Friend on your floor: RAs go beyond the call of room checksBy Kaylee Kemp | 11/12/2017 8:59pm
By Kaylee Kemp | Contributing Writer
Residential advisors are always on call. As a freshman, you may or may not have noticed their goings-on, but they were always there. While room checks are often dreaded, and checking out of your dorm before holidays can be a hassle, RAs are around for more than just the administrative aspects of dormitory living.
RAs often sacrifice living in an apartment or a house to continue living in the dorms with freshmen. There's a lot of work that goes into keeping a floor running smoothly.
“I love meeting and talking with the new students and listening to what they love and hate about the classes,” said Anthony Lipscomb, a residential advisor in Lakeside East and a senior majoring in transmedia marketing.
The advisors often participate in different programs each week to keep in touch with the students on their floor.
“We do programs that focus on different pillars that housing prides ourselves on,” Lipscomb said.
Another RA, Kirkland Shuler, a junior majoring in vocal performance and RA in Ridgecrest East, helped to articulate a savvy floor map to make residents aware of their geographical diversity.
“The RAs trace a giant map of the United States [and] hang it up in the first floor common space and then we have pizza [and] play music while the residents put a sticker on where their hometown is,” Shuler said. “It’s a really awesome way for new students to see if there are people from the same city or state as they are.”
RAs are also expected to help students in their first year on campus and answer any questions they may have about college life at UA.
“[It's] just telling the students what is expected of them and just showing them that you are a student too," Lipscomb said. "If you tell them how it is they will hopefully respect you and the building,”
Shuler remembers one night where she was called to help a student in need.
“I responded to a heartbreaking situation my first year as an RA, and I still think about it sometimes and even though it’s hard, you know the resident came to you because they felt that they needed you and you could help them somehow,” Shuler said. “So you push through your own feelings about the situation and immediately start working to do whatever that resident needs.”
Since advisors must live with younger students, they often partake in being involved and in communication with the freshmen on their floors.
“Building a relationship with all the residents is an important part of being an RA,” said Mady Epplin, a sophomore majoring in business. “Learning their names and a little about them, establishing trust with them. Letting them know they can come to you with their problems by being approachable is all part of it.”
Epplin is an RA in Riverside West, and she goes the extra mile by dressing up her floor as the weeks go by.
“Personally I love decorating the board on my floor and posting fun reminders and nice things that they hopefully appreciate,” Epplin said.
Of course like any job, there are some downsides. Missing out on living in an apartment or house with close friends is a takeaway from the experience, Epplin said. But RAs are still always on call for just about anything dorm residents may need when it comes to lock-outs, school advice or maybe even a few words of encouragement.
“I don’t think I really think there are many negatives to becoming an RA," Lipscomb said. "I always loved the social aspect of being on campus and seeing all of the people I live with walking to class.”
Zack Smith, a senior mechanical engineering major, was an RA for one and half years. Despite slower aspects of the job, his experience was a positive one.
"One of the most unexpected perks of the RA job is the awesome team you get to work with," Smith said. "For me it was always fun to get to work with the staff, and it made some of the more boring parts of the job much more exciting."
It never fails that RAs encounter unusual experiences due to living in the dorms. It’s often hard to know what to expect living in an environment such as UA’s freshmen dorms.
“I had a loose cat in my building and I had to figure out why it was in the building," Lipscomb said. “Long story short, the cat is now at a shelter thanks to some of the residents in my building.”