Membership Spotlight: Lauren Scorah
ASRA hears from Lauren Scorah, Scheme Manager at Capitol Students who talks to us about her role and Conference 2022!
Tell us about your role at Capitol, what does it involve?
I find it hard to pin down exactly what my role entails. Of course, there is an official job description, but the role of Scheme Manager is so much more! Site safety is top of my list, thankfully, we have a team of people and systems to support with this. Along with safety I cover sales, team management, student experience, building management, student wellbeing, employee engagement, and whatever else the day throws at me!
I am also part of the Resi-Life team at Capitol Students. As we are working for an emerging brand, this is an exciting project to be involved with as it will help shape the customer experience for our students in the coming years. I am working with other experienced managers from a variety of student accommodation backgrounds, meaning we have different strengths and a variety of experiences to draw upon. One thing I worked out really quicky working in student accommodation is that trends change, plans change, and you always need to be ready to learn.
What appealed to you about working in student accommodation/the sector?
I studied at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College (now Bucks New University); my accommodation was at a campus in Chalfont St Giles which was a beautiful space in the countryside. As I didn’t drive, I had to look closer to home to find a part time job and ended up working in the onsite bar and helping with Campus Services. I studied Drama Production at University but, like a lot of people I know, I didn’t end up working in that field. After University I struggled to find an industry that I found engaging, until one day I saw a job advertisement for a Customer Service Advisor for PBSA provider. Having worked in this area during my studies I thought I would give it a shot, and that’s where I found my love for this sector.
Tell us about a project or campaign that you’re particularly proud of, or that you feel has been particular effective in the area of student support
The thing I have been most proud of during my time in student accommodation, is the evolution of Central Quay’s student support provision. I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by a team of people who all work to the same goal but who are also so talented and knowledgeable in different fields. Our motto is that we want to ‘celebrate everyone’. This means we want to make sure we are right there with our students though cultural events, through their university year, through the hard times and the good times, and in doing so, we are creating an inclusive environment to help our students feel at home.
We have implemented initiatives such as the Black Box, which gives those who aren’t ready to speak about their issues a chance to let us know they are struggling without having to find the strength to come and talk to us. We have the Red Box, supporting those suffering period poverty, and we have our world map which helps our students realise they aren’t facing the challenges of international study alone.
You recently attended the ASRA 2022 Annual Conference & Exhibition – how did you find the experience?
This was my first time attending the ASRA Conference. Everyone I had spoken to who had attended the conference in previous years had found it incredibly useful. After a couple of years of not attending events in person I was unsure how I would feel being at such a large-scale event. It was a nice surprise that I didn’t feel overwhelmed, and a testament to the setup of the conference.
The venue was beautiful, spacious, and easy to navigate. The days were set out in a way that meant learning and networking were in manageable chunks and the evening entertainment gave additional chances to meet people from the sector. Having the chance to network after being cut off from the world for a couple of years was refreshing. I learned a lot and met some truly amazing people. There are so many different approaches to our work and learning from the successes of our peers is one of the best ways to understand what works for our students. We can learn so much from each other and the ASRA Conference is truly the best opportunity to network I have found.
What did you learn from the sessions you attended?
To briefly explain the lessons learnt from the sessions I attended during the conference is not easy, there was so much! Choosing the sessions to attend was the hardest point of my experience, I wanted to attend them all! All the sessions were great, but I think the biggest take away for me was how our students have evolved over the pandemic.
- The 3 A’s session by Jordan Meates from Sheffield Hallam University was an eye opener in terms of the change in communication, technology, and the use of social media. There is so much more we can do to speak to our students in the right way and on the best platforms for them.
- The Trans Inclusion session by Aloma Onyema from UCL, gave me a lot to think about in terms of our systems and our teams understanding of the topic. I now understand that along with being respectful and inclusive, the biggest thing we can do is learn. That education on the subject is the best way to support our students.
- In the Drug, Booze and Smart Pills session, by Liam Watson from Drug Training, I realised the way in which students access drugs has changed dramatically, and how drugs use is becoming so discreet.
There is so much more I could talk about, the training alone makes the conference incredible value for money, add in the networking, the vendors, the opportunities, and it is easy to see that the conference is an invaluable source of information and interaction.
What does ASRA mean to you?
To me ASRA means we are all together working in the best interests of our students. It means that we are learning from each other and have a unique opportunity to expand our knowledge in the ever-changing world of student accommodation. There is always a different perspective and a better way of working, and more importantly there is always something to learn.
What’s your favourite takeaway memory from Conference?
By far the best part of the conference was the people. In particular, the Masquerade Ball was a great opportunity to meet people and was a real highlight of the conference. The masks were great, some were very elegant, and some were hilarious, the hall looked incredible, and I had a wonderful time networking in a relaxed environment. At the ball we said goodbye to Karen Burke as ASRA Chair, and I felt lucky to have been there as, working in Sheffield, Karen has had a huge impact in the sector both through Sheffield Hallam University and through her work with ASRA. I learnt a lot from those around me and have made connections I am sure that I will keep throughout my career. I would love to be at the conference next year and hope to attend many ASRA events in the future.
General thoughts for the future about accommodation?
The biggest issue I can see in the next few years is the rising cost of living, especially for students. Aside from that I can only imagine that the stresses of the last two years and the isolation that young people have lived through is going to create challenges. The positive aspect of this, is this is that we know it is coming. We’ll need to move quickly to prepare and think outside the box, but with opportunities like the ASRA Conference to look forward to, we are in the best place to face this, together.
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