The Life and Times of an EU Residential Assistant

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016 at 10:36 PM
The Life and Times of an EU Residential Assistant by Kimberly Firestine

In a world where it’s less “love your neighbor” and more “keep to yourself,” there’s one group of students on any college campus whose job it is to actually care about everyone else. They are there to help make that high school transition easier and to build a community among a group of people, most often strangers.

Every floor of each residential hall in Edinboro has at least one residential assistant (RA). While the idea of an RA is stigmatized as “paid narc,” what they do on campus is more beneficial to one’s housing and educational experience than most students realize. They look to create a place that is not only conducive to learning, but is also safe and comfortable for its residents.

While some may choose the freedom of off campus housing over living in the dorms, there are possible perks those students may be missing out on by not becoming or remaining part of the residential community.

“Living on campus helps to get you more involved with clubs and friends,” said Natalie Nye, second semester RA for the second floor of Earp Hall, which no longer will be a selectable dorm after this semester for most students. The floor is reportedly remaining open for some students.

“It provides you with the opportunity to make friends in close proximity to you,” she said.

For Kaz Himes, once an RA and now a graduate hall coordinator, the programming that each RA puts on in the dorms is an essential part to helping build the feeling of community.

“As an RA, we like to tailor programming to encompass things that residents want to do, but also things that they need to help them learn,” Himes said. “People keep burning ramen because they don’t add water? Let’s make a program to teach that.”

Along with Nye and Himes, Earp Hall first floor RA Nicole Rose believes strongly in the positive aspects that living on campus and being part of a floor community provides.

“Students should stay on campus because they have more of an opportunity of making friends and getting contacts for the future,” said Rose. “You’re more likely to go to class if you live on campus and [to] make sure that you have food on your table.”

Before the spring semester began, students living in Earp were offered the chance to move into the Highlands at the same rate they were currently paying for their housing. This was a direct effect of the decline in enrollment and problems with retention.

“One of the most difficult things about the move has been the easy access to other people,” Himes said. “In traditional, the rooms are smaller so it’s a lot more common to see people hanging out in the common areas.”

Himes also stated that in the Highlands, students tend to spend more time their rooms and with their hallway doors closed, creating barriers to effective relationships between students.

On the second floor of Rose Hall, RA Zachary Ross was inspired to become an RA by his desire to help ensure campus safety and enforce rules put in place to serve as safety precautions within the community. While Ross does enjoy his role at Rose Hall, the recent movement of students from traditional housing to the Highlands has hindered his attempts at building a community with those on his floor.

“As RAs we are tasked to build the feeling of community. When a room becomes available in the Highlands, residents of Rose Hall are moved to fill the vacancy,” Ross said. “This can be frustrating as an RA to lose residents periodically throughout a semester when attempting to create a sense of belonging and community among a floor.”

Third floor Rose Hall RA Ella Regan loves the diverse cultural experience she gets out of the job as well as the community experience.

“Being an RA and living on campus provides the opportunity to meet new people who you may not have met in any other situation,” Regan said. “This exposes us to different cultures, languages and lifestyles — pretty much everything imaginable in a residence hall – we get to experience it.”

Dr. Amy Franklin-Craft, the director of residence life and housing, strongly believes in the benefits of remaining in on-campus housing and how it can fulfill the natural need to belong to a group.

“People who feel a part of a group are more likely to stay affiliated with that group. This is true for all humans; it’s what keeps us involved in clubs, activities, civic organizations,” said Franklin-Craft.

Franklin-Craft continued, “the community in the hall serves several purposes in addition to retention of the students at the university. It serves to help the student understand and acclimate to the campus culture and become more quickly embedded at the university as an Edinboro student.”

Franklin-Craft also stated that residential communities on campus benefit students educationally as well as socially.

“Where else can one live with 40 other students (on the floor alone) and learn to negotiate values and personal vs. group needs, as well as be exposed to individuals whose life experiences vary widely from their own,” she said. “The diversity of the residential community is not necessarily found elsewhere.”

While students spend their days traipsing in and out of their resident halls, those who work them do so to keep Edinboro a safe and close-knit community. Whether it’s through the programs they put on, the rules they enforce or the support they provide those living in their hallways, being a residential assistant means being there for your residents and learning valuable life lessons and skills along the way.

Kimberly Firestine is a Senior Staff Writer for The Spectator.

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