On Feb. 21, I opened a manila envelope on my desk addressed to “Steven Rees, PG124”. Inside was a letter welcoming me to the Residence Life staff for the 2010-2011 academic year, as the Resident Assistant of suites 42-49 in Waring Commons. While I felt excited that last week’s interview process had gone so well, and knew that it meant returning to campus early for pre-semester training, I had no idea how intense and important that week would be until I stepped back onto campus grounds on Aug. 18.
As the week progressed, I began to get a feel for what training was like. I had been told by experienced RAs over the summer that it was mostly powerpoint presentation information, from sundown until sunset, with emergency trips to Donut Connection during the late-night hours. It wasn’t even close to that; we didn’t make many trips to DoCo at all. But, the training wasn’t all about the powerpoints, either, as the program (titled “RA College”) would make you believe.
Much of what we needed was information, whether it was about College policies, drugs, being a good leader and role model for your residents, understanding the ethics of gray-area situations, or knowing the difference between sexual assault and sexual violence. But all of training couldn’t just be facts that we could have read over the summer; while we had to know the policies we had to implement, the implementation itself was also important.
The Res. Life Professional Staff introduced skits for that need. Every RA in-training acted out situations we could face, including fire evacuations, roommate mediations, quiet hour and alcohol policy enforcement, and loud party dispersal. Every RA, new and returning, took part in at least a few skits, and learned (to the best of a skit’s ability) what a situation would really feel like, and how to handle it.
This was the most valuable part of training for me. I didn’t know how to stand up against seven-foot tall basketball seniors, or speak with an authority that would make people want to listen. Through the training, and practice, I began to learn those skills, and what being a Resident Assistant really means. It wasn’t about getting the nice, discounted suite or the cool magnetic nametag. And it certainly wasn’t about the power; we weren’t trained to be policemen. It was about being exactly what the job title implied; being an assistant, a resource, for residents of the College. For me, it meant being available for my 46 residents from suites 42-49, having the knowledge to answer their questions about studying, time management, or policies, and just being able to give advice, when needed. Training showed me a lot about independence, and what it really means to demonstrate and speak with confidence.
Training also gave me a chance to bond with friends new and old, whether it was staying attentive during powerpoints or acting out in front of a group. And if this was only training, I’m looking forward to what a semester of experiences such as these will be like.