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Written by:
Kathryn Martin-Chambers
27 Sep 2022

The College’s new Head of Wellbeing, Lisa Déry describes how her team is there for the whole College community.

What do you see as the main objective of your role as Head of Wellbeing?

My role is not just about supporting the wellbeing of students and staff at Trinity Hall, but also about actively improving their wellbeing. Wellbeing touches all aspects of College life and is so much more than just providing one-to-one support in times of need. It allows us to consider how we support students to not only fully embrace their student experience, but also to develop life skills that will see them through post-study life. And it allows us to think about how we equip staff with the knowledge and skills they need to provide students with great experiences, thus contributing to their own sense of purpose and enjoyment of their work.

I immediately felt a strong sense of community at Trinity Hall when I arrived, but that’s not a reason to stop there. I will be encouraging us all to consider what more can we do to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and respected. In addition to running a great wellbeing service and promoting wellbeing more generally, my job is to work with everyone across the community (students, Fellows, and staff) to consider how, together, we can improve wellbeing.

Why wellbeing – and why in the University sector?

I’ve been working in higher education for nearly 20 years! Prior to coming to Trinity Hall, I developed the Student Advice Service at Cambridge Students’ Union and oversaw it for 12 years. Before that, I worked at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London. Needless to say, I have lots of experience working with some very talented and capable students, many of whom aspire to be the best! This, of course, is a wonderful aspiration, but it does come with its own pressures, so leading a balanced life and paying attention to one’s wellbeing is key.

I love working with students and consider it to be a privilege to be a small part of their journey in life. Good wellbeing improves academic performance and vice versa. Any part I can play in helping students make the most of their time here is worthwhile.

Tell us something you’re proud of outside of work.

It’s not exactly outside of work, but it’s outside of Trinity Hall: I am extremely proud of the Student Advice Service (where I’ve come from), and how it has developed and grown over the years. Not to mention how proud I am of the staff who work there, all of whom I employed and worked alongside over the years.

I suppose that successfully completing an MBA whilst working full-time as well as being a mum is something to be proud of, too (I graduated in June of this year).

What do you do for your own wellbeing?

I jog and train a few times a week, have daily walks, and eat healthily. I enjoy spending time with my family, and I’m also pretty good at entertaining myself, and therefore enjoy spending time alone. Having a job that I love and that also keeps me challenged and stimulated is hugely important to my enjoyment of life and wellbeing. I have a weekly video call with my parents and sister (who live in Montréal), which is very important to me. My annual visits to Montréal bring me great joy, and my 10-year-old daughter (Emily) and I seem to do a lot of laughing together, which feels great. Finally, I very much enjoyed a recent family holiday to Spain (and the train journey there and back), which allowed me to rest, have fun, and recharge.

There are lots of different people in a College: how can you help them all?

My hope is that anyone who requires individual support will feel able to approach the Wellbeing Team. We’re a super friendly bunch. In addition to me, there are two counsellors (Julie and Sarah) and a nurse (Jo). You can come to us with any wellbeing-related matters (physical health, mental health, disability-related, and much more).

I recognise that our community includes some of the smartest and most capable people on the planet, some of whom may hesitate to ask for help. In this regard, I am keen to ensure that students and staff are able to find the information they need to help themselves. As such, a key part of my role will be to make sure that helpful information is available, easy-to-find at the point of need and engaging, too. While some members of the community will interact with the Wellbeing Team directly, others may engage with us through our blogs, videos, events, or workshops. However you choose to engage, we look forward to working with you!

Any hobbies we should absolutely know about!?

Well, I absolutely love to dance! I love just about every type of dance there is, and over the years, I’ve enjoyed dabbling in ballet, modern, tap, flamenco, salsa, and Indian, but my favourites are probably Irish and street. Street dance may seem a little strange for someone my age, but this genre really took off when I was a young teen, and obviously made a huge impression on me.

Another hobby that may be of interest is singing and songwriting. Though, as with dance, there are very few genres of music I don’t like, I seem to be influenced by traditional Irish music as well as traditional Québec music (I’m from Montréal), which is a mix Irish, Scottish, and French music. As far as I am concerned, there doesn’t exist a tune that can’t be enhanced with the fiddle!

Who is a role model to you and why?

Both my parents are wonderful, but for this, I’ll focus on my dad. My dad is a warm, kind-hearted, generous person who, for years, ran his own business with his lovely brother. Even when an angry customer would demand to see my dad, that same person would then leave his office with a big smile on their face, laughing along with my dad, promising to never take their business anywhere else. This is because my dad has great integrity! He diffuses situations by staying calm, being honest, putting people at ease, listening and taking seriously what they have to say, and setting the expectation that everyone will be reasonable. Like magic, people calm down and behave reasonably thereby enabling a fair outcome to be reached. I learned these skills from my dad, and I use them every day. My dad is also warm and very quick to smile, which makes people like him. I’m like that too.