The new role of Senior Warden for all of Otago's residential colleges has been filled by Jamie Gilbertson – already the “go-to” for other college heads, according to Campus and Collegiate Life Services Director James Lindsay.
The position was established this year as the Accommodation Division expanded into Campus and Collegiate Life Services.
Mr Lindsay realised he needed to delegate some responsibilities for leadership of the colleges to remain effective, and so more energy could go into developing the collegiate life, which focuses heavily on pastoral care, academic support, volunteering and student well-being.
Mr Gilbertson now not only leads Arana College, he also provides support and advice to all the wardens at the University of Otago-owned colleges, particularly about residents' welfare and other complex issues. He also represents the colleges at events and on committees.
He was chosen because of his depth of experience with both University and independent colleges, and the support he already offered to other heads of colleges as a valued, wise colleague and good community citizen, Mr Lindsay says.
The college leadership team is constantly trialling new ideas and developing new practices to meet challenges as they arise.
“The oldest college started almost 125 years ago and we are still steadily evolving our processes of care and support in our collegiate system because the students' needs continue to change and evolve,” Mr Lindsay says.
"The oldest college started almost 125 years ago and we are still steadily evolving our processes of care and support in our collegiate system because the students' needs continue to change and evolve."
Students used to turn up with one suitcase or one trunk, but now they have multiple pieces of luggage, electric devices, home comforts and sports gear.
They are constantly linked to family and friends with social media, and behave very differently even to students a decade ago.
Back then, residents asked for only four or five “special diets,” now the colleges have a list of well over 100 dietary requirements.
Students are beginning to display more mental health issues as well, are in more need of help when developing resilience in the face of difficulties, and often still find the leap from high school-level study to university study very challenging, Mr Lindsay says.
College leaders recognise those issues and work collaboratively to establish peer support and best practice in coping with these complex situations.
These days, each college no longer needs the same form of advisory councils to help with things like legal matters, finance, marketing and human resources, because the University has developed its internal management systems and they support the colleges.
So, college leaders are in the process of thanking their advisory council members for their voluntary services over the years, as those councils members evolve into the core of the new fellows programmes at each college.
While the colleges are seeking both academic and non-academic fellows to add to that experienced core, there is a special emphasis on bringing more junior up-and-coming academic staff and senior long-serving academic staff into the college community as fellows – to contribute to the scholastic endeavours, life, and culture at each college, Mr Lindsay says.