Maybe you locked yourself out of your room again, maybe you had an emergency or maybe you really just needed someone. Whatever it may be, when you don’t know what to do, you call your RA. It is hard to exactly pin down what a resident assistant is, because it encompasses a lot of things. In some ways, you’re a friend and in other ways, you’re not.
At some schools, the role of an RA is much less or much more than what it is here at Eastern University. At a larger school, you might have completely different jobs for RAs and other residence life staff, while at a small school like this one, the jobs are all rolled into one. During the course of the job, the RAs plan events, build community on the halls, and to some students’ chagrin, enforce university policy.
Most people understand what an RA does, but what is the essence of what makes a person RA material? At Eastern University, to become a member of this team, you are expected to exemplify Eastern’s values of faith, reason, and justice. Just as we are a school of diverse people and beliefs, so is the residence staff. We all have different and even conflicting ideas about our faith, but what’s important for each RA is that they encourage the development of each and every student’s soul. Our staff, along with the university chaplains, are here to help guide you as you mature both spiritually and intellectually. Reason is paramount, as not every situation is black and white.
Sometimes during the job, an RA might have to make difficult decisions, and the rest of your staff and your resident director are there to support you. Most importantly, an RA (and arguably any Eastern student) must have a passion for justice. How to challenge students to be better, and when to show grace and compassion are essential qualities of a good RA. You’re not here to be a rigid hand of the law, but you also have a responsibility to Eastern University’s very ethos. This is not easy, and requires considerable character.
If you’ve made it this far, good! I haven’t scared you away. The job might sound daunting, and in some ways it is, but Eastern doesn’t need (or want) you to be perfect. It is a job, but the RA program is dedicated to giving you the tools necessary to becoming the very best you can be. There is extensive training on everything from basic counseling skills to conflict resolution, and you are fully expected to fail sometimes. You are going to not know what to do, but that’s why you have a staff of other RAs and RDs that are behind you.
Eastern University is a place wholly concerned with the growth of all its students. As an RA, you both receive and facilitate this mission. We understand that it is only by becoming better ourselves, that we can ever hope to inspire others. Whereas the role of an RA at another school might appear similar, the motivation here is distinct in that we model our method on the leadership and example of Jesus Christ. The first shall be the last, and it is in the service of others that we set ourselves upon the path of righteousness.
My own path, always continuing and surprising me, has lead me to serve in the program for the past two years. As an underclassmen, I was untempered and immature. The first time I applied, I was not accepted to be an RA. It was a huge disappointment, and challenged my self-worth. Eastern didn’t give up on me though. Given time to learn and grow, I was able to join the team going into my junior year. So, if you think you’d like to serve your campus as an RA, apply later this spring semester. We need people with the qualities I’ve mentioned, and don’t be discouraged if you doubt yourself. You just might be surprised what you’re capable of.