It’s no secret that the biggest perk of becoming a resident assistant at Boston University is the free room and board — and for many prospective RAs, that’s more than enough motivation. However, there’s a lesser-known but still important benefit to being an RA, says Warren Towers RA Alexandra Mendonca: at a point in college life when many students find themselves in a rut, it provides a welcome change in routine.
“I needed something new,” says Mendonca (SAR’07), a first-time RA this year. “I wanted to meet a new group of people.”
RA selection began at the end of October, and continues through January 19; interested students can see a schedule of required information sessions and download an application at the Office of Residence Life Web site. To be eligible, students must be juniors or seniors in the next academic year.
The responsibilities can seem significant, says Laura De Veau (CGS’87, COM’89, SED’95), the assistant director of Residence Life — RAs come back to campus early for two weeks of intensive training, which covers situations ranging from roommate conflicts to suicide risks. During the year, the time commitment is typically 20 hours a week, sometimes more. And RAs are responsible for maintaining regular contact with students on their floor to make sure everything’s all right.
For most RAs, however, the benefits outweigh the burdens, according to De Veau. “They say it provides some transferable skills that they don’t necessarily get in the classroom — conflict mediation, teamwork, being able to assist people, problem-solving,” she says. “A lot of times, what we’ll hear from people is that it gave them a leg up when applying for jobs or promotions. They can say, ‘I had to make tough decisions, take risks, confront my fears.’”
Jesse Rodgers (CAS’07), an RA in Claflin Hall, says that being an RA sounds like a lot of work, but the summer training sessions go a long way toward making the job manageable. “It’s really comprehensive,” he says. “They taught us how to deal with each situation, and how to talk to the students in an effective way to deal with whatever problems might occur.”
The Office of Residence Life tries to find a wide range of students during RA selection, seeking out candidates from different schools and colleges, with different interests that fully represent the student body. Self-confidence and common sense are key, De Veau says, as well as a demonstrated interest in learning and having new experiences. The best candidates, she says, are those students that see being an RA as an opportunity to take on new responsibilities and build new skills.
“This gives students something to look back on, in terms of their own experiences,” De Veau says. “The other thing is, they get to have fun.”
Jessica Ullian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.