Wellbeing support for chemistry students
During my meetings as a wellbeing ambassador, it has come up in the discussions how active and enthusiastic the chemistry department is when it comes to offering wellbeing support to students. Therefore, in this blog, I will outline some of the support available that I am aware of.
The first person to go and see is your personal tutor. With a personal tutor, you have an academic to talk to but in a more social setting. One thing I personally really like about personal tutors is how honest they are. They are not there to answer your academic questions but rather how you’re finding life as a chemistry student as well as a Warwick student. I feel like if you speak to your friends, they may sugar-coat things to save you from feeling bad or say what you want to hear rather than what you should. My personal tutor downright told me to reconsider my desire to overCAT and I’m so glad she did because boy would I have struggled. I could barely handle my seven exams. At times, it sounds harsh but it is the voice of reason and it is understated how useful it is to receive this advice from an academic at a place where many of us are in the process of figuring out how to do adulting right. I would personally recommend keeping your personal tutor informed. I like to drop my personal tutor a line if anything changes and tend to go to meetings having thought of a few updates beforehand.
The department has two senior tutors, Dr David Fox and Prof Stefan Bon and I spoke to both of them before writing this blog. Dr Fox describes the senior tutors’ role as follows: “Just because students are at university it does not mean that life’s ups and down stop. When students want to discuss their progress, their future, or any problems that they have they can talk with their personal tutor, or one of the departments senior tutors, who can advise, sign post university services, intercede on the students behalf or write letters of support.” In this way, senior tutors offer a safety net to the general departmental tutoring system. One thing that is emphasised is that you can talk to them about anything – problems with personal wellbeing, family, friends, relationships, literally ANYTHING. The door to the senior tutors’ offices is always open to students. It does not matter if you have been missing labs/ tutorials etc. Ultimately, I was told that they consider the student to be always right whatever the situation. If you’re being lazy or missing contact hours, they are more interested in establishing what is going wrong rather than telling you off about it. Also, they will respect your preference should you wish to keep your discussions with them private and wouldn’t share any details of your conversations with anyone else without your consent.
Dr. Ann Dixon is the wellbeing lead in the Department of Chemistry, and is the Chair of the Wellbeing and Diversity Committee. She is available to contact via email or in person regarding issues such as bullying, harassment, or any other wellbeing related issues. Dr. Dixon is also available to meet with students who have knowledge of, or have been the victims of, sexual assault or harassment. She will assist students in determining what support is available for them at the University and will assist them in obtaining this support. Any information relayed to Dr. Dixon will be handled in the highest confidence unless students wish to report issues to the University.
Science, Engineering and Medicine departments also have a faculty senior tutor, Dr Helen Toner, who provides confidential advice and support to students who are experiencing difficulties if departmental senior tutors are unavailable, or otherwise as required.
As part of the year 1 induction programme, the department runs a series of weekly information sessions throughout term 1, including sessions on ‘Making a Successful Transition’, ‘What you need to know’ and ‘Student Support’. The department is also running several Wellbeing Advice Lounge drop-in sessions this year which are open to all students in the department. The details of these events are posted on the Moodle Announcement page and automatic emails are sent to all when someone posts on the forum so you have no excuse to miss the events!
The department also runs a mentoring scheme along with the Warwick Chemistry Society for freshers. I benefitted greatly from the peer support that I received in my first year. This year I was a mentor myself so got to learn about the scheme on the inside and I assure you, a lot of hard work and organisation goes into it. We receive training, have termly meetings to discuss the role and feed back to the admins so the scheme can be improved as well. I feel like there is less of a pressure with mentors about ending up asking a stupid question and they can give you greater insight into university life as those who were recently in your position.
In terms of the admin, the departmental handbook outlines where to go to receive help in terms of mitigating circumstances, medical/ personal issues affecting your course, extensions for deadlines and absence forms for sessions like labs and tutorials etc. There are further links provided to the central wellbeing services, counselling services and disabilities services and many other places.
The support is all there and all you have to do is ask. I cannot claim to know how difficult it can be for different people but there are people who are honestly waiting to hear from students so if you raise a concern, you are not only helping yourself but also allowing those to help you who want to help you. Don’t put on a brave face – be honest to yourself and respect the system and procedures that are designed to help you so that everything is fair and you receive the support you deserve.