Life of an “RA” : Summary

Photo credit: photosteve101 (Flickr) Blog available at:

Photo credit: photosteve101 (Flickr)
Blog available at:

Well, it’s that time of the year. I’ve made it through my first semester of Residential Life at the University of Missouri – Columbia. It’s been really rewarding but there have also been some challenges. All of these things come to mind because it’s also the time of year when student staff members do self evaluations. Those, in and of themselves, are pretty sobering because you’re forced to think about what you’ve done thus far, how you’ve improved and how you need to continue to improve. So, I thought that if I had to write a formal self evaluation I should write an informal blog post as well.

But here’s the thing…if you’ve been reading my weekly posts you know what’s going on. You’ve heard about what challenges I’ve faced and read what seems to be a lot of venting (that was never my intention). So, how will this post be different?– I’d like to take the time to remind anyone thinking about being involved in Residential Life, or remind anyone who’s already a staff member, of all the little things you see in this job that affect your daily life.

These residents, if you cultivate your relationships, even if there’s mishaps with behavior, will end up being your friends. You’ll be able to joke about still stuff, ask them to help load your car (as a joke) and they’ll help, and you’ll be able to be there as their college parent for the year. You get to help them shape how they’ll see their college experience for the next four years. You get to support each other when they’re having bad days and they’ll see when you’re having a bad day.

Portrait of my guinea pigs, Penny (left) and Callie (right).

Portrait of my guinea pigs, Penny (left) and Callie (right).
Photo credit: Stephanie Kawula

In August I thought of my job as an authority figure. While I do wear that authoritarian hat, I also realize that I’m here to guide these 60 students, as well as the students in the rest of the residence hall and the rest of campus,  through their first year of college. I’m a mentor. I’m a therapist. I’m an advisor. I’m a personal entertainer (especially when I’m sleep deprived, which happened a lot this past semester). I’m the girl with the guinea pigs that can make anyone smile. I’m their community advisor.

Until next time, world.


Life of an “RA” : Maintaining Enthusiasm

Note: You know what’s funny? I make a bunch of drafts of the different posts that I might want to cover. These drafts may sit in my queue for weeks until I’m ready to work on them. When I go back and review them, it seems like my life at that time is just what I need to write that post. This week it’s maintaining enthusiasm.

Photo credit: UCFFool (Flickr)

Photo credit: UCFFool (Flickr)

One of the challenges I’ve been battling lately is maintaining the level of excitement I had in August. Part of it is because I’m physically tired. Another part of it is because less and less people are coming to our events because they’re tired and busy with their own classes. Yet another part is because the rest of the staff is getting irritable, which is really taking a tole on me.

How do you combat this? I’ve found that by actually typing this question, I’m forced to think about it more than I would if I were just thinking random thoughts throughout my day. I’m trying to be productive for myself but also for other “RAs” out there. Of course there’s the ever popular “take a nap” answer. Sometimes I’ll spend time with my guinea pigs and involuntarily take a nap. Sometimes I watch a movie. But all of this is relaxing.

If I really wanted to get more enthusiastic about my job and what I do, I think the only solution is to delve deeper into what I’m supposed to be doing. Make events that are really interesting and interactive. For example, on Thursday my community is having an event where we’re going to show our residents how to properly interview. We’ve made different advertisements than we normally do, as you can see below.

Video credit: potc4ev (YouTube)

Thanksgiving break is right around the corner. Personally, I’ve been counting down the days until this coming Friday for the past two months. No joke. A break is definitely needed to maintain, and even increase, enthusiasm, which is what I think I was trying to get at earlier. You have to be rested and relaxed in order to be excited….at least I do. You have to remember that you’re setting an example for your residents and the other staff members you work with. You have to remember that your work life and your actual life are separate and that you’re not expected to do everything all the time for your job. Maybe we’ll talk about that next week.

Life of an “RA” : Top 10 Questions You Get Asked

I just want to start this post off by saying that there are no stupid questions. I say this because there really aren’t stupid questions…and if there are…. I probably ask a lot of them. 

Welcome back, readers. Being an “RA” I’m sure you assume I get asked a lot of questions. Ding. Ding. Ding. I do! Here is a list of the top 10 questions I hear the most. 

  1. Is this meeting mandatory? Yes, I put “mandatory” in the e-mail for a reason. There’s a lot of important information that you need to hear before you can leave for your breaks.
  2. Where’s the free food? Er, well, most of the events we host throughout the hall have food. We’re not trying to lure you into our events with food, buuuuuuut we secretly are. Also, finals week, oh boy are you gonna love all the free goodies we’re going to buy for you. 
  3. Something in my room is broken can you fix it? I wouldn’t trust my handyman skills, bud. You’re going to have to submit a maintenance request. 
  4. How do I submit a maintenance request? Go to, along the left side (7th box down) there will be a box that says “maintenance requests.” Click it. It takes you to this new page, which you should read because it’s the instructions for how to fill the form out, but I honestly always ignore it. See the second box on the left, the one that says “request work?” Click it. This is the form in 
  5. I’m locked out, can you swipe me into my room with the master? Yes, technically I can but there’s this wonderful little form you have to fill out which lets you know that you’re still going to get the $10 charge for the temporary card whether you get one at the kiosk or I swipe you in with the master key. 
  6. [After being involved in an information report] What’s going to happen to me? You will die in seven days. I’m going to write a very detailed and unbias report of everything that just happened. Scott Bosley, the Hatch Hall Coordinator, will read this report and start the conduct process. After that point, I have no idea what happens because after I write the information report I am no longer involved in the process.
  7. What are we doing for Family Night? Guys, I’ve told you: we do what you want to do. [Normally, they’re very perplexed by this.] My question for you is, what do you want to do? Watch movies? Go play Bingo? Roller skating? We have money and we can always ask for more money from hall government.
  8. Can I quit college now? No. You can do it! [Insert life story about paying for own college and car and being a first generation graduate.] If I can do it, you can do it! If you need resources, let me help.
  9. What are “quiet hours?” When you’re supposed to be in bed, you night owl. Just kidding, but really. It’s when we’re supposed to be respectful of the fact that other residents are trying to study or sleep.
  10. Can I get a study buck? Are you studying? “No.” Then no. They’re called study bucks for a reason, goofball. 

**Note: these questions were not in order of frequently asked, they’re just in order of how I thought of them. 

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” : Homecoming Revisited

Photo credit: KOMUnews (flickr)

Photo credit: KOMUnews (flickr)

As promised, this week’s blog is going to be a continuation of last week’s Life of an “RA” : Homecoming.

First of all, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought–probably because we lost (by a field goal at that!). At one point I actually thought that the phone was broken and that I had missed all of the calls. (Apparently the other staff have been having this problem but, in general, I’m pretty paranoid when I’m on call.)

As I said in the post last week, part of being on-call includes going on rounds at 8pm, 11pm and 1 am. My on-call partner and I decided it would be a good idea to wait until 1:30 to go on our last round, just in case there were residents that were looking to avoid us. (I know, we’re so sneaky.) I didn’t have a problem with this decision since we were watching Mean Girls with a lot of the other staff members.–I find it easier to stay up when you’re in larger groups…I’m not sure why, but I do.

My first call of the night happened at 1:55am (I know because we have to record them). Noise violation. That’s no big deal: you just go up to the room, knock on the door and tell them to settle down. Next call–2:20am…from one of my coworkers. (Really?!?) Alcohol. Now, that’s a little bit of a trickier situation that I can’t delve into details about but, long story short, I was up until around 4am writing and information report because the other staff member didn’t want to handle the situation himself when he was fully able.

So, whatever, the whole situation was over. BED. NOW! As soon as I get all situation and comfortable the phone rings again. Another noise violation. Go up, check it out–it’s completely quiet.

All in all, there’s nothing to fear. You realize that all the training you had in August was worth it. You realize that you didn’t forget everything like you thought you would since you’ve never had anyone actually call the phone when you’re on-call. You realize that sleep, even though it turns into extended naps sometimes, is a wonderful thing.

…Now to conquer being on-call for Halloween. Wish me luck!

Life of an “RA” : Homecoming

Photo credit: KOMUnews (flickr)

Photo credit: KOMUnews (flickr)

Guess what? (No, not chicken butt!) Mizzou’s 102nd Homecoming is this Saturday, October 26, 2013! If you’re a Mizzou fan you already know this and are super excited because this season we’ve been kicking butt and taking names! If you’re a ResLife staff member on-call this Saturday, you’re dreading it. I fall into both categories this week.

The way I see it, as I see everything else, there are a bunch of pros and cons. At a glance the pros would be:

Photo credit: Anselmus (openclipart)

Photo credit: Anselmus (openclipart)

  • I saved the majority of the Hatch staff from doing this shift (which is a “thank you” gesture for helping me rearrange my on-call shifts to accommodate my travels back to St. Louis to support my sister through the birth of my nephew)
  • I won’t be the ONLY one on-call (because Homecoming is on a Saturday night, there will be a secondary on-call person to help me)
  • The football game is at 6pm (so I’ll get some quiet time…at least for my first round)

In all honesty, since this is my first (and last) Homecoming as a student staff member I’m not quite sure what to expect.

Photo credit: raemi (openclipart)

Photo credit: raemi (openclipart)

Right now I’m assuming that I’ve made a mountain out of a molehill but it might be justified. The cons at the top of my list are:

  • On top of being Homecoming day, it’s also a Saturday (AKA, a lot of residents will tailgate, go to the game, come back, pre-game, and then go out)
  • I am expected to do three rounds at 8pm, 11pm, and 1am (normally I have trouble staying up till midnight)
  • I don’t really have time for dinner (I have to work at the front desk until it’s almost time to be on-call)

In next week’s blog I’ll post about how it went. Wish me luck!

P.S.- Gooooooo Tigers!! M-I-Z

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.