Resident assistants make good use of enthusiasm, patience
Making new friends, developing leadership skills and having fun are a few of the benefits of being a resident assistant.
Even though there is tough competition in applying, struggles in balancing time, and keeping the stress under control, becoming an R.A. can become a rewarding experience to those who work for it.
Tiffany Leo, the Wasatch Hall R.A., came to realize that this opportunity would help her to be more outgoing and come out of her comfort zone.
"I love the fact that I have had the chance to meet so many incredible people, becoming friends with them, and working with them. Plus, they teach me so much about who they are and in turn I have learned more about myself," Leo said.
Braden Jenkins, an R.A. in Bullen Hall, applied to be an R.A. to help students enjoy their time at Utah State University.
"I had two friends doing it and I wanted to try and live and work with them. They were always talking about how much fun they had as R.A.'s and I lived on campus already, but had an R.A. that didn't do anything compared to my friends so I wanted to give residents what I didn't get," Jenkins said.
Jenkins and Leo think that a few important qualities R.A.'s need to have are: consistency, being able to say no, enthusiasm, love, respect, blending between friend/mentor/disciplinarian, having a sense of humor, patience, and the ability to listen.
There are two levels of the benefits that come through being an R.A. One of them is the physical things you receive, such as your own room, $150 a month, and free rent. The other level is the personal level, such as the friendships you make.
"The paid benefits aren't as good as the personal benefits . . . the care you receive from your residents when you are sick, the food residents cook for you for no reason, the leadership skills, and the love that fills your heart when you think of them," Jenkins said.
"One benefit of being an RA is the opportunity of meeting so many amazing people. I have the advantage to learn new things, gain leadership skills, work in a group, let my creativity flow, and come out of my comfort zone," Leo said.
With over 130 applicants and less than 45 open positions, the competition is a lot tougher than one might think.
The first thing applicants have to do, to apply, is to attend an information meeting. The people then have to fill out an application about their past experience with work, strengths, weaknesses, and more. It needs to include letters of recommendation, official school transcripts, and a few essay questions. Then the applicants go through a group interview, involving questions about problem solving; where they are rated for their critical thinking skills and group participation. A personal interview follows that, where the applicants are asked how they would develop the community.
At this point, most of the applicants are cut, leaving about 60. If one gets through this process and the committee feels that they are qualified, that person is then asked to join a class. During the class, the applicants are taught skills to help them deal with different problems.
"We then submit our homework assignments and community development projects and hope we made a good impression," Leo said.
Chris Yerka was one of the chosen to be an R.A. next year in Mountain View Tower. He decided to apply because he loves working with people, needs the money, and wants to use the talents God has given him.
"There are a lot of gifted people in the world who want to be and R.A. and worked like a horse to get the job. I feel sorry for those that didn't get hired. I'd say about 5/6 of the class was well qualified to be hired," Yerka said.
Yerka has a few goals in mind for the upcoming year. He would like to spend a lot of time with the guys so they can feel comfortable coming to him. He would also like to have glade plug-ins in every room.
"We are not going to stink!!!"
Receiving the R.A. position isn't the only tough thing involved. R.A.'s have to help residents with their variety of problems, make bulletin boards, and put on programs that will help the residents.
"About three-fourths of my residents are freshmen girls and I am a junior guy. Since I know how hard it would be to be a good R.A. if I got involved in a 'more than friends' relationship, I have never had a relationship beyond close friend with any of my residents," Jenkins said.
One of the hardest parts about being an R.A. is budgeting time. Sometimes it is hard to focus on school when things come up that are more important.
"The worst part about the job is that sometimes you can't focus on your own homework because you're making sure that everybody else is OK or just thinking about something they asked you to do, but forgot," Jenkins said.
Leo spends about 10-15 hours a week with R.A. related things. To budget her time, she looks at what she needs to do, ranks them in order of importance and due dates, and then plans carefully to make sure all of her time is used wisely, while saving some time for herself.
"For me, the busier I am, the more I seem to get accomplished," Leo said.
Leo sometimes finds it tough not being able to spend more time with her residents.
"It is difficult when you have 70 residents and you are trying to reach all the individual needs. It's just not possible," she said.
Leo also dreads having to be restrictive with enforcing rules and policies. But she has learned to be more assertive and not so passive.
"I have become more comfortable in speaking my mind more freely and being more open with things I don't agree with. I haven't had too many bad experiences, but the worst part of the job is enforcing rules when there is a fear of losing respect for one another (residents and RAs)," Leo said.
Some advice Jenkins thinks new R.A.'s need to hear is: "Start strong and finish strong (don't slack off as the year progresses). Become compassionate towards other people's dilemmas and personalities. Don't forget that you have a job because of your residents so you need to be constantly thinking of them. Remember to check up on loose ended problems. Be consistent. Don't be afraid to sit and socialize with your residents; get to know your residents. Don't forget to have fun."
Leo said: "Find balance. Set your priorities and manage your time well. You can be a good RA and do well in school if you know what you want. Get to know your residents and remember the little things. Take this opportunity to make an impact. You are example to so many residents and friends. Be positive and make your residents feel special, because they are."