There’s more to being a resident assistant than getting freeroom and board.
Resident assistants undergo rigorous training to adequatelyserve residents and meet the expectations of the Office ofResidence Life. The RA training program begins approximately twoweeks before the Residence Halls are opened in the summer. SeniorRA’s participate in the program, coordinating workshops and theHall Council retreat.
“The program consists of programs involving community building,duty procedures, handling a crisis situation and programming forfreshman communities and for upperclassmen communities,” said LynKrueger, the associate director of the Office of Residence Life.Resident assistants are also briefed on fire safety and mediatingconflicts.
According to Jay Pirri, resident director of Donovan Hall, RAtrainees view large scale presentations and attend rotatingsessions on topics such as finding balance between RA duties andacademics, and serving as role models for residents. Krueger addedthat RA’s learn how to listen to people and respond tostudents.
“We also take a day to do a community service project and weusually go away on an overnight retreat, which is an opportunityfor them to kind of get away from campus for a couple of days toget to know each other better,” Krueger said. “We do some teambuilding activities out there and we also typically have every yearwhat we call our Mock Rock Program where the staff comes up withsome sort of skit to present [the residents]. That’s kind of thehighlight of our training.”
That’s not all. The RA trainees are required to attend classesfor six weeks in which they will “get a preview into what theposition is about because it is such a big time commitment,”Krueger said. Topics of discussion include the mission of St.John’s University, moral development and diversity. During thefinal session, resident assistants create presentations thatdemonstrate the knowledge the acquired from the trainingcourse.
During the earlier years of the Residence Village, the RAtraining process merely consisted of an “interview [with a residentdirector] and one or two group processes,” Pirri said. However, amore elaborate RA training process was implemented during Fall2002.
“The decision was made to offer a more developmental selectionprocess and the RA class component came out of those discussions,”Pirri explained.
Pirri feels that the more thorough RA training process providesRA’s with a “more balanced viewpoint of the position,” and allowsUniversity personnel to see people develop over six weeks.
Krueger said there are no restrictions imposed on residentassistants.
“I wouldn’t say that there are things that they can’t do, but weexpect them to be positive role models for their community andthere are a lot of students who know who they are. The RA positionis a job. They sign a contract to be here stating that they aregoing to abide by these policies.”
Residents assistants are encouraged to discuss touchy subjectswith their residents.
“We try to empower them to feel comfortable to talk aboutcertain things and obviously there may be certain topics they don’tfeel comfortable talking about,” Pirri said. “They either haven’tfigured it out for themselves or they feel that they don’t have theexpertise to talk about. We provide them the resources to findpeople to connect them with Campus Ministry or other offices oncampus to help them talk about some of those things. We encouragethem to talk about [controversial issues], but obviously, keepingthe mission in mind, not to violate the spirit and the laws. It’sresponding to the needs of the residents,” he said.