Written by Leah Henrickson.
So you’ve managed to land yourself a PhD offer, or you’ve been getting settled into PhD life. Now you’re looking for ways to get involved in the campus community.
Where to begin? Well, you can handle social situations with strangers, you’re responsible and well-organised, and you’re looking for a challenge…
Have you considered being a Sub-Warden?
What do Sub-Wardens do?
At Loughborough, each of our 16 halls of residence has a Warden’s team that works hard to provide a supportive and enjoyable environment for all of their residents. Being part of a Warden’s team includes pastoral, disciplinary and administrative duties, as well as contributing to the hall community.
Sub-Wardens live in their respective halls in separate flats because they are the residents’ first point of contact if issues arise outside of regular University operating hours. During the academic year, Sub-Wardens are on duty from 6pm until 8am every weekday, across the whole weekend, and all day during University closures (e.g. bank holidays). There’s also a Sub-Warden on duty when the University is closed during the Christmas and Easter vacation periods, although duty is shared amongst all halls during these times. Duty is also shared amongst the halls during the summer, so you’ll only be expected to work a couple shifts outside of the academic year.
What does being on duty actually mean?
If you’re the Sub-Warden on duty, you must hold your hall’s emergency contact mobile phone and be in the environs of the hall. When this phone rings, it’s your job to answer it and address whatever issue a resident is calling about, if it’s within your remit. Some common issues include, but are not limited to:
• First aid (e.g. a resident has cut a finger while cooking or feels unwell)
• Mental or emotional distress (e.g. a resident is feeling homesick)
• Noise (e.g. a resident is blasting music at 2am while others are trying to sleep)
While on duty, you’re responsible for dealing with any fire alarms that may happen in your hall. Your Warden may also ask you to sit in on pastoral care meetings with residents, as well as attend Hall Committee meetings on behalf of your Warden’s Team.
On a day-to-day basis, Sub-Wardens are also there to provide residents with pastoral care, and to signpost them to appropriate on- and off-campus support services. If issues are serious or persistent, the Sub-Wardens can let the Warden know so that he/she can deal with it appropriately. This might mean that the Warden must take disciplinary measures; Sub-Wardens may be invited to join a disciplinary meeting to take minutes or to simply be present.
Less frequently, Sub-Wardens are expected to help the Warden organise high tables (nice meals, often coupled with fun activities such as karaoke) and other such events to promote social interaction with and between residents. Sub-Wardens may also be tasked with drafting duty rotas for their halls, managing hall accounts, and organising hall Common Room bookings. You should also expect to attend your Hall Committee’s bigger events, such as the Winter and Summer Balls.
This may sound like a lot, but you’ll receive all the training you’ll need to succeed in your Sub-Warden role. Also, if you find that you aren’t able to handle an issue by yourself, you can seek support from your fellow Sub-Wardens and your Warden.
What do I get out of it?
In exchange for your work as a Sub-Warden, you get to live for free(!) in a single-occupancy flat in the hall you Sub-Warden for. Flats vary in size and style between halls, but each flat includes at least its own kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom.
You’ll also be entitled to take some meals in the campus dining halls when they’re open during term time. Currently, Sub-Wardens in non-catered halls are entitled to two meals per day from Monday to Friday, and Sub-Wardens in catered halls are entitled to the same number of meals as their residents. The dining halls are great places to get to know residents informally and to make yourself visible to the rest of the hall community. Plus, the dessert selection is always on point. Just saying.
How can I nail my interview?
Be yourself! I know this sounds like the worst advice ever. Hear me out, though.
You’ll be working with your team at weird hours (6am when you’re doing fire drills!), during particularly challenging situations (if you’re called for backup), and when you’re hangin’ out with residents at their fancy social events (e.g. Winter/Summer Ball). You will be spending a lot of time together.
Hence, when you’re being interviewed, the interviewers will be thinking about whether you would fit, complement and enhance the current team.
So, yeah. Being yourself is key.
Aside from that, here are some general tips for preparing for the interview:
• Do your research on the hall. Google the hall you’re interviewing for. Check out the hall’s Facebook pages (if privacy settings allow), watch the hall’s YouTube videos, peruse the hall’s Twitter feed. Know what kinds of events the Committee puts on, and try to get a feel for the overall atmosphere within the hall. How can you contribute? What will you bring to the hall community?
• Know what support services are available on and off campus. A huge part of the Sub-Warden role is signposting residents to appropriate support services. Make sure you know a bit about each of these services and be ready to incorporate them into your interview answers when relevant. Support services are listed at http://www.lboro.ac.uk/services/student-services.
• Meet the hall’s current Sub-Wardens. This goes back to the personality thing. Do you get on with the current team? Could you see yourself working with these people?
• Don’t assume that the position is yours. Cockiness is not attractive.
I interviewed for a hall and didn’t get the position. What happened?!
Just because you didn’t get offered the position that you interviewed for does not mean that you wouldn’t make a great Sub-Warden. It may just mean that the interviewers felt you weren’t the best fit for that particular hall. Someone else may have been the perfect fit. Your approach to problem-solving may not be what they were looking for. There are tons of reasons. It won’t be personal.
If you’d like feedback on your interview, many interviewers are happy to offer it –just ask! Send your interviewer(s) an email thanking them for their time and consideration, and then ask for any constructive criticism they may have. Your being open to criticism shows maturity and ambition, which are attractive qualities for Sub-Wardens to have.
I’m ready to be a Sub-Warden!
Now that you know what being a Sub-Warden means, and how you can prepare for the interview, go and apply! Sub-Warden vacancies are advertised on the University’s vacancies page and pop up throughout the year.
Note that just because you apply does not mean that you’ll be guaranteed an interview. I applied to three halls, and only landed an interview for one of them. Do be mindful that there will be lots of people applying for the same position, and there just isn’t time to interview everyone.
With that, good luck! You got this.