Loyola University New Orleans Department of Residential Life is a featured program on www.reslife.net
Each year, the Resident Assistant team returned approximately two weeks prior to the start of the semester to go through a rigorous training process preparing them to become the best Resident Assistants possible. At the close of that training, the professional team has spent time collecting formal and informal feedback on the process. For a few years, the team continued to hear that the process felt too long because too much material was being covered, it was too fast AND current training practices required the returning staff to sit through many of the same presentations which became tedious and disengaging.
After some research and brainstorming, the Residential Life team created a Resident Assistant Class which is hosted late each spring for all new staff. The department has created a syllabus and course outline for the required five week course, including outlines for what knowledge and skills are being focused on for each of the two-hour sessions. The five-week class gives the new staff an opportunity to develop relationships amongst themselves and the supervising staff, to learn more about the basics of their roles, to gain insight into the departmental mission and goals, and to begin to absorb information about the Community Development model. When students return for fall training, shorter review sessions can help students get back into the correct mindset and more time can be devoted to the skills and knowledge that they will need to apply throughout the year on a daily basis.
Course Break Down
Getting Started: Meet & Greet with All New, Returning, and Departing Staff
Week 1: Introduction to the Course and Professional Development
Review the course syllabus & readings
Review the Resident Assistant job description
Sign employment contracts and statements of confidentiality
Discussion Board: Discuss three hopes that you have for the community on your floor and what skills you hope to gain in this course that can help your community reach those goals or meet those expectations.
Week 2: Diversity & Social Justice Theory
Discuss multiculturalism as it relates to our campus community
Discuss communication strategies
Discussion Board: Discuss one of the challenges you feel our student body is facing regarding multiculturalism and how you hope to work towards a change in culture on your floor, with your students.
Week 3: Community Action and Engagement
Review Student Code of Conduct
Review and discuss the Community Development Model
Discussion Board: Discuss one of your concerns regarding addressing student violations of the Code of Conduct and how you hope to overcome that concern.
Week 4: Leadership Development & Application
Define Leadership & Styles of Leadership
Strengths Quest Overview & Small Group Discussion
Discussion Board: How do you hope to utilize your Strengths Quest Themes of Talent with residents in the coming year?
Week 5: Self-Care and Resilience Training
Presentations on Experiencing Differences Projects
Discuss resiliency and self-care as it relates to being student & staff
Complete a Resilience Plan and Self-Care Plan
Complete Course Evaluation
Experiencing Differences Project: In this exercise, students embark on a “cultural excursion,” in which they deliberately step outside your personal comfort zone and familiar cultural surroundings and into a culture different than their own. With their partners they select an activity/event/population/etc. with which they have had limited or no experience with prior to exploring this project. The experience must be two or more hours and will be concluded with a team presentation and personal reflection paper.
After completing two years of the course, the Resident Assistant Class and Resident Assistant training feedback both reflect improvements with student staff feeling more educated regarding their roles and, as a whole, less stressed prior to move-in day, and more connected with their peers and support system.
Submitted by Chris Rice, Associate Director of Residential Life, Loyola University New Orleans