There are several features that distinguish apartment living from traditional hall living. I have been a resident assistant in both settings and will speak to what I have learned about the unique challenges of being an RA in an apartment style facility.
First and foremost, I discovered that, as an RA in apartment-style housing, I had to try harder to develop a community within my building. I had to make numerous extra efforts to get my residents out of their apartments, whether it was by knocking on doors more often or being more creative with my programming. After all, you can’t get to know your residents when they’re locked up in their apartment all day.
It became abundantly clear that my residents had everything they needed in the comfort of their own apartments, which was a very good thing yet a very bad thing all at the same time. The open-door policy that I saw in other traditional halls on campus was literally non-existent at first in my building. So I had to lead by example.
I enacted a plan to do as much as possible to get my residents interacting with one another. I always had my apartment door open. I started a monthly newsletter that listed birthdays and featured different residents in each issue. I developed programs that required residents to come out into the lobby area or go to one another’s rooms. I planned holiday decorating parties for our building lobby. Slowly but surely I saw some changes. They came with a great deal of persistence. So, that’s lesson number two – be persistent.
I recognized that my residents had more of a respect for their privacy now that they lived in an apartment. In traditional halls, there is very little privacy. You share bathrooms, TVs and telephones. That is not the case in an apartment.
Resident Assistants preparing to move into an apartment or suite-style environment need to be prepared. Be prepared to make those extra efforts. As is always the case, extra effort always distinguishes you in any situation from others who go day-to-day doing the minimum.
Submitted by Brian Root, Graduate Resident Director, Indiana University of Pennsylvania