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Res Life seeks responsible, diverse applicants

December 2, 2010

Residence Assistant staff selection has started, and students have begun the first part of the sign up process.

“All they have to do is answer a few questions and tell us a little bit about themselves, their qualifications and stuff like that,” said Assistant Director for the Department of Residence Life Kristie Feist. “It’s a very simple application.”

Feist said it is important that students have a good understanding of the position and what it entails.

“We look for people who have a genuine interest in helping new students and returning students in the residence halls. We also look for people who bring various leadership skills,  an ability to communicate, organization and the ability to manage their time,” Feist said. “We’re looking for people who are open to all kinds of situations and people who are very accepting and understanding of differences. We’re looking for somebody who is trainable, and willing to work hard.”

The compensation for being a RA is having a room and meal plan paid for and receiving a stipend of $700 per year with Residence Life.

“I think more importantly though what they gain from the experience is a lot of those development in leadership skills with being able to work effectively with others, understanding difference and how that impacts others relationships,”  Feist said, “Students who are in our positions tend to tell us that the position has forced them to be better at time management because of all of the things that they have to balance. The ability to complete tasks, projects and to be successful in the world. They deal with a lot of conflict and resolution, being able to mediate issues and discussions with students. The position really requires you to be really organized and focused as far as being able to manage your time effectively.”

RA’s are responsible for activity planning, safety and security for the residence halls. They also are responsible for building relationships between residents. The time commitment of the position requires availabilty on the evenings and weekends. RA’s typically work 15-20 hours per week.

Thomas Lengyel, the hall manager for McMillan Hall, started off as an RA in the spring of 2008.

“I had a difficult transition between high school and college and went through a lot of personal strife during that transition,” Lengyel said. “After it was all said and done, I have a fairly good understanding of how that transition works and what it should be and what people really should get out of this experience. I wanted to share my experience, share some of the outcomes of my mistakes with the people so that they can hopefully learn from my mistakes and so that they would have a better experience.”

Lengyel said there are challenges that RA’s must face on a regular basis. For example, RA’s must be able to confront and document inappropriate behavior, mediate conflicts between residents, assist residents with compromising and conflict resolution, and to be able to respond to student behavior that may be personal, social, or academic problems.

“Being a RA, there are time management challenges, there are challenges in relationships,” Lengyel said. “I live with 30 people, and we share a bathroom. But when someone breaks policy, I have to confront them. We have to work on behavior and some people don’t take that kindly and choose to retaliate against the RA for doing their job; that can be hard. Other challenges are that it is a time consuming position you live where you work and work where you live. It’s not always the easiest job to have, I have to go to hall programs and advise hall council. It gets hectic.”

Former RA in Hathorn Hall, Priya Kailash said students to realize the high standards of Residence Life and recommends people to review the contract before signing it.

“It’s very demanding and hard work. At the end of the day, it all comes down to who you have as your staff. If you have people who mutually respect each other and want to work things out and communicate to you directly, it’s going to work,” Kailash said. “People should really think about it before applying because the rules are extremely strict. It’s a good way to meet people, but it can consume your life.”

Residence Life also encourages students to carefully read all the information that pertains to the position that they are applying for. They also encourage interested students to talk to other students who are currently working for Residence Life before applying.

“Being an RA, a lot of people look up to you, so that means being there for them and listening, while also providing a good example like what it takes to be a successful student at River Falls,” said Residence Life Area Coordinator Rob Andrews said. “It means that you can have a social life that is good for being a healthy student, and that there are choices that you could make that are poor for you, like breaking the law if you are underage. We don’t tell people that they can’t go out; we tell people to make smart choices.”

RA’s are expected to serve as positive role models for residents, and they are expected to follow residence hall and University policies, as well as state and federal laws. This expectation applies whether the RA is on or off duty, on or off campus.

“A lot of people think that we need a certain type of person to be a RA, but we really need a variety of types of people,” Andrews said. “We could really use almost anyone as a RA; it’s just a mater of the balance of the right team. So someone shouldn’t think that just because they’re not obnoxiously over the top that they couldn’t apply to be a RA. Some of our best RA’s are quiet, calm and even a little shy. It’s a matter of picking the right groups of people to make the right team.”

Applications for Residence Life are due by Feb. 6, via OrgSync.