Volunteer Spotlight: Rowena and Guy
Volunteer Spotlight - Rowena and Guy
We caught up with two of OxFizz’s most longstanding volunteers - Rowena (who studied Chemistry) and Guy (who studied Engineering).
They’ve volunteered with us for over 6 years, and completed 391 hours of interviews between them.
We caught up with them about what motivates them to volunteer, and what has changed about OxFizz through the years.
How did you start volunteering with OxFizz?
R: OxFizz turned up on a departmental email during my PhD at the University of Birmingham…it was perfect timing. I was in my first year and looking for new things to get involved with.
I completed the training and went to my first OxFizz day, and came back buzzing. I told Guy all about it! The philosophy, the format, the interviewees themselves… The next time I went for an OxFizz day, I came back ready to tell him all about it again - but Guy had his own day out to share - he'd snuck off to Oxford to train for OxFizz himself!
G: It sounded like a lot of fun, and by the end of the season I'd done nearly as many volunteering hours as Rowena.
What has motivated you to keep volunteering for so long?
One of the things that keeps drawing us back to OxFizz year after year is the alluringly broad set of personal skills we've gained from it.
R: As a tutor who employs Oxbridge tutorial style teaching, I deliver student-led learning and ‘teach to learn’, rather than ‘teach a subject’. Working with OxFizz has helped me appreciate different learners and how they respond Running interviews and writing questions are also good communications and creative skills exercises that support my work as a science communicator.
G: I personally feel a lot more comfortable when being interviewed for jobs because I've run more - often a lot more - interviews than the people on the other side of the table.
We've also learnt lots about running productive interviews! Such as the vast number of ways that applicants can approach the same question, and how to quickly judge the level at which to pitch the rest of the interview to get as full a view of the candidate as possible rather than spend the whole thing bogged down on one topic they're weak on.
You’ve run practice interviews with hundreds of students with OxFizz. What makes a candidate stand out?
Passion for the subject - like when you tell a physicist we're going to do some quantum mechanics and they practically explode with excitement.
But most of all resourcefulness - those candidates who, whether or not they know how to approach a problem, will use absolutely everything at their disposal to attempt it. Brainstorming what they already know, weighing up its value, going back over the information they've been given, and using us, the interviewers, for prompts.
You’ve raised thousands of pounds for charitable causes through OxFizz. How do you choose these each year?
We divide our choices between high-impact charities and ones that have personal meaning to us.
You can find out about the impact of charities at GiveWell.org, which recommends charities that are efficient (low % of donations to administration), and effective.
An example of a high impact charity we've chosen before is Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, which cures people of a parasitic worm infection for around 30p/treatment. The second category has included outreach activities at Somerville (our College).
How has OxFizz changed through the years?
The biggest thing we've noticed is interviews moving out of Oxford [where Rowena and Guy live], which is a pity, and no more videos, which is a deliverance!
We miss the OxFizz pens (a vital resource for physical science interviews!), but love the post interview beers and chats in the pub, which give a sense of community to the project. We've had more access students this year than any other year, and more than a few 9am pastries!
What direction would you like OxFizz to go in going forward?
We’d love to see OxFizz expanding it's geographic reach more. Typically, kids in the North of England, for example, feel divorced from the Golden Triangle, apply to unis in the North, and have fewer interventions and support because the payback for companies who invest is lower.
Guy did a mock interview for another organisation [that works with students outside of London] this season, and found both the staff and the applicant knew very little about the Oxbridge interview process, though they are supporting kids all across the UK. Rowena has supported kids applying from both Birmingham and Oxford, and noted hugely divergent differences in their foreknowledge of the process.