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Making the Life of An RA Easier

By Michael Bredehoft, Resident Assistant, Bethany College

The life of a RA is busy, to say the least. Managing the position along with other commitments such as academics, outside curricular activities, and a personal life can be challenging. The following information provides easy tips to make the busy life of a RA a bit easier.

Putting your Personal Signature on the Hall

A residence hall is a college student’s home away from home. It should be warm and inviting and a safe place to live. By putting your “personal signature” on the hall, you can make it feel more like home for both you and your residents.

A way to add your “personal signature” is to decorate the hall seasonally. It is fun for residents to decorate for holidays such as Halloween and Christmas. By decorating, you can put the hall in a festive mood as well as allow resident to feel that they are an important part of the hall. Decorations make a residence hall feel a lot more like a home and less like countless individual rooms.

Getting People Involved

One of the challenges of being a resident assistant is getting everyone in the hall involved. There are a couple of techniques I have found that make this easier. They are competition, food, and providing programs that interest your residents.

Healthy competition is key to getting residents involved. At Bethany College, we have what is called the Ultimate Swede Challenge. It is a competition between the residence halls. You earn points throughout the year by doing programs and activities as a section or hall. One competition we had was the Penny Challenge. We collected pennies, other change and bills for the United Way. Pennies were positive points for your hall, everything else was negative points for the other halls. Last year we collected over $1000. The reason this activity was so successful was because of the competition between the halls. If residents have a goal of a challenge, they are much more likely to respond and participate.

The second thing you obviously need is food. Food is a key ingredient to good attendance at a program. We all know the financial status of college students, and good, free food can make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful program.

Of most importance is doing things that are of interest to your residents. This requires you to really know your residents and their likes and dislikes. Completing an interest survey of your residents is strongly recommended. Success breeds success. Do one successful programs and residents are more likely to participate in future programs. Prizes are also a good idea for encouraging participation.

Using university events as programming options

Some programs require a lot of planning. Some do not. Programming can be made easy if you take advantage of the many activities that are already being offered on your campus.

Consider campus musical programs. By taking your residents to musical performances or recitals, you can introduce them to different types of music, as well as support students in their achievements. Musical performances generally do not get the same recognition or support from the student body as sporting events, but can be every bit as much important as a programming option.

And what about those sporting events? The student body may not attend sports such as volleyball, soccer, tennis or cross-country. This is another opportunity to support fellow students and these sports can be just as exciting as football or basketball, and they provide your residents with opportunities to interact, support the team, and show school spirit.

Bulletin Boards Made Easy

Creating bulletin boards are a part of most RA job descriptions. Sometimes it is hard to find the time and creativity to put together an excellent board each month. Consider these ideas for making bulletin boards easier and less time consuming.

The first way to make changing bulletin boards easier is to separate your bulletin board into two sections. On one section, post campus events, residence life information, and general school information. Rather than place this information sporadically throughout the residence hall, it is easier for residence to get what they need from one location. You can continually change this half of the board whenever events pass and new events need to be posted. It takes only a second to post new events and this can be a valuable tool for residents.

Another way to make changing your board easier is to have a theme and change it slightly throughout the year. A former resident assistant put up a skeleton for Halloween for his October bulletin board. He then had a Thanksgiving skeleton, Christmas skeleton, etc. This was easy to change and residents looked forward to seeing the new “twist” to the bulletin board each month. I had a “Michael’s Thought for the Week” board, where I placed quotes that fit the cycle and time of the year. It was very easy to change the quote once a week.

Closing Thoughts

Simple things can make the R.A. position easier to manage. Be creative as you think of other ideas along the way. By making things simple, you’ll have more time to spend developing meaningful relationships and positively impacting the lives of the residents you live and work with. After all…that’s really what being an RA is all about!

About the Author

Michael Bredehoft is currently in his senior year at the Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas. He has worked in Residence Life for three years as a Resident Assistant. In addition to his RA duties, he is very active on campus, participating in intercollegiate cross country and track as well as being involved in many campus ministry groups. He plans to graduate this May with a degree in Chemistry Education and teach high school science in the fall. Please e-mail Michael with comments at michaelbredehoft@yahoo.com.