If you’ve been a student at UC Davis since freshman year, chances are you’ve lived in the dorms amongst other first years and one or two Resident Advisors (RA). RAs are undergraduate students who work for Student Housing and live within the residence halls during the school year. Though some see RAs as didactic and meddlesome, others view the full time advisors as necessary for emotional and academic support, as well as for safety reasons.
RAs are responsible for putting on programs in the residence halls that are both socially and academically oriented, as well as monitoring the overall safety of their designated floor and building.
They are also required to “document” any situation that is illegal, hazardous to someone’s health or against the Student Housing policies. In addition to their everyday daily duties, RA’s rotate in and out of the position of “RA on call,” the resident advisor that is available at night after the area service desk is closed.
A large incentive for becoming an RA is the free room and board in addition to a free meal plan that accompany the position. For students that cannot afford to pay rent on an apartment or live too far to commute after their first year, becoming an RA is an economically sound solution. However, the perks are balanced with sacrifices as RA’s are expected to spend a minimum of 20 hours on their respective floor.
David Thompson, senior sociology and African American studies major worked as a resident advisor for the 2010-11 school year in Campbell Hall. The former RA said the position entails someone who can follow rules, but understands when a situation calls for thinking outside of the box.
“If I had to give advice to a future RA, I would have to say embrace the rules, but know when those rules don’t apply. As an RA, you learn different techniques in order to deal with different situations, however, a big mistake that RA’s make is that they handle situations as if they all fit within an equation. Though Student Housing teaches you to deal with one situation a certain way, there are thousands of factors that can change the situation from the model that they presented,” Thompson said.
In addition, Thompson said that time management is crucial to the position as some may not realize the extent to which being an RA depletes leisure time.
“A lot of RA’s get caught in an ‘I know how to handle my time’ mentality. So they come into the RA job and get slammed, like I did. I was on call and I had a important midterm. To make a long story short, I failed that midterm and the class. I initially blamed the RA job, but then I realized, I didn’t start studying until the night before the test and after a while just gave up,” Thompson said.
First-year economics major Star Bacon is currently anticipating her role as an RA for the 2012-13 school year. She said her reason for applying for the position stems from her experience as a resident this year as well as her desire to enrich the first-year experience for future UC Davis students.
“After living in the residence halls this year, I’ve seen a lot of opportunity for me to add things next year, as far as resources. I know a lot of people that struggle in finding out where to get help for certain things. I feel like I could be the person to help them get ahead of the game, whether it’s by making someone aware of different workshops or leadership opportunities they have available or just giving them someone to talk to,” Bacon said.
She also said she is excited about the position though she feels her biggest challenge will be restricting herself as far as campus involvement.
“I’m not nervous as all. I feel like I’ll adapt, and I’m more than willing to do anything that will make me a better RA, as well as a better person. The only challenge might be fighting the urge to get involved when I hear about issues in the community or leadership opportunities. The people in Student Housing understand that we’re students first and RAs second, so they don’t allow us to do anything other than school and Resident Advising for Fall Quarter,” Bacon said.
Current RA and sophomore community and regional development major Robert Helfend said that he enjoys living in the dorms and felt that he was the right fit for the Rainbow floor, a themed housing floor that is open to members and allies of the LGBTQ community.
“I really like the dorm atmosphere and I was really close to my RA last year, who inspired me to be an RA. As far as being on the Rainbow Floor, as a gay college student, I know how hard it is to make the transition from high school. I felt that I could be the person to help them,” Helfend said.
Ultimately, past, present and future RAs can agree that the key ingredient to having an enjoyable experience in the residence halls is a positive, open relationship between residents and their advisors.
“Throughout the year as an RA, you grow to love the people on your floor and consider them family. So it’s important for residents to know that you are there for them,” Thompson said. “If they trust you, it makes it easier for the residents to approach you when they really need you for serious incidents.”
KELSEY SMOOT can be reached at email@example.com.