It is up to you to decide the type of Resident Assistant you are going to be, and this will reflect on the character and behavior of your residents.
As a Resident Assistant, one of your tasks is to assist incoming students transition from a high school environment to that of a college level. As much as they want to get away from their homes, change is a difficult thing for most students; unforeseen complications arise, and they turn to you for advice.
So how can you help your residents ease in to the college environment?
Be a strong role model. No, you don’t have to sacrifice your social life to be one, but you probably can’t afford to be seen passed out at a local bar. Because now, there are dozens of eyes studying you, looking up to you, deciding what is appropriate and what is not. As a role model to the incoming students, you set the standard that you expect them to live up to. As an old timer, you have an opportunity to mold and an obligation to guide your residents to become wiser young adults after a year of being with you.
Keeping your word. Being a strong role model means keeping your word. If you promise something to your residents, deliver it. By keeping your word, you earn something that is essential to building a solid relationship with your residents – respect.
Be a diplomatic leader. Remember what Sir Winston Churchill said, “I am always ready to learn, but I do not always like being taught.” Imagine that you have 40 Winston Churchills, get the picture? As a diplomatic leader, you will have to distinguish situations where a direct approach might not be as effective as an indirect approach. Remember, if you push too hard, they’ll push back. As a Resident Assistant, you will have to find a balance.
Build community and program. As a Resident Assistant use programming as a tool to build a sense of community on your floor, to inform about sexually transmitted infections and safe sex, as well as responsible drinking. In the beginning, it will be relatively easy to get residents to come to your programs and/or floor meetings, yet with time, it will not be so easy. So aside from being informative, try to make your programs: short, fun, and remember the power of the lure of free food.
Be firm and just. This is perhaps one of the more important qualities you can possess as a Resident Assistant that will help your resident’s transition and mature. With all the change going on in their lives, your residents will look for a source of stability. You should be that source. This means that when you have your first floor meeting lay down the rules, draw the line, and stick to it. Your residents will test your determination, and you will have to let them know that you were not kidding. By sticking to your rules, you 1) keep your word thus earning more respect, and 2) send a message that you cannot be pushed around. Yet, while being firm on your word, always be just. Understand that everything is not black and white, and that there are circumstances no one can predict.
Educate about change. Remind your residents often of what John Fitzgerald Kennedy said about change “[it] is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
Submitted by Vitaliy Voznyak, Resident Assistant, Loyola University New Orleans