A day in the life of an RA

The McDonald Hall staff. Photo by Rebekah Straub.

By Mary Elsen, The Circuit.

Being a student leader is more than just a stamp on a resume. It’s a unique experience that allows you to touch the lives of fellow students.

Residence Assistants are leaders who strive to make a dorm a home.

Erin Leahy, junior, is an RA for McDonald Hall.  She looked up to her RA’s before becoming one herself.

Leahy’s favorite part about being an RA is getting to know the residents in her dorm.  She enjoys seeing the McDonald residents all over campus. “It’s just fun saying hi to them and having little conversations,” Leahy said.

Leahy trained for and ran a half marathon with several McDonald women last fall.

“At the end of the half marathon, there were just like a ton of McDonald people there and it was just really cool,” Leahy said.  “We took like a big Benedictine picture and over half the people were McDonald people.”

She enjoyed seeing her residents supporting her at the run.

“It was cool to see that community and it was fun to like combine running, that I love so much, and do that with a bunch of residents.”

Leahy wishes, that when she accepted the position, she hadn’t viewed it as much as a job.  It’s more about learning how to balance being a student and RA, she said.

“But it’s all very worth it,” she added.

All RA’s have a night on call and a few weekends throughout the semester.  Many RA’s work to plan programs for their nights on call.

One of Leahy’s hobbies is baking, so she enjoys finding ways to incorporate food into her programming.

For those coming into an RA position, Leahy recommends getting to know your team and communicating well.  Invest in your residents, especially at the beginning, so they “know you’re there for them,” Leahy said.

Jared Nigrin, sophomore, is an RA for Newman Hall.

The Newman Hall staff. Photo by Andrew Seaton.
The Newman Hall staff. Photo by Andrew Seaton.

“I wanted to be an RA because I felt this desire to serve [students],” Nigrin said.  “I wanted to be able to form personal relationships with like the freshmen and new students and RA was like the perfect way to do that, I thought.”

During one of his first nights on call, he got to know a group of his residents who share his knowledge of Marvel movies and comics.

Nigrin enjoys getting to know his residents, but balancing RA life and student life is an adjustment.

Staying organized and figuring out how much you need to do is helpful, Nigrin said.  Certain weeks are busier than others, but for the most part balancing everything is just like any other student, he added.

This is Nigrin’s first year as an RA, but he already knows he’d like to be one again.

“It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it’s by far the most rewarding,” he said.  “I wish I’d known how much it changes you.  This job requires a lot of growth throughout your time, whether that’s personal growth or spiritual growth, and if you’re unwilling to change and be flexible you’re gonna have a really hard time accomplishing your goals.”

For those interested in being an RA, Nigrin recommends “staying open minded.”  Don’t expect to be hired, but be positive, pray about it and have a good reason for doing it, Nigrin said.

“Go in knowing that if you get this job it’s not gonna be like anything you ever expected and that it requires a lot of service and a lot of sacrifice, but in the end, it’s definitely worth it.”

Therese Loew is the Memorial Hall Resident Director.  She balances being a wife, mother and RD daily.

She attended Benedictine and was an RA for two years.  During her junior year, she was an RA in Memo.

“It was the most formative year of my life and most peaceful year of my life and I realized that this is what I really wanted to do,” Loew said.  “I really enjoyed investing in my residents and getting to know them and have them get to know me. Particularly with freshman, meeting them at kinda there high school selves first semester and helping them transition to being college women.  That was really fulfilling for me.”

RD’s want RA’s from a variety of backgrounds, but Loew said RA’s should have several basic qualities.

RA’s have to be willing to learn, be responsible and timely, form relationships with residents, represent the college well, meet others where they’re at and “call people higher,” Loew said.

Loew also listed duties that come with being an RA:

  • It’s a life style rather than a job you clock in and out of.
  • Each RA has a night on call along with a couple weekends on call each semester.
  • There is a monthly meeting with the entire resident staff.
  • RA’s offer programs on a regular basis.

Loew’s favorite part about being an RD is working with her RA’s and getting to know them.

“I get to work one on one with five incredible and very different women,” Loew said.  “I get to invest in them and I get to see how they then invest in the girls.”

For more information about the application process and requirements, visit http://www.benedictine.edu/student-life/residential/ra-information.