Brittany Delaney ’12 still fondly remembers her Residential Adviser (RA) from three years ago.
“Music–she had very good taste in music, so sometimes I asked her what music she was playing out of her dorm room,” Delaney said.
The deadline for RA applications for the 2009-2010 year is this Wednesday, and candidates are preparing for an intensive interview process. If chosen, they will play a major part in next year’s freshmen’s first year experience.
“There’s two parts to our interview process,” said Maureen Pyne Isleib, Associate Director of Residential Life. “There’s an individual interview and a group interview. We look for people who have potential to be good leaders, who are responsible, ethical, who want to help their peers and make our residential communities warm and welcoming environments.”
Joan Bosco ’09, who is an RA for WestCo, remembers her group interview.
“Returning RAs and area coordinators sat around the room and watched how you solved problems with the group to see how you interact with other people,” Bosco said.
After RAs are selected from the applicant pool, they must complete a training program. RAs arrive on campus in the summer one week before freshman orientation to get to know one another, and partake in activities meant to expose RAs to issues and situations that may arise on the job.
“We learned about racism, sexism, social justice, gender relationship and things like that,” Bosco said.
According to Jessica Bowen ’11, an RA for the Butterfields, an exercise called “behind closed doors” simulated scenarios that RAs might have to deal with. In the exercise, new RAs step into a room to try to resolve a hypothetical problem that is acted out by a returning RA. Some scenarios in the past have included breaking up a party, helping someone who is intoxicated, and dealing with a depressed student.”
The training, however, does not stop after the summer, and there is a support system in place that RAs can turn to throughout the academic year.
“They receive training both in August and in January,” Isleib said. “But they also have weekly staff meetings with their area coordinators and head residents, as well as regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings with their supervisors.”
Bowen said that although the training served her well, she is glad that she has others to turn to for help when she needs it.
“I think the RA training prepared me as much as it could have,” Bowen said. “I think with any job you have training, and then you also have on-the-job training. What I really love is that the area coordinator is there all year and always available.”
When RAs finally get to meet their residents, they use their skills and knowledge to ease them into the new environment. Bonding exercises may include silly name games, cookouts, movie night, or having an epic battle of Lazer Tag at the arcade in Middletown.
Despite the support system and extensive training, some students said that after the initial week, their RA dropped off the radar.
“It would have been nice to have more involvement between the RA and the residents,” said Marshall Johnson ’11, who lived in the Butterfields during his freshman year. “I didn’t really see that much of her after orientation.”
Delaney agreed, explaining that although RAs hosted occasional outside activities, they were usually the exception, not the norm.
“I remember one time they invited us to go to dinner on Main Street,” Delaney said. “I think that was a good idea; it was like a break to the norm. But to be honest, we didn’t do very many activities together. They didn’t really facilitate any games [or] activities. They were good about at letting us decide how we wanted the bathrooms to be, though.”
This year there are several changes being implemented by Reslife. The Community Advisor (CA) position is being expanded to include senior woodframes, Fauver apartments, Low Rise and High Rise, and the qualifications for CAs have changed. While in the past, students had to have been an RA or House Manager (HM) to apply for the CA position, starting this spring it’s open to everyone.
In addition to leadership skills that can boost resumes, RAs also get paid for their work. But, at least for some, it’s not just about the money. Even though his RA was not always around, Johnson acknowledged the significant role they play.
“I think that they are an important resource,” Johnson said. “Especially for first year students in terms of asking for advice, or if they are having trouble adjusting to college life.”