Residence Advisers trained to handle crisis

Freshman Sara Lauderdale, Resident Adviser Derek Keasling and Resident Adviser Natasha Thomas socialize at “Coffee & Chat,” a program hosted by Resident Adviser Justice Gilbert. The advisers host two programs per month to get students acquainted with residents on their floor.

When freshmen move into the residence halls they may soon realize there are more rules and regulations than expected.

Resident advisers, or RAs, are students who are entrusted with ensuring these rules are followed.

“They are thoroughly trained on not just programming and resident building, but how to handle concerns within the hall as well,” said Jennifer Ballard, assistant director of Residence Life.

RAs must go through a rigorous two-week training, covering a multitude of topics, she said. Topics taught in the training range from mental health issues to preparation of enforcing Residence Life policies and procedures.

Although RAs are trained to handle the worst situations, extreme scenarios are rarely seen.

“I haven’t had any major situations that I had to deal with,” said Resident Advisor Kate Partain. “The only thing I had to deal with is noise violations.”

Resident Adviser Jordan Gowen said he has also yet to deal with any of the intense situations RAs are trained in.

“I probably would say some roommate issues are the most difficult to deal with,” he said. “Communication is key in those areas and when there is no communication it’s hard to make a breakthrough with the roommates.”

Training to be an RA is a continual process.

“We spend about 2 weeks with RAs in training prior to residents coming back to campus in August,” Ballard said. “They complete a course in the spring semester that helps prepare them for the position. We talk about student development and some of the things that they’ll face in the position and how they should handle it.”

The training is then repeated if the student chooses to continue being an RA.

“It’s really intense,” Gowen said. “We learn a lot in a short amount of time and we cover as many bases as possible during the amount of time that we have together. It really prepares the RAs coming in with the skills that they need to handle any situation that they come across.”

Partain said the training came full circle for her the second time she went through it.

“The second year it really showed me that this is going to be a team that I could work with,” Partain said. “We’re going to be a team that will have each other’s back. Training just helped us come together and helped each other understand how vigorous this job can be.”

Before the RAs can begin training, they have to go through a thorough application process.

We go through a screening process based on their grades, conduct records and involvement in the resident halls,” Ballard said. “We will select individuals to be interviewed as a mass group. It is a multiple step process for them to be hired as a RA.”

Partain said she decided to apply for an RA position after being a SOAR counselor.

“Whenever I did that I knew resident advisor was the best way to work with students throughout the school year, rather than just for a week or a day,” she said. “I chose to do the more long term route.”

Despite the trials they have to go through, Partain and Gowen said they both agree that being a RA is an amazing experience.

“It’s been a really good experience,” Gowen said. “I’ve learned a lot of valuable communication and leadership skills. I’m a lot more comfortable with people and it’s a really rewarding experience when you can help residents with an issue their having.”

The responsibility of being a Resident Assistant is not for everyone.

“I would say just talk to an RA,” Gowen said. “Ask them about what their experience has been like. Ask them about what they do for time management. Dealing with being an RA and classes takes a while to get used to. Just have fun with it.”

Partain has simple advice to anyone thinking about applying to be an RA.

“You have to love people,” she said. “You have to genuinely want to help them through their problems no matter what it may be. If you truly want it, you’ll be great at it.”