Thursday 17 August 2017 11:20am
Head Warden Ziggy Lesa says he enjoys creating a familial environment for the students in his care. Photo: Sharron Bennett.
Living in a residential college is an important part of the university experience for many students leaving home for the first time. At Otago, each of our 14 undergraduate residential colleges is supported by a team of individuals whose main priority is to ensure the welfare, enjoyment and overall success of the residents in their care.
At the helm of each college is a leader — known as a Warden at some colleges, or Head of College or College Master at others — who is responsible for all aspects of the running and day-to-day management of the college, its residents, and staff.
In this instalment of "Have You Met?", a regular feature in Otago Connection, we introduce you to Ziggy Lesa, the Warden at Studholme College.
Q. How long have you been with the college/University? How did you come to this role?
A. I previously worked for government agencies with at-risk youth, and also as a Youth Pastor within a church setting. It was difficult to support a family on the wages at the time, so I made plans to be a secondary school teacher. I arrived in Dunedin as an adult student with my family to study Physical Education, with the intention of heading back and teaching at my former school, De la Salle College.
During the last two years of my study I was fortunate enough to be accepted into a part time deputy position at Aquinas College. I had no idea such places existed, nor what they were about. It was the magnificent leadership of Head of College Christine Brown, that solidified my love of working with students of this age.
After my graduation, a position became available at Studholme College and I was cheeky enough to apply for it. I am very grateful to Peter Vanderlay, the Manager of Accommodation Services at the time, for looking outside the box and providing me with the opportunity and privilege of leading Studholme College.
Head Warden Ziggy says he always wants to ensure that students leave with the knowledge that they were part of a wider family, and continue those links throughout their university careers.
Q. What’s your favourite college event each year and why?
A. Women’s rugby. Each year we bring together a group of girls to play rugby for Studholme. What makes this my favourite activity is that 90% of these girls would not have played rugby before, so they’re putting themselves in new territory and trying something new to represent Studholme. We have girls from wealthy families playing side by side with girls from not so wealthy families, and girls from the north playing together with girls from the south. A sisterhood develops as they both enter a scary and exciting venture together, and the boys chip in by turning up on game day and cheering from the sidelines. Win or lose, they’re all there to have fun.
Q. What’s your favourite place/amenity within your college and why?
A. The common room, because watching the rugby there with 187 students yelling and screaming, with a sausage sizzle at half time, is priceless.
Studholme College offers large grassy grounds for sunny days, and the basketball court is a popular spot for a friendly game.
Q. If your college was a person, how would you describe it?
A. Jon Snow, a character from Game of Thrones. In the series, he has to unite the humans with their enemies to take down a common enemy. At Studholme, we unite students from Auckland to Invercargill, from all walks of life. Our biggest enemy is rejection. We want all students to feel valued, loved and accepted.
Q. What would you say makes your college unique? What sets it apart from others at Otago?
A. My students tell me they chose Studholme because we promote ourselves as a family-friendly College. We even provide my wee kids to reinforce the family ethos and feel! I come from a large Pacific Island family and creating family environments just comes naturally. I think it really appeals to a certain group of students that are away from home for the first time but still want to be part of a family environment. Our size as a college enables us to do that really well.
There's plenty of space for students to hang out in the living areas, and many different areas for them to hang out together or do separate activities.
Q. Describe a typical day for yourself around the College.
A. The first thing about this position is that I don’t have a typical 9-5, Monday to Friday scenario! Pastoral matters usually take precedence and that can happen at any time, day or night. But normally I have a coffee or two to kickstart the day, then work through administrative matters. I often attend meetings, both within the College and externally. After dinner I attend college events, and then night report is when I catch up with any little darlings that may have made bad decisions, and check in on any sick students.
Q. Is there a particularly memorable story/highlight from your time at the college that you can share with parents/whanau?
A. We won the Southgate trophy in the eights rowing competition, and that was huge because we’d never won before. The Southgate Trophy is a friendly sporting competition between Studholme College, St Margaret’s College, and Salmond College, and we play 13 different sports with students from all skill levels.
A typical dorm-style single room offered at Studholme with lots of natural light and space to study.
Q. What do you hope students get out of their time at your college?
A. My hope has always been that when the students leave our college, they leave knowing they have been part of a wider family that loved and accepted them for who they are. My team works hard to provide a family environment that enables our students to make good and bad decisions and learn the consequences of both for individual growth. We want to give our students some room to be themselves.
Q. What would parents/whanau be surprised to learn about your college? About your role as warden.
A. Studholme College is the oldest University of Otago owned residential college – 102 years old. It was originally established for women to study home science. Due to the size of my college (187 students), my role is not unlike that of a parent. It’s quite a diverse role and it’s not unusual to be sitting in meetings discussing strategic direction for the College one minute, then the next, be sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office with a student who isn’t well.
View more photos of our recent visit to Studholme College:
The West Wing building was bought in 1928 and houses the living room, study seminar rooms, and bedrooms separate from the main block.
Students love the pool table in the living area.
Studholme College is a handy couple of minutes' walk to the university, and students enjoy its central position in the heart of the scarfie area.
Studholme College was originally established as a women's residence to study home science, and it's had plenty of upgrades and expansions in its 107 years.
There is a baby grand piano for musical students to practise their skills, and plenty of students willing to be the audience.
Ziggy says the small size of Studholme is perfect for creating a supportive environment.
Find out more about Studholme College:
Studholme has been looking after Otago University residents since 1915, and is the oldest Otago-owned hall of residence. As well as the large main block of bedrooms, Studholme also has 7 houses with 40 bedrooms all together right next door to the main block. Studholme now looks after 187 students.
Address: 127 Clyde St, North Dunedin.
Tel: 03 479 5504