Understanding pastoral care

Understanding pastoral care

The Pastoral Care Code outlines the role tertiary providers play in ensuring students are well and safe. Law and English Literature student Alex Chen and VUWSA President Ralph Zambrano share their views on pastoral care, their journey at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, and the Code.

VUWSA President Ralph Zambrano (left) and student Alex Chen at our Kelburn Campus.

Alex Chen—Final-year student studying Law and English Literature

Kia ora, my name is Alex! I’m in my final year of English Literature and Law.

There will come a time when I look back to these years and regret nothing. Even when, at this moment, I can vividly remember the times I was totally lost. As someone with a passion for creativity, I had initially convinced myself that university was not for me and could offer me nothing.

University is rewarding once you understand your own choices. It is a hub of abundant opportunity where your decisions reflect what you most needed at that time. Friendships can blossom in the most unexpected places, talents can be revealed when doing something you didn’t think you’d enjoy, and value can be found in the decisions you make.

When I was finally ready to reach out, I found the University ready for me. It started with the Italian Society where I met so many lovely internationals. Coming from an Asian background, I found it endearing to see students in the Asian Law Society’s Association helping each other by sharing authentic experiences. Volunteering for Wellington International Leadership Programme helped me see Wellington and its university as a valuable forum for connection.

So, what is pastoral care and how does it affect us?

When writing this, I looked up the word “pastoral” to better understand what pastoral care entails. Perhaps the meaning is much simpler than I thought: the students are like the grass in a garden, and the university is the gardener who tends to them. But the school is not just the watering can, the shears, or even the fence, it is also the wind, rain, and sunshine that brings the grass to pasture. The University is the garden because it is constant.

I hope the Pastoral Care Code will be just that—a constant support system that helps students like me reach their best potential.

But like the times, the University must also change. It is not enough to just have systems in place—whether it is for mental health, financial assistance, or social advocacy—they must adapt with the times and situations which need those systems the most. Often, the students set the standard of care required by reaching out. It’s important for us as students to let our University know when we need help so that it can tend to our needs.

Watch the Pastoral Care Code video, featuring current students and staff from our university.

Ralph Zambrano—President of Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA)

Mabuhay, kia ora and hello! My name is Ralph Zambrano, and I am your VUWSA President for 2022.

As a first-generation New Zealander whose parents immigrated from the Philippines, I have seen and encountered the barriers that negatively impact tauira and hold us back from success. I first joined VUWSA in 2020 with a strong focus on addressing equity needs, improving support for all, particularly for marginalised communities, and empowering tauira (students) in all aspects of their life, at university and beyond. I am lucky to be part of a space which furthers the kaupapa and secures wins for students, whether big or small.

For me, pastoral care is about understanding the intersectionality of tauira and ensuring there are support mechanisms in place to address our diverse and multifaceted needs. It is about recognising our social responsibility to care for one another and ensuring individuals and communities are connected and all pillars of life are secured.

The Pastoral Care Code places obligations and requirements on Te Herenga Waka to ensure learner wellbeing is upheld but also allows us, the institution and tauira, to work together in partnership and create necessary support mechanisms to ensure no one falls through the gaps. It presents an opportunity for tauira to be empowered with their wellbeing and for our institutions to be world-leading and exemplary in establishing and providing wrap-around support.

My hopes for the Pastoral Care Code and some final thoughts

I hope that through the Code the quality of our university experience and life improves. In particular, escalation and support pathways are better defined and solidified, and that the needs of tauira are responded to proactively rather than reactively.

As the VUWSA President, I am currently part of the Pastoral Care Code Oversight Group overseeing progress of key wellbeing improvement projects alongside other student leaders to ensure student voice is embedded and genuine partnership is upheld. I am hopeful that through this, tauira will be further placed in the heart and mind of Te Herenga Waka and are empowered through the rights conferred in the Code.

Looking after yourself is an individual discovery that only you know how to do best, but I have learnt the necessity of having a strong support system, boundaries, and a study-life balance. Know what resources and support are available to you within or outside of the University when there are gaps. Don’t be afraid to speak up and reach out for support.

Alex Chen is a final-year student studying for a Bachelor of Law and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English Literature. Ralph Zambrano is studying for a Bachelor of Law and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in International Relations and minoring in Public Policy.

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