Everyone who has lived in a residence hall knows a resident adviser (RA). Maybe you had the relaxed RA who was willing to overlook a few quiet hour violations. Or maybe you had the strict RA, and 11 p.m. meant silence.
Either way, very few know what it is like to be an RA. Frances Navea, a sophomore biomedical engineering major and Tercero RA gave me the inside scoop.
The life of an RA begins in early September, with two weeks of training. There, students are taught the skills and expectations of being a RA.
“It’s a lot of logical and critical thinking, and learning to think on your feet,” Navea said.
After training comes move-in weekend. The RA staff divides the day into shifts. They help make sure things go smoothly and address any concerns that parents and students may have.
During the first week, resident advisers are responsible for distributing and collecting roommate agreement forms. Each RA also puts on a mandatory meeting so residents know what living in the residence halls will be like and understand the respect and boundaries involved.
“It’s the RA’s job to be extremely visible and available, especially during the first week,” Navea said. “It’s really fun though, seeing everyone so excited to be there.”
Once the year is in full swing, each RA is responsible for a number of tasks. Putting up bulletin boards and running programs are both crucial. There are a certain number of bulletin boards a RA must put up. Each bulletin board is another link to campus resources residents can use, such as the Internship and Career Center.
“If we notice an issue on the floor, we’ll have a bulletin board about it. The boards themselves can start discussions amongst the residents, which is good because it gets people talking about things they don’t usually think about,” Navea said.
Programs are another huge responsibility of being a RA. First, the RA picks a topic that the residents will be interested in. Navea sometimes surveys her residents to find out what would be popular. After picking a topic, the RA has to shop for food and put out publicity.
“You have to come up with creative ways to draw people in, as well as creative programs and food,” Navea said.
On her floor, Navea put on a taco and piñata program, which was popular. Her floor also took a trip to the Crocker Nuclear Lab on campus.
Through all of the fun, there is also the more serious side of being a RA. Navea described on-call responsibilities as a big part of being an RA. This involves carrying around the RA on-call cell phone and going on rounds – helping student who are locked out and addressing any problems, such as noise issues.
“We always tell residents that we just document what we see,” she said, “Everything is for the safety and the comfort of the community.”
In Navea’s building, each RA is on-call at least once a week, and then between each other they alternate weekends. There is a RA on call every night of the week, including during Thanksgiving and spring breaks.
Having been a first-year in the residence halls, Navea was able to offer some perspective on what it is like on the other side.
“I had no idea [resident advisers] did so much work, especially with programs. It takes a lot of time management, especially with school and extra clubs on the side,” she said.
Despite all of the work being an RA involves, Navea is happy with her job.
“The other RAs make it a lot of fun. We get to connect at staff meetings, and we also plan other events together like movie nights. The senior resident advisers are even putting on an RA Appreciation Day,” she said.
Overall, what makes being a RA comes down to the residents.
“The residents really make it all worth it. It’s so rewarding to see them adapt and grow throughout the year,” Navea said.
JENNIFER SCOFIELD can be reached at email@example.com.