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.

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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”: Titles

Being a student staff member is a rewarding experience. You get to see freshman enter Mizzou, doubtful of themselves and inexperienced, and you get to see them end their year with satisfaction and aspiration for the next three years. You also have the fun of brainwashing your residents with the new lingo that the University of Missouri Residential Life has created.

My position used to be called a “Resident Assistant,” an RA for short, and they used to live in dorms. Since Mizzou is so proactive in renovations and enrichment experiences within the “dorms,” we have abolished these titles (at least in theory). There are three classifications of student staff members: Community Advisors (CA), Peer Advisors (PA) and Leadership Advisors (LA). We each have our own title-specific duties to attend to, which, for the most part, are self explanatory.

Community advisors, which is what my title is, are responsible for providing service events for all of the residents in the hall. Not all events have to be volunteer work per say but we provide opportunities to build a sense of community among the different floors and within the halls as a whole.

Leadership advisors also enhance the sense of community but there is typically only one LA per hall. LAs provide different outlets for residents to get involved in leadership positions and to develop their leadership skills. The most important job for the LA to accomplish is to lead the weekly hall government meetings in conjunction with the Hall Coordinator, a professional staff member who oversees all of the student staff in a residence hall.

Peer advisors facilitate a Freshman Interest Group, also known as a FIG, during the fall semester. There are many different FIGs across the campus and these individuals work with a Student Coordinator (SC) and a Co-Fac, a professional staff member within the department that the FIG is based. Unlike most professors, PAs have the opportunity to continue their classroom experiences in the halls.

Now that that’s been covered, I bet you noticed that several times within this post already where I’ve said “halls.” Why? — It goes back to the University of Missouri ResLife and the community that we’re trying to establish. The word “dormitory” or “dorm” gives off this sense that parents are sending their children off to a jail cell. MU ResLife wants freshman and any other upperclassmen student that may live in the residence halls to feel like this is their second home. Students are not supposed to feel like they’re being punished for continuing their education. With words like “dorm” can be used (if you’re describing life at Kansas) but for the most part this is one of the hardest perceptions to change.

No one is in trouble if they use these terms at MU but CAs, LAs and PAs work very hard to uphold the Residential Life mission and to make college for first-time students as positive and memorable as possible.

Who Wants To Be a Photojournalist?

I know it’s only Tuesday, but I figured I should write my blog before (A) I forget what topic I want to write about and (B) before I forget entirely (**because I know the rest of my week is going to be a roller coaster).

Yesterday, during my multimedia journalism lecture, we had the privilege of listening to the chairs of several major departments of journalism (convergence, broadcast, photojournalism, strategic communications, and magazine). Awesome, right? TOTALLY! I mean, I took Journalism 1010 ( a class about career explorations in journalism) and this is pretty much all we did, but yesterday it was all about the upper level classes and what to expect.

When listening to the convergence journalism speaker, I was a little overwhelmed. I mean, I know I want to do that, but not for my bachelor’s degree because I know that’s not right for me right now. **For those of you that don’t know, I’m trying to get my bachelor’s in photojournalism and a masters in convergence.** Anyway, I love the idea of getting my hands dirty with all the different mediums that are available nowadays. Right now it’s kind of a scary idea to me, but, again, that’s because I’ve been a little stressed with my course load this year.

Up next was the broadcast journalist speaker. Now, I KNOW that this is never going to be a legit option for me. I know with my personality and issues about myself and such that I would never have the passion that other people do for this type of journalism. I was open to hearing what the speaker had to say, however, I knew that, by the end of the lecture, being on the radio or on television was not something I could be happy making a career out of.

The photojournalism speaker was who spoke next. When he stepped on the stage, my ears perked up, I sat up straighter, and I payed even more attention. As he was talking about the course load, capstone projects, and suggestions to succeed in this field I had a checklist in my head and I was gung ho for doing this for the rest of my life. I knew this was right for me because I didn’t feel overwhelmed, I only felt excitement and anticipation. What surprised me is how I felt about the next speaker.

Up until recently I wasn’t really sure about what strategic communication meant. I mean, I knew it was advertising, but I felt fortunate to listen to this speaker and learn what it was really all about. I really am interested in photography and I’ve toyed around with the idea of getting an associates degree in graphic design. Maybe that’s why this appealed to me. I wasn’t sure if strat comm was exactly right for me (like photojournalism was/is) but seeing what can be done with it peaked my interest.

The magazine journalist was the last speaker that we listened to. I know this is going to sound a little bit messed up, but just bear with me for a second. Magazine journalism is a part of convergence journalism and that IS something I’m interested in ….but….honestly, I didn’t really listen to this speaker because she wasn’t as prepared as the other speakers and therefore I got the impression that magazine journalism wasn’t that important. Maybe if I had the chance to listen to another magazine journalist speak I would give them a second chance because I, in all reality, I don’t want to close any doors for myself. Even though I love photojournalism, I’m not going to solely focus on that because then I might miss out on other things that I might enjoy, like strategic communications or graphic design.

It’s Time For Some Fun!! :)

So, as I’ve said a couple times (at least, I think I have)…this semester has been extremely stressful for me. Most of this stress has been because I’m enrolled in a drawing class that meets every Monday and Wednesday night from 6-9  and I can’t really provide the results that my professor expects from me since…I can’t draw. Lol. Lately we’ve been working on drawing a self portrait in charcoal and, for some reason, after I finished mine I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders in regards to my whole life. I mean, yesterday I actually sat down on the couch and watched 3 hours of TV (something I haven’t done since winter break last year). It felt so great to reminisce about watching CSI: Las Vegas with my mom while actually watching it. 🙂

I think because I’ve been so stressed I’ve forgotten to take a step back and appreciate the little things in my life…like TV and sleep and the beautiful weather outside. I feel like a completely different person right now…and I know it sounds crazy, but it’s the truth! Maybe it’s because I feel like I’ve got a handle on things right now. Maybe it’e because things have slowed down with school and work. Maybe it’s because I don’t have the stress of trying to figure things about with my “social” life (aka the guys in my life) and extracurricular activities.

If anyone gets anything from this blog I think it should be that people need to step back and take a breath. If you see things are getting tough, find someone to talk to, get another look at it, do something that you love to do (I would take pictures or watch TV, but that’s just me). My mom has been telling me (since August) to take it one day at a time…maybe even an hour at a time if things are that bad. I’ve started doing that and it’s remarkable how fast my day goes by…even my week seems to be going faster. I can’t believe it’s Thursday already!!

P.S.- If you’re curious about how my drawing turned out I’ll attach the photograph I drew from as well as my final product. I named it “Lonely Without My Nikon” because that’s how I feel when I can’t take pictures.

Robert Leaf, Missouri Honor Medal Recipient

In addition to being able to hear Margaret Wolf Freivogel speak on Monday, I was able to listen to Robert Leaf, another recipient of the Missouri Honor Medal, during my Cross Cultural Journalism course last Friday.

Just a bit of background information about Mr. Leaf can be found at http://journalism.missouri.edu/alumni/robert-leaf-52.html. If you don’t want to click the link and read for yourself, I can do a brief summary/paraphrasing of what that little article says (because I know it’s a pain to start reading a blog, click a link and read that information, and then go back to the blog). Leaf graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with his bachelors in advertising in 1952. Shortly after that, Leaf became the first trainee at Burson-Marsteller, the largest PR agency in the world, and eventually made his way up to be vice president where he helped expand the agency to four other countries.In 1997, Leaf left Burson-Marsteller to start up his own PR consulting agency.

I wonder what the lecture was about. Lol. Actually, I found the lecture to be relevant to what I’ve been learning in my cross cultural journalism class. Since Leaf had branched Burson-Marsteller out to different countries there was bound to be some cultural differences and therefore he was going to have at least a little trouble talking across the fault lines (geography, gender, generation, race, and class). The main point that Leaf kept driving home in his lecture was that perception management was forming today’s journalism, for all the different fields and not just PR. It doesn’t matter where you go, who you encounter, or what your story is…there are always going to be people that have their views on a subject and it’s our job as unbiased journalists to change their perceptions, or at least get them to see the other side of the issue.

With that being said, Leaf explained that there was four types of perceptions. The first of those being a positive perception where our job as journalists is to make sure the perception stays positive. The second being an unbiased perception, in which the journalist gets to create the perception. The last two perceptions were both negative but there was a slight difference with the results. The first of the negative perceptions is one in which the journalist finds out why the individual or audience has that perception and then is able to change it. The second negative perception is one where the journalist can try his or her best to modify the perception, but isn’t really successful.

I think the most helpful, and relevant thing that Leaf advised our class to do was to “do your research. You’ve got to decide who are your key audiences–who?–And what their present perceptions. Can you change them? How costly would it be? “

Margaret Wolf Freivogel, Missouri Honor Medal Recipient

So, one of the really cool things about going to a major school like Mizzou is that we can usually get some really cool speakers to come lecture to us about success tips that are relevant to our fields. This past Monday eight alumni, who were all recipients of the Missouri Honor Medal, came to lecture about various topic ranging from today’s technology to the basic principles of journalism. My entire multimedia journalism class had the privilege of listening to Margaret Wolf Freivogel speak about journalists engaging their audience.

A brief biography that about Freivogel that I got off of the Missouri convergence journalism website is that she’s an award-winning journalist, and the founder and editor of the St. Louis Beacon. The Beacon is a nonprofit news organization that specializes in politics, the economy, health, education, race and the arts. Before founding to The Beacon, Freivogel worked for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for 34 years as a reporter, Washington correspondent and assistant managing editor.

Now…about her lecture… 🙂

When Freivogel was speaking all I could think about was the journalism class that I took last semester (about the fundamentals of American journalism). Almost every word that was spoken towards the end of the lecture related back to the fact that journalists should not be focused on profit margins and circulation numbers; we should be focusing on the materials that cover so that our audiences can make informed decisions in their daily lives.

What about the beginning of the lecture? I thought that part was extremely important as well, especially with how our society is these days. What was covered? Well, shorthand we listened to Freivogel speak about how social media can be extremely helpful to journalists to engage audiences. It makes perfect sense when you think about it. I mean, what’s the first website teenagers go to as soon as they pull up their web browser?–Most likely, Facebook–If your business has a Facebook page and a Twitter account that’ll help engage your audience.

The thing I liked the most about the lecture was the slogan of the Beacon. The journalists are in the middle of changing the slogan from “News that matters” to “A better St. Louis powered by journalism.” I think this slogan implements the newspapers’ desire to engage their audiences and deliver news that will help shape their futures. The current slogan just suggests that, sure, the news matters, but it doesn’t say where its going. I feel like the new slogan does and that by listening to Freivogel speak I have been inspired to follow her footsteps, but cater to what I want to do journalism wise rather than what she’s done.