By Chidinma Okorie
In the first of blog series on her PhD journey, Chidinma Okorie writes a note to remind herself and anyone reading this blog of the importance of mental health and wellbeing. Read: http://www.lboro-phd-network.org.uk/note-to-self/
In this second of blog series on her PhD journey, Chidinma Okorie reflects on her experience as a sub-warden. Happy reading! 😊
How are you today?
Hope the students did not wake you up from sleep last night?
I am writing again to check in on you (as I always do) and to congratulate you on your nominations and award at the 2020 Loughborough PhD Awards in the categories of ‘sub-warden of the year’ and ‘team of the year’ for both your sub-warden and PhD Social and Support (PhD SSN) teams. I’ve monitored your progress since you embarked on this PhD journey in 2018, and I must say I am so proud of your growth and development. I am also pleased that you are starting to take on board my advice to get enough sleep, except – well, understandably – for those nights you have had to attend to issues as part of your sub-warden responsibilities and still do your PhD and other tasks the very next day. I can imagine you would have been pleased with the news of your nomination and being recognised for all your hard work in providing out-of-hour emergency cover for a hall of over 500 student-residents.
I recall when you applied for the sub-warden position shortly after confirming your PhD studentship at Loughborough. I asked you why you wanted to apply for the position, and you reminded me of your passion to support people and contribute the best possible way to the hall community. It was therefore no surprise to me when I read the comment accompanying your ‘sub-warden of the year’ award nomination, stating that you were nominated for “taking care of and ensuring that every student always has the support and everything else they could ever need, as well as organising a range of highly successful social events”.
I know from our many conversations regarding your sub-warden role that a lot of what the sub-wardens do may not be publicly heard or seen because they’re largely confidential. I remember you telling me how this is one of the most unpredictable roles you have taken on so far because when you’re on duty and that phone rings, you have no idea what issue the resident might be calling about. And in most cases, the sub-wardens are usually the first point of contact if issues arise outside of regular university operating hours. I know from our conversations that you have had to deal with various issues including but not limited to: lost keys, noise complaints, fire alarms, first aid and mental health-related issues. I also recall our conversation the other about maintaining professional boundaries between yourself and the students. I am impressed with how you have balanced the need to provide pastoral care to the students and signpost them to the appropriate university support services when necessary, and, on the other hand, ensure order is maintained in the hall and disciplinary measures are taken when the rules are breached.
Do you still remember your first duty shift experience? How I teased you for holding on to the phone because you feared you could sleep off and miss a call? Haha! I recall the 3 incidents that you dealt with that night and how dealing with those incidents made you feel a lot more confident about carrying out your role going forward. Of course, over the years you have undergone trainings to equip you for the role including but not limited to: first aid, fire safety, suicide prevention, sexual violence, mental health and wellbeing, and, more recently, Covid-secure trainings. But I know nothing really prepares one for such a role as this as much as the experience of the role itself, as you’d say: the trainings provide the awareness but the experience itself provide the practical understanding of the role. And I see how over the years you have become really good at the job and have managed to balance it effectively with your PhD studies and other extra-curricular responsibilities. And oh, your fantastic warden team, of-course I know how much you enjoy working them and I see how well you all get along, which altogether enhances the work of the team.
The other day, I overheard you advising interested applicants for the sub-warden role to ensure they meet with the current warden team of the hall they wish to apply to so as to discuss with them what the role involves and, very importantly, ascertain how well they fit and complement the team they hope to join. As you have been involved in the recruitment of 3 sub-wardens since starting your role, I know you understand what makes a candidate a great fit for the role and you have continued to share your experience to help increase understanding of the sub-warden role. Don’t ask me how I know, your work does speak for you and so do keep up the good work 😊
By the way, I was going through some of the photos you took at your hall’s social events pre-Covid – you know the freshers, high tables, summer and winter balls, freshers and postgraduate barbeque and the old boys events to mention a few – I wonder if you miss them? Scratch that, knowing how much you enjoyed being involved with those events, I know you miss them. Yes, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed a whole lot of things and our social life has no doubt been impacted, but I must commend the efforts of your fantastic hall committee, management and warden team in ensuring students in halls still have as great an experience as is possible given the exceptional circumstance we all currently live in.
I wish I can tell you for sure when you can have those social events in-person again. Hopefully, it will not be too long from now. I know this is one of those moments you wish you could use your magic wand to wade the pandemic off and have life return to as ‘normal’ as it should be. While we all hope for the very best, can I remind you (as I always do) to please take very good care of yourself. Your mental health and wellbeing is very important now than ever before. As you’re out there providing welfare support and looking after others, don’t forget to look after yourself too. And of course, even if you forget, I will remind you (as I always do)…