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College Leaders Series: Have you met Luke McClelland of Selwyn College?

Wednesday 13 November 2019 11:23am

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, 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 the College Leaders Series, we introduce you to Luke McClelland, Warden of Selwyn College.

Luke McClelland image
Selwyn College Warden Luke McClelland has been in his role for 12 months. Photos: Sharron Bennett.

How long have you been with the College/University? How did you come to this role?

I’ve been Warden of Selwyn College for 12 months. Prior to this, I was Head of Aquinas College for two-and-a-half years (another Otago residential college). I also worked at Selwyn some years ago as the Operations Manager, so have eight years' residential college experience. My vocation has revolved around young people and has included management roles with community-based NGO’s in the health and social sector.

What’s your favourite college event each year and why?

This is a tough one to answer – the Selwyn community is positively energetic with a raft of events and activities throughout the year. The long standing and hotly contested Cameron Shield and Neville Cup competitions against Knox College are a drawcard. I have a soft spot though for the less known annual exchange with College House (University of Canterbury), which began in 1930 and has Selwyn and College House alternating the hosting of the event.

If your college was a person, how would you describe it?

Louis Grenville Whitehead comes to mind as an apt comparison, who was Warden of Selwyn between 1919 and 1950… around forever, known as both a leader and friend, distinctly Anglican, hardworking, loved a laugh, studious and would do anything for his College.

What would you say makes your college unique? What sets it apart from others at Otago?

Established in 1893, Selwyn is the oldest residential College in New Zealand. Our attractive landscaped Quad captures the attention of everyone who visits. It is bordered by our historic Sargood and Whitehead buildings, a pear tree which is older than Selwyn itself and All Saints’ Church (built in 1865), which acts as our College chapel and an ever-present reminder of our Anglican connection.

Selwyn College image
Selwyn was established in 1893 and is the oldest residential college in New Zealand.

Describe a typical day for yourself around the College:

No two days are the same, that’s for sure. Inevitably, it will always involve interaction with members of the College, whether it be the provision of pastoral support, to organise an upcoming event or activity, to deal with an issue that may have arisen or just to say hi and share in some laughter (of which there is thankfully plenty!).

Lots of involvement also with our dedicated staff – catering, property, domestic and administration staff are all employed and managed directly by the College and are crucial to our dependable pastoral care, quality residential experience and operations.

Our welfare team (senior students known as Sub-Wardens), the elected committee of the Selwyn College Student Association, College chaplain and the Selwyn Board of Governors are all key to smooth sailing, so conversations with each are also common.

I regularly share dinner with college members in Brother’s Hall (our historic dining room) and enjoy attending as many Selwyn sporting or cultural events as I can, which usually occur in the evenings.

No two days the same at Selwyn image
No two days are the same at Selwyn.

Is there a particularly memorable story/highlight from your time at the College that you can share with parents/whanau?

Each year, as has been the case for decades, our annual end-of-year valedictory dinner known as High Tea is held in Brother’s Hall. Except last year it wasn’t. The present Dining Room was built early 1930s when the number of residents was a third of what it is now.

In 2018, for the first time in its history, High Tea was held offsite in order to cater for a full College contingent of 200 College members and numerous guests. This year marked the 100th anniversary of High Tea and it didn’t feel right for this special occasion to be held offsite again, so we bought it home – we set up a marquee on our tennis court and treated it like a large wedding reception. It was a huge success!

Grand dining hall at Selwyn image
Inside the traditional buildings the grand dining hall reflects the long history of the College.

What do you hope the students will get out of their time at your college?

Similar to what I expect other University of Otago Heads of College to also aspire for their residents - a developing sense of independence and personal growth; academic success (whatever that may mean for the individual); broadening of the mind and engagement in new activities; community connectedness; a safe, memorable and enjoyable year; the formation of life-long friendships; a sense of Dunedin as their adopted new home town.

Sense of belonging at Selwyn image
Luke McClelland hopes students will develop a sense of belonging at Selwyn.

What would parents/whanau be surprised to learn about your college? About your role as head of college?

  • In 1983, after 90 years as an all-male college, the Board of Governors approved the admission of 12 females. Today, approximately 65 per cent of our membership is female, closely reflecting student enrolment at the University of Otago.
  • Te Maru Pūmanawa is our Māori name and was gifted to the College by Professor Piri Sciascia in 2013 on behalf of Ngāi Tahu. Piri holds a distinguished career at both Universities of Otago and Victoria and is presently Kaumatua for Government House. Piri is also an ex-Selwynite. Te Maru Pūmanawa broadly translates as a shelter for nurturing talent.

Outside activities at Selwyn image
Despite being right on the edge of the campus Selwyn has ample room for outside activities, with a tennis court on site.