With countless responsibilities and never-ending to-do lists, the life of a resident assistant is far from easy and often under-appreciated.
Devoting anywhere between six to ten hours per week to the position of an RA may seem like nothing to some people, but when juggling academic endeavors, other jobs and a personal life – those ten extra hours stack up.
One of the biggest responsibilities an RA has is to help create and maintain a safe and inclusive environment for students who live in on-campus housing. Seth Gubler, executive director of auxiliaries and director of housing and resident life, said RAs accomplish this by:
- Connecting students to resources
- Performing cleaning checks and nightly rounds
- Helping students fill out roommate agreements
- Reporting on any suspicious or concerning behavior
- Assisting in check-ins and check-outs for residents
- Helping perform roommate mediation
- Attending weekly meetings and trainings
Resident assistant Ian Nevius, a sophomore psychology major from Salt Lake City, said although the job is rewarding, it is also very “time-dependent.”
“I’d say it can be very, very time consuming, especially as you get into midterms and finals,” Nevius said. “Although our managers are really good at wanting to accommodate us, there are certain responsibilities that we just can’t miss.”
Despite being time consuming, Nevius said he enjoys being a leader and a voice for the students in his housing complex.
“You interact with anywhere from 40 to 50 residents that you’re over for a semester or a year, so it helps you gain connections,” said resident assistant Alexis Saldivar, a senior accounting major from West Valley City. “It helps you meet people and have a good time.”
Because there are so many different people in on-campus housing, Saldivar said there are many conflicts that arise within the lives of the students, and as an RA, they must be aware of what problems the residents are facing.
Luckily, a week-long training before the start of the school year allows the RAs to be trained on how to approach conflict and successfully handle it in the housing environment.
Resident Manager Siera Butler said the “intensive” training includes Housing and Resident Life staff and other Utah Tech University departments where they cover a number of topics including but not limited to:
- Emergency and crisis response
- Justice, equity, diversity and inclusion
- Conflict mediation and connect with residents
- Campus resources
- Title IX
“After this intense week of training, they begin acting in their role as a RA as residents move in the following week,” Butler said. “Throughout each semester, we meet weekly to continue to train and review important information, and at the start of spring semester, we hold a one-day training to review and refresh many of these same topics.”
Butler said the intensity of the training RAs undergo is because they are the “first-line responders” for almost every situation housing staff encounter with on-campus housing.
“Our RAs do an incredible job at maintaining and providing safety and security with on-campus housing through their awareness, presence and their careful response to situations as needed,” Butler said.
Because RAs help enforce the rules for on-campus housing, Nevius said a downside to the position is being viewed in a negative light.
“I feel like we’re kind of looked at like the cops of the campus, which is a really unfortunate part of the business,” Nevius said. “We’re just trying to watch out for the students, while still being as cool as we can and interacting with students on a day-to-day basis.”
Nevius received a new group of students to interact with when he was relocated from the Nisson Towers to the University Inn due to the towers being torn down and eventually replaced with Campus View Suites III.
“[Moving] definitely gave me a little bump in the road because the hardest part was actually losing residents that I’ve already spent the semester with,” Nevius said. “Once I was able to get through the move, it was pretty relaxed and now I have a new community.”
Being able to adapt to situations like Nevius did is needed to succeed as an RA, and Butler said there are many other qualities an RA must possess in order to be hired.
“We look for individuals who are responsible and engaged students,” Butler said. “We seek applicants who have the interest and potential to learn and thrive in their communities.”
Along with this, Butler said the housing team seeks individuals who are creative, organized, positive, responsible, energetic and mature.
RA applications for the 2023-2024 school year are now open. Students interested in becoming an RA can apply online using their D-number and password. After logging in, they can click on “Form” where they can find the RA application.
“Make sure that if you want to be an RA you can dedicate the time and the energy because it’s not just a title, it’s a job and it’s a position that you have to fill,” Saldivar said. “Being able to dedicate your time is going to be important because a lot of people look at it as just a cool experience, but there’s a lot more to it.”
Not only can students gain leadership experience, personal growth, networking skills and college connections, but they can also receive financial benefits in the form of a rent-free private room in on-campus housing, Gubler said.
“It’s a hard role,” Gubler said. “I think it’s often under-appreciated or maybe not fully understood, but it’s an important one, and we wouldn’t have a strong product if we didn’t have our RAs. The RAs really make a difference.”