By Bill McCartney,
Director of Student Housing at The University of Mississippi
years in college, back in the dark ages of the 1970s
when students wore bell-bottom pants, platform shoes and long sweater
it is deja vue all over again for some of us); I was
often told by others at the university that this is what my experience
as an RA would be
the opportunity of a lifetime. They were right.
After serving as an RA in Hyer Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens
Point, I understood more fully what a tremendous learning and growth opportunity
that I had experienced.
changed. The world has grown infinitely smaller and more inter-related
as travel became affordable and easier. Personal computers now abound
in ever increasing numbers and the Internet has opened new avenues of
learning for everyone from the 6 to 60. Disco is a thing of the past (thankfully).
CDs have replaced 8-tracks and vinyl albums. White House scandals
have come and gone in all shapes and sizes over the years
thing remains constant. The RA position remains the pre-eminent college
leadership experience available for students today. However, even this
position has not been immune to the evolution of higher education.
that has taken place since I was an RA is the opportunity to be a part
of an RA Exchange Program. Where you can take the skills and knowledge
you have learned in your current position and apply them to an RA position
at another college or university. This opportunity exists today thru the
National Student Exchange program.
in 1968 with seven participating universities, the National Student Exchange
program is currently an association of 174 colleges and universities that
are dedicated to providing reciprocal exchange opportunities for students.
While the organization houses its home office in Fort Wayne, Indiana,
it operates in 49 of our 50 states, 3 U.S. territories and 3 Canadian
provinces. Students accepted for exchange under this program can choose
to spend up to one academic year at any of the cooperating institutions
that accept them for exchange. This coming year, more than 4,500 students
will be placed on exchange by participating NSE campuses.
Student Exchange (NSE) was founded as a counterpart for the study abroad
programs that existed around the country. It is based upon the premise
that students gain tremendous personal value and growth from being exposed
to new cultures, peoples and places. Not every student is ready to explore
foreign lands because of restrictions due to language barriers, cost and
program compatibility. Exchange within North America and or U.S. territories
can remove these obstacles for students.
from the normal exchange process is an avenue for RAs to seek an
exchange with another institution. This allows them to continue to serve
in the capacity of an RA while on exchange thus maintaining not only a
valuable personal growth experience, but allowing for these students to
maintain a source of income that can help to fund the exchange process.
for selection to be a part of the RA portion of the NSE program is independent
from the general placement of all other NSE students. Placement requires
that an RA meet all of the general requirements of all students on exchange
in addition to seeking recommendations from their current supervisor and/or
the Director of Student Housing prior to applying. Placement occurs only
after the host school has had a chance to review recommendations and have
some type of other contact with the RA who wishes to attend and work at
the host school. Rarely, if ever, would selection as an RA involve travel
to the host school for an interview. If accepted as an RA to a specific
school, you are guaranteed placement at that institution as a part of
the general NSE placement process.
year, The University of Mississippi sent out three of our RAs for
placement under this program. One of them went to The University of Rhode
Island; another to Buffalo State University; and the third to Western
State College of Colorado where she had to say this about her experience
of these students have had an outstanding experience this past year. They
have gotten to experience a small slice of the diverse culture that we
have in the U.S. and learn to adapt and grow as a result of these experiences.
They have truly had the opportunity of a lifetime! Are you ready for yours?
below are some commonly asked questions about the National Student Exchange
program. These have been taken from the NSE website and altered to apply
to the RA portion of their program as necessary.
Exchange Be To Any College Or University?
can exchange only to and from campuses that are members of the National
Student Exchange. For a full list of member schools, please visit the
NSE web page at http://www.nse.org/.
Please note: Not all NSE schools participate in the RA exchange program.
A full listing of participating schools is available on the previously
listed web site.
Are The Eligibility Requirements?
must be full-time students at the home campus both at the time of application
and in the term prior to exchange. Students must be in good standing financially,
socially and academically on the home campus with a minimum GPA of 2.5
on a 4.0 scale at the time of application and at the conclusion of the
term prior to going on exchange. Students must meet any other qualifications
determined by the home campuses. Students are expected to comply with
any additional academic requirements or regulations specified by the host
campus such as a higher GPA for a specific program of study as published
in the NSE Directory. Students must be enrolled as full-time students
while on exchange.
need to directly contact the college or university that they wish to attend
and discuss RA application processes for them as an NSE student. Approval
and recommendations from your immediate supervisor and the Director of
Housing where you are currently enrolled are essential to be considered
Will It Cost?
member campus determines which of the following fee payment plans it will
use. Under Plan B students pay their normal tuition and fees to their
home campus. Under Plan A students pay the in-state (resident) tuition
and fees at their host campus. Room and meals are always paid at the host
campus. Also paid to the host campus, regardless of the tuition payment
plan, are fees that are assessed as a condition of enrollment (e.g., laboratory,
general service, computer, technology, art and photography supplies, etc.).
You will also be responsible for transportation, personal expenses, and
sightseeing opportunities while on exchange.
As an RA,
you will earn compensation for your efforts consistent with what the host
school pays to their own staff.
I Access Financial Aid?
aid is applied for, awarded by, and disbursed from the campus at which
you pay your tuition and fees for exchange. You should complete your Free
Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form for federal financial
aid by February 15. List on the form the campus code of any college or
university where there is the possibility to be accepted on Plan A as
well as your home campus.
About Courses And Grades?
campus determines the manner in which your host campus grades are recorded
and courses are distributed. You should consult with your academic advisor
regarding course selection prior to going on exchange and preferably during
the time you are exploring possible host campuses.
Is The Length Of Exchange?
may be for periods up to one full calendar year. They may be for a single
term, year, or consecutive terms including a summer not to exceed one
year. Occasionally a student may exchange in a term during a sophomore
year and another term in a junior or senior year. Any pattern is acceptable
as long as the total, combined exchange is no longer than one, full calendar
an exchange process as an RA, it is essential that you commit to a full
academic year exchange. Community continuity with an RA is an important
part of the development of evolution of any floor. In order for this development
to flourish, most housing programs insist on hiring RAs only for
the full academic year. Anything less than this length of commitment on
your part will inhibit your chances of arranging an exchange as an RA.
Student Am I While On Exchange?
are subject to the rules and regulations of the host campus while on exchange.
In addition, they remain as degree-seeking students at the home institution
and are representing the home institution while on exchange. Therefore,
they must meet academic requirements of the home campus and maintain standards
of the home and host campuses to remain program participants.
About the Author
Bill McCartney currently serves in the role of Director of Student Housing at The University of Mississippi. He has also served as the Director of Housing at The University of North Carolina at Wilmington and The University of North Florida. Bill started his career in student affairs as an RA and Orientation Leader at The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and received his Masters Degree from Ball State University before moving into the field. He has been active in ACUHO-I, Little League Baseball and raising his two teen aged children...which is a job in and of itself!