The director of wellbeing position encapsulates everything Claire Shirey has worked towards in her university career. In an interview with The Saint, Ms Shirey explained, “I really care about everything that this position stands for. I had a tough time when I first came to St Andrews. I felt like it was difficult to meet people and it was hard to find my place, and I almost left after my first semester because of that.”
Ms Shirey brings a wealth of experience to the newly created DoWell role. She has worked with many of the university’s mental health support organisations, including Student Services, Nightline, and the Wellbeing Committee.
Many of Ms Shirey’s wellbeing plans revolve around the initial adjustment to university life. To help new students, Ms Shirey hopes to implement initiatives such as mentoring programmes in halls and academic schools. She also wants societies to promote inclusivity during the first several months of the year by holding non-alcoholic or specific freshers events.
In terms of mental health, Ms Shirey hopes to expand existing resources such as Nightline, StAnd Together, and the Wellbeing Committee. She also wants to lobby for the creation of a mental health crisis team, provide mental health training, and centralise information regarding wellbeing resources.
One of Ms Shirey’s goals is to allow representatives from societies to sit on the equal opportunities committee once a month, thereby creating a forum for “all voices, not just those elected in the Union.” She hopes to encourage diversity by supporting Pangea and celebrating all cultures represented at St Andrews.
Ms Shirey also wants to increase the level of support offered to mature students, postgraduates, LGBT+ individuals, and those who come from lower-income families.
“I plan to re-organise [explanations of the bursary application process] so students would apply before to see if they’re eligible or if they would get it,” Ms Shirey said. “And that would inform their decision-making process to come here a lot better and help us open up St Andrews to more students.”
Ms Shirey plans to have a “totally open door policy. […] One of the ideas I’ve come up with to combat that is having open hours that aren’t necessarily in the office, so maybe I’d go to Rector’s cafe and students could come in and talk to me about whatever they wanted, because I’d just be sitting at a table in a room with lots of other people rather than in an office made up of people who seem like they’re a group of friends.”
Ms Shirey’s in-depth manifesto shows her dedication to the DoWell position. In particular, her proposed mentoring schemes promise to be an essential resource for all new students. If Ms Shirey continues to display the level of careful thought and commitment she has shown thus far, she will be sure to leave her mark as the very first DoWell.