By definition, the word collaboration is defined as “the act of working jointly.” It is a word that I have has become a foundation to my beliefs as a residence life professional, especially when it comes to programming.
This professional thinks collaboration is the key when it comes to battling budget shortcomings. Collaboration is becoming more and more accepted at institutions across the country. It is no longer a rarity to see an Admissions department and Student Activities office working together. There is great value in the collaboration between departments and student organizations as well as individual RAs.
What are the benefits of promoting a programming model that encourages collaboration and team programming?
1. Higher attendance and response to RA programs.
As noted by Ms. Frost’s previous article, residence life professionals at IUP found that programs planned collaboratively by two or three RAs were better attended and provided for more interactions amongst residents.
When one of my RAs plans a typical program for his residents, he might reach an audience of 10 to 20 students, but if he works with another RA, he instantly multiplies his audience. Different RAs have connections with different kinds of residents; therefore more people always tend to show up for a program that was a result of teamwork and collaboration.
2. Higher quality programs.
Theoretically, when you co-sponsor or collaborate on a program, you have twice the people involved. The assumption is that the end result will be a program of higher quality. If there is one thing needed in the Residence Life profession right now, it’s for more focus on quality and less on quantity, in terms of the number of programs.
3. Less financial commitment.
Most of us are facing budget shortages, and collaboration is a very popular remedy to this problem. If one of your RAs chooses to collaborate on a program with another office or organization on campus, this automatically takes half of the financial burden off of your department. Our RAs are constantly being asked to turn $100 into multiple programs, and this isn’t always the easiest task.
4. A sense of community.
When groups of people – whether it is several RAs or two different student organizations on campus – collaborate for the purpose of planning a program, there is always more of a sense of community present. Collaboration brings together unlikely groups of people for a common cause.
5. Less competitiveness.
Our college students are competitive individuals. All of our student leaders – RAs included –want to plan better events than one another. Everyone wants to host the “best program ever!” There’s nothing wrong with a little competitiveness, but we can eliminate this edgy, counterproductive competitiveness by encouraging a programming model that encourages elements of collaboration.
6. Encourages a look at the “big picture.”
As the supervisors and advisors to RAs, we should be encouraging our student leaders to think about collaborating more often. I think we will find that our students will become less selfish and more apt to consider the “big picture”. In addition, they will learn to appreciate collaboration as a concept long after earning their bachelor’s or associate’s degree.
7. Fewer conflicting ideas & programs.
When RAs program together and student groups collaborate, there is a reduction in the duplication of similar events. Especially at smaller institutions like my own, there is a need for students to be aware of what else is happening on campus when they plan their events. RAs are always a bit perturbed when someone else steps on their toes by planning a program just like their own or plans an event that will take away students who would have potentially attended their program.
Submitted by Brian Root, Resident Director, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg