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New RA reflects on the meaning and responsibilities of taking the job

Misconceptions abound from outside perspectives that construe Eastern RAs as police, chauffeurs, gophers, and reconnaissance for the rest of the Residence Life staff.

During my application process, I understood some portion of the responsibility attached to the position, but I did not know the inluence a single RA’s perspective has.

Last week, abstract discussion became a tangible reality when I had to apply my understanding of the RA’s vision and mission to an eight-mile canoe trip through New Jersey’s Pine Barrens.

Up to that point in our training, I had spent very little time outside my residence hall or away from my fellow staffers.

The actual task at hand appeared fairly straightforward, but the winding waterways we navigated were riddled with fallen trees, sandbars and underwater grasses – all capable of snagging our small vessel.

Several truths about the RA position and the coming year became increasingly evident as my partner and I sat a few feet away from one another learning the other’s strong side and stroke strength.

While my partner had a clearer understanding of the actual mission and I had some understanding of the processes involved, we shared one vision – completing the course.

Only the correct operational processes combined with a specific vision could yield a successful mission.

One aluminum canoe provided the environment where these three elements could interact. My role as an RA provides such a setting on Eastern’s campus.

The goal – the mission – of this institution is that students “become integrated persons who think and behave intentionally as Christians in all of their endeavors.”

On a daily basis, I get to interact with both the processes and the vision that together yield whole, sound people. But I am not just an observer or enforcer. I have the opportunity to be a catalyst within the framework that Eastern establishes for its students – my vision for my hall and our community interacts with the institutional vision for the development of all students.

Frankly, this is terrifying and exhilarating because I feel alternately equipped and unprepared, just as I did in that canoe a week ago.

After that trip, I understand better how vision, mission and process must be intricately linked to produce the desired result.

So even on the days when I don’t think my vision for this year is big enough or good enough, I can refer to those who have realized our collective mission, engage in the proven processes and restore my vision for the coming stretch.

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