The University of Connecticut’s Residential Life department is currently accepting applications for next school year’s resident assistants (RAs) from now until Dec. 8, according to the university’s ResLife website.
The website defines an RA as “a peer educator who facilitates the personal, interpersonal, and intellectual growth of students.”
Residential Assistant Program Director Nancy J Abohatab explained that open-mindedness is expected of the university’s RAs.
“Students living on campus have differing needs,” Abohatab said. “We want to make sure all of our RAs understand what it is like to work with people who may be different from them.”
The entire RA application procedure runs from November through March, according to the RA candidate checklist.
Applicants are to accept or decline their RA position offers by March 9, according to the checklist.
“The application process is pretty lengthy,” Isabelle Guilmette, current North Campus RA and third-semester animal science major, said. “But it is essentially the same as applying for any other job.”
In addition to free room and board, each RA receives a stipend of about $2,000 per semester, according to Guilmette. She said she appreciates having a single room.
“[A paycheck] also means this job is a real job,” Residential Hall Director Robert Drago said at an RA informational meeting Thursday night. “You’re going to have to work.”
By accepting a job as an RA, as outlined in the RA position description, students must complete administrative responsibilities, attend various training sessions, attend supervisor meetings, attend weekly staff meetings, be available on certain weekends and much more.
Drago said when reviewing the applications, he takes the qualities necessary to filling those roles into consideration.
“We are looking at who you are as a person, how your answer the application questions and your academics,” Drago said. “We want the best fit.”
According to the position description, eligible candidates must live on campus, have at least sophomore status at the time of employment, maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5 and uphold the UConn’s responsibilities of community life.
There are two rounds of pre-screening before the interview process begins, according to the candidate checklist.
The website states not all candidates will be chosen for an interview, but those who are will partake in a one-hour interview.
“The interview portion is especially helpful because it really sets you up as far as what you can expect once you get the job,” Guilmette said.
Interviewing is the final stage of the selection process, according to the Res Life website.
The social responsibilities of an RA, as outlined by the RA position description, include “promoting residential student learning and growth … developing an inclusive living community [and] performing administrative tasks.”
“The biggest unexpected challenge that I have faced is the time commitment,” Guilmette said. “I have never put time into my schedule for unexpected meetings with my residents but now I need to because if something comes up, I want to be able to put them first.”
RAs are allowed to request 10 days off per semester, but the number of active days each RA is working per month varies depending on their location, according to Guilmette.
“Each living area, North, West, Next Gen, Northwood, Husky Village, has its own way of doing things,” Guilmette said. “North has the biggest staff with 43 people so we end up only having about 11 duty days a semester, but our staff meetings tend to take much longer than other areas because we have so many people.”
RA placement and the application process can vary based on where the applicant would prefer to live and work, according to the ResLife website.
Applicants can specifically ask to work in a learning community or honors housing, aside from specific dorms on campus, according to the website.
“Apartment RAs send out emails, while dorm RAs make bulletin boards. It is also important if you are applying to be an RA that you keep in mind that you do not get to choose where you live,” Guilmette said. “You can put down preferences but at the end of the day you are put where you're needed.”
Emily Burke, first-semester human development and family studies major, said she aspires to be an RA next year and is in the middle of the application process.
“I feel like I could bring a lot to the community that I’ll be living in,” Burke said. “I also want the chance to make my residents feel at home and provide them with all the help they need.”
Burke said her attraction to the position came from her current RA, fifth-semester business management major Kimlee Heng, who made her experience as a freshman in Towers enjoyable.
“I wanted to step out of my comfort zone,” Heng said. “I wanted to share my wisdom and just grow as a person.”
Isabella Maguire, a third-semester speech, language and hearing science major, is also currently applying to be an RA.
“The original motivation to apply to be an RA was the free room and board and stipend that you are paid,” Maguire said. “I think becoming an RA will push me to grow as an individual, leader and mentor. After being an FYE mentor, I wanted to further my personal growth while continuing to help others.”
According to Guilmette, there are personal and social benefits to being an RA as well.
“The best part of being an RA is definitely my staff,” Guilmette said. “ I have met some of the best people I know through being an RA.”
Guilmette said despite its financial and social benefits, being an RA is a hefty responsibility.
“The worst part about being an RA is writing IRs (incident reports),” Guilmette said. “I want everyone to have fun and enjoy their college experience, however when it gets to a point where residents [are] doing something disruptive, unsafe or illegal, I need to step in. It's especially hard that since I am a sophomore a lot of the people that I oversee are my age or older, so I want to build friendships with them but at the end of the day I have a job to do.”
Abby Brone is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.