Keys to College Success: Get Experience

Last week I talked about how professional networking is a great thing to participate in when you’re in college because it will help you get a job. This week I figured I’d do a slight backtrack to explain how you get those professional connections. (True it would have made sense to do this first, but sleep deprivation is a thing sometimes and this order still kind of works.)

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Keys To College Success: Get Involved

Since freshman year I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, as most college student do. I wondered if I’d ever find my “clique,” a group of people that I would hang out with for all of my college years.  The problem was that I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know what clubs to join, what to get involved in, if Greek life was right for me, if I should focus on my schoolwork, etc. How do you conquer that? How do you find out where to go? Ideally you’d make it all sync with your major, but how do you even start with that? How do you know if it’s the right one?

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Last Semester of College

Well, I’ve made it, folks! Four grueling years of hard work has paid off. I survived convergence reporting, which, in all honesty, I thought I would never do. It was hard but it was worth it, just like everything else I’ve been through over the years. That seems so cliche but it’s the truth.

This semester I will be blogging every week for my convergence editing class but I was having trouble thinking of what my overall topic should be. It’s rumored that the blogs for convergence editing should have some sort of original multimedia. Now that I’ve started writing this post I think I’ll write posts about motivation and all of the scary things you encounter that don’t have to be that scary. In other words, I’d like to have a blog with some purpose for others.

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Life of an “RA” : Enforcing the Rules

Photo credit: Electronic Frontier Foundation (flickr)

Photo credit: Electronic Frontier Foundation (flickr)

So, here’s how life of an “RA” is in a nutshell: you were hired to be this supportive force, to befriend the awkward freshmen as they get their “college legs,” to make sure that everyone is involved. But let’s be real…this is college…students make their own life decisions. So, another layer to being an “RA” is to make sure they’re safe, to make sure that there are no illegal substances in the building and to overall enforce the  University Residential Life rules that the residents agreed to when they signed their housing contracts. That’s the hard part–how do you lay down the law so to speak, while still being their friend and mentor?

I bring this up because I was on-call last Thursday (also known as Halloween…also known as no-sleep-night). Everything was fine and dandy until about 2:30am. So, I guess it wasn’t Halloween that was the problem, it was November 1. Anyway, I can’t go into details because that would violate the FERPA contract I signed as well as several other Residential Life policies, but my residents decided to have fun in a different way than a boring student such as myself would. Mind you, these were residents that I’ve really bonded with, that are involved on the floor, that have been in the hall since day one– literally.

Photo credit: Paul Anderson (flickr)

Photo credit: Paul Anderson (flickr)

Again, how do you enforce the rules without cutting off all the connections you’ve made with these residents? This is my first year as a student staff member (and last since I’ll be graduating in May). I’ve asked returning staff members and they all say the same thing: you’re not here to make friends, you’re here to keep the residents safe. The problem is– I disagree with that (see first paragraph). The only reconciliation I can see is to explain the rules and explain my position in this greater force. Of course, after the situation happens, they’re still pretty upset because they feel betrayed–I understand that. I guess I have to give them space. I’ll continue to be there for my residents, to be their “Mizzou mom” that they can come to with problems and to help find great opportunities and experiences for my residents.

Life of an “RA” : Meetings

Photo credit: yves_guillou (openclipart)

Photo credit: yves_guillou (openclipart)

Some people think that being an “RA” means that all you have to do is be there for the freshman. Oh how I wish it were that simple! Maybe it’s because I got in the so called “game” late (being that I’m in my senior year of college) but I was vastly unprepared for the amount of meetings I would be in. What’s more, coordinating 17 peoples’ schedules (because I’m a staff member in the largest residence hall) is a pain in the patoot.

After all the scheduling gets done, you have to put it in practice. Big shocker, I know. Depending on your position (remember when I talked about titles?), you could be in fewer or greater meetings. For example, all of the community advisors in my building have a weekly meeting schedule that looks something like this:

  • 2 hour staff meeting (with all 17 coworkers)
  • 1 hour community meeting (with 8 coworkers including myself)
  • 1 hour one-on-one with Scott (the hall coordinator and our boss)
  • 1 hour CA meeting (with 5 coworkers including myself)
  • 1 hour CA touch base meeting (twice per semester)
Photo credit: ryanlerch (openclipart)

Photo credit: ryanlerch (openclipart)

Well, what do you do in these meetings? Some of them can be kind of fun but for the most part we’re going over some pretty dull material on what our expectations are. Sometimes we’ll get slammed, depending on which meeting we’re in, with events that we as staff members think of that need to go on within the different position, community AND hall. Now, that’s a lot to juggle– but that’s what I’ve signed up for and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Life of an “RA” : Bulletin Boards

Remember in elementary school when your teachers had cute little bulletin boards? Guess what? We still have them in college!

Once a month student staff are required to “make bulletin boards.” For the residence hall that I work in there are themes: Pathways Community, educational, hall government, and two miscellaneous. The funny thing is that the quality of the board usually depends on two things: the creativity of the staff member and what standards the hall coordinator has.

Even though this is my first year as a CA (or any student staff position for that matter), I figured out pretty quickly that if I made a current events board where I could staple fliers I would only have to make four boards every month. Then again, I have a floor partner so I only have to worry about two boards. Of course this is assuming that this is an ideal world and all work is equal but it’s not—while my floor partner does his boards I usually help him just to be nice.

Anyway, I usually spend about 2-3 hours thinking of content for my board, finding said content, printing it and assembling the board. It’s a very in-depth process that I go through every month to educate my residents and meet my boss’s standards.

I’m pretty sure my residents think happens at the wave of a wand. I say that because  just the other day I walked out of my room, down the hallway, and my board was in shambles. Vandals have been ripping down the name tags that I’ve been making every month but never did I expect my rezzies (short for residents) to attack my boards. The worst part is that it was only up for a week!

Now, for this not to turn into a venting post please enjoy the gallery of all the hard work my co-workers and I put into our surviving boards. (Note: You can really see the same information portrayed in many ways…kinda like a multimedia project.)

Photo credit: Stephanie Kawula