinal study measuring the self-efficacy of engineering students. Ireland International Conference on education (IICE-2015) (Dublin, Ireland) 20-22 April 2015.

Lourens AS. Findings of a longitudinal study: Investigating self-efficacy of women engineering students and their perceived obstacles, motivation and expectations. Oxford Women’s Leadership Symposium (Somerville College, Oxford, UK) 4–6 December 2016.

Lourens AS. Feedback from first year industrial engineering students: influences on retention. Proceedings of the fourth biennial conference of South African Society for Engineering Education. (SASSE 2017) (Cape Town South Africa) 14-15 June 2017.

Lourens AS. The perceived benefits of attending a leadership development programme for women engineering students at a South African university. 2nd International Women in Science Without Borders Indaba (WISWB2018) (Johannesburg, South Africa) 21-23 March 2018.

Lourens AS. Creating opportunities for women engineering students to develop leadership, teamwork and management skills (13th European Conference on Management Leadership and Governance (ECMLG18,), (Utrecht, Netherlands) October 2018.

Lourens AS. Inclusion for innovation: Early lessons in developing, marketing and presenting developmental programmes for early to mid-career individuals in STEP fields.  Women’s Leadership Symposium (Somerville College, Oxford, UK). 20-22 March 2019

Lourens AS, Connelly RE, Plaatjes RC, & Snyders PJ.  Reflections on a multi-disciplinary approach to student centred interventions in higher education: engineering. 18th WACE World Conference on cooperative and integrated learning (Durban, South Africa), 24-27 June 2013.

Lourens, AS & Dolley-Ryneveld M. The impact of a Workplace Orientation Workshop on engineering students’ perceived workplace readiness. Proceedings of 30th South African Institute of Industrial Engineering (SAIIE) annual conference (Port Elizabeth, South Africa). 30 Sept- 2 October 2019

Lourens AS & du Plooy B. A Case Study in Engagement Practice in Higher Education: Activities and Interventions Developed by the Department of Industrial Engineering at NNMU. Community Engaged Learning Symposium. Rhodes University (Grahamstown, SA). 4-5 May 2015.

Lourens AS & du Plooy B. A South African perspective on self-leadership development for women engineering students- a pilot study. ICWSET: International Conference on Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (Dubai, UAE).  12-13 March 2014.

Lourens AS, Plaatjes RC, Connelly RE. Establishing Learning Communities through offering mentoring support to female engineering students. 5th SAERA Conference (Port Elizabeth, South Africa) 23-26 October 2017.

Lourens AS, Plaatjes RC, Connelly RE. Learning Communities from mentoring support. Proceedings of 30th South African Institute of Industrial Engineering (SAIIE) annual conference (Port Elizabeth, South Africa). 30 Sept- 2 October 2019.

Lourens AS. Snyders PJ, Murray AT, Joubert JP, Hempel J. A cooperative learning approach to teaching engineering and complementary skills.  Poster presentation: South African Society for Engineering Education (SASEE), Third Biennial Conference: Retaining the Best and Brightest in Engineering Education and the Profession. (University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban) 4 June - 5 June 2015.

Lourens AS, Truter N. Designing a leadership development programme for early to mid-career women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Production. Gender Equality in Higher Education Conference, Dublin, Ireland. 21-23 Aug 2018 (Poster).

Lourens AS, Truter N. Engineering environments and creating a sense of belonging for women engineering students. Gender Equality in Higher Education Conference, (Dublin, Ireland). 21-23 Aug 2018.

Lourens AS, Truter, N. A web-based engagement tool to promote engineering Studies and retention of Engineering students.  ISERD (Dublin, Ireland) 1- 2 July 2019.

McGrath P, Lombard H, Lourens A, Danoher V, Roberts A and Grebe F.  Industrial Partners’ stance on Work Integrated Learning (WIL) informing transformation towards New Engineering Curricula at NMMU. Proceedings of the Second Biennial Conference of the South African Society for Engineering Education (SASEE 2013) (Cape Town, SA). 10 – 12 June 2013.

Murray AT & Lourens A.S.  An evaluation of project teamwork: team leaders’ perceptions. Proceedings of 27th South African Institute of Industrial Engineering (SAIIE) annual conference (Stonehenge, South Africa). 27-29 October 2016.

Truter N, Lourens AS. Establishing a link between the lack of attendance at co-curricular activities and retention. Gender Equality in Higher Education Conference, (Dublin, Ireland).  21-23 Aug 2018.