Resident advisers give perspective on job

Caleb Meyer
Caleb Meyer, fourth year business major, has been a resident advisor for Whitney Hall and currently works at University Village. Photo credit: Samantha Mckibben

As Wildcat Welcome Week drew to a close, most students were breathing a sigh of relief and settling into their first semester’s routine. For resident advisers in particular, the start of school is especially chaotic.

70 resident advisers start their school year three weeks early in order to be prepped and ready to go when all of the first-year students move in.

Amy Schuman, a third-year business major, is an RA for women on the first floor of Mechoopda Hall. Schuman discussed the extensive training process.

“I had two weeks of training,” she said. “We went to camp up in Nevada City. We did a lot of team building like a ropes course, conversations and we shared our life stories. It really helped build the team.”

Team-building exercises are essential for the RAs because student housing is broken into three communities. Each community has its own personality and unique dynamic so cooperation is necessary to bring students together.

Caleb Meyer, a fourth-year liberal studies major, has been an RA to both Whitney Hall and now University Village. Both house the same percentage of the student population, but are different in a few ways.

“When you live in Whitney Hall, you are all in the same building and all that’s separating you from meeting new people is another floor,” he said. “University Village accommodates more for those who want a more independent style of living and a closer relationship with smaller groups of people.”

Despite the differences between the housing communities, Meyer emphasized that the underlying theme is respect.

“It’s respecting residents, respecting their privacy, while at the same time being unwavering when there is a circumstance or situation that you have to address and a problem that you have to take care of,” Meyer said.

Amid everything else that the first week entails, RAs have to establish good relationships with their residents. This means walking the line between authority figure and friend.

“What makes a really good RA is balance,” Meyer explained. “It’s really easy to fall on the enforcer side and get detached from your residents, but at the same time it can be really easy to just become really good friends with some of them.”

Schuman agrees that finding the balance is something she has to work to achieve constantly, but she has found that her role as a big sister in her personal life has helped.

“We have meetings and at those I try to be firm, tell them that these are the policies and then soften up,” she said. “I love these girls, they’ll all be my little sisters this year.”

Samantha McKibben can be reached at [email protected] or @sammiemckay on Twitter.