You are about to embark on your career as an RA and one of the biggest responsibilities is programming. Some of you may have a floor of 10 residents or 25 residents or even more. You are their Resident Assistant for that floor or wing. What do they want? What do they need?
There are steps to implementing a very successful first program:
The questions above, “What do they want?” and “What do they need?” can be answered by surveys. You need to assess your residents’ needs. All too often RAs attempt to plan programs without assessing the needs of their residents. Assessing needs or areas of interest of your residents is the first and most important step in planning successful programs. Assessing your residents’needs can be done simply by using a questionnaire. A questionnaire could list a number of programs and ask residents to note how they feel about having those programs on their floor. If you use this method, stick to it and do your best to meet their needs. Just don’t stop there. You can update your questionnaire with your residents intermittently throughout the year. You are not alone.
Now you’ve looked over the questionnaires and come up with a great idea for a program. You have to decide where to have it. Set a date, but check with your Resident Director and Resident Assistants (perhaps at a staff meeting) to see if other events are planned at that time. A major goal of every RA is to build a sense of community. Programming is a great way to do this. It is the key developmental tool for creating community. Involving your residents as much as possible in the programming process is key to helping build community. They will have a sense of responsibility into the program and respect the program much more. You are not alone.
Plan for the Details
It’s time to take care of the details. Ask yourself, “Will this program be interactive? Will the residents learn about a topic, each other and even themselves?”
Advertising Your Program
You did all this work and now you have to get them there. In your advertising, use the 5 W’s: who, what, where, why, and when. Some programs require greater advance advertising than others. Typically the more complicated the program, the more advance notice you may need to provide. Advertise again a week and perhaps a few days before the program. You should remind your residents the day of the program. Be creative with your advertisements. Use different size letters, bright colors, and large signs.
It’s Showtime! for your program, you may have a special guest. You should communicate with them to arrive early enough to make sure all last minute details are handled. Introduce your presenter. Make them feel welcomed and always thank them after the program.
Now, your efforts for this program need to be evaluated. This is probably the most important part of the process. This could help you plan future activities. An evaluation may be verbal or in written form. Do not judge your program on the attendance. How was the audience participation? Was it worth the residents’ time to attend? Ask your residents if their needs were satisfied.
Many Resident Assistants have requirements to fulfill social/educational programming in their residence halls. You may be one, but consider yourself as a whole when it comes to programming. Do not try to re-invent the wheel on programming. Use the many resources available to you: fellow Resident Assistants, your Resident Director, and websites such as www.reslife.net or www.residentassistant.com. Have fun and relax. Your program will be successful if you follow the above steps. Remember, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Submitted by Michael Wacksman, Residence Hall Director, SUNY Cobleskill