Each spring, a process masked in secrecy and full of wonder, similar in some ways to the Papal Conclave, takes place and an aspiring group of Southeast residence hall students set out on the journey in hopes of being selected as a Resident Assistant (RA). Over these past few weeks this process has been playing out and while we are not ready to send up the white smoke (read up on the voting for the Pope at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papal_conclave to understand) I wanted to share some insight for those students who are either in the process now or thinking of trying to be a RA in the future. Special thanks to Delaney Foster, Myers Hall Director, and Michael Roehlk, Dearmont Hall Director, for their reflections on the reflect on the Resident Assistant Interview Process and their thoughts on this critical process.
Delaney Foster, Myers HD:
Each spring an exciting and exhausting event arrives, and like the spring, it brings new possibilities. The RAs are the lifeblood of the on campus living experience and each year we search for and hire new RAs to replace those who have graduated or moved on to other opportunities, and each year the process is slightly different. One thing never changes- the candidates are always nervous and anxious. They come to our interview tables, full of dreams and hopes, and they tell us how the RA position will help make them a leader, a speech pathologist, a lawyer, a teacher, or a politician, or any of the other life goals of our incredibly driven students. The best part is that each of them is correct, being an RA will make them a better version of themselves, and the interview process is just the beginning of that road.
You will not find a more welcoming or encouraging table of interviewers than the Hall Directors. There is something comforting about the knowledge that each interviewer genuinely cares about each candidate's growth, development, and opinions. We honestly wish that more students knew this; surely it would decrease the sheer terror that many of them obviously feel. If only they knew that we are looking for the best parts of the candidates, not the worst, and that we all want them to be themselves and share their hopes with us.
Like these candidates, I once ran from my residence hall, terrified of getting lost, being late, looking unprofessional, balancing the truth with humility, and most of all, being afraid of actually getting the position. I feared someone believing in me enough to give me the job and wanted to reward that trust with hard work and passion. I did get the job, and the position shaped every part of who I have become. Every Hall Director has a similar story, and each year we use the memories of our own fear and apprehension to welcome and listen to the newest group of candidates. Our message to you is, "be not afraid", apply for the position and don’t hide who and what you are.
Michael Roehlk, Dearmont HD:
The process for us Hall Directors can be long and tiresome, but we do it because we believe in the process and being able to see as many hopefuls RAs as possible to gain insight and build the best staff we can. The process begins in the summer months when we review everything and really try to create a dynamic group process and interview cycle to find the real future leaders in the community. Come February we take time from our buildings to spend roughly ten hours a day interviewing candidates. We take this time because the RA position is so important to us that we want the best of the best. We want to see what kind of creativity you can muster in regards to programming, we want to see how you work in a group and how you understand group dynamics and teambuilding. We want to see a little of your personality- we need a good mix of introverts and extroverts. We also want to see if you possess the ethics, empathy, and integrity to be one of the fortunate few Southeast RA’s. The process often times takes us out of our buildings; in fact I’m writing this blog at 11pm after I rescheduled the interviews for candidates that Mother Nature just didn’t permit us to interviews because of poor weather.
Even with these long days and often sleepless nights, I know that this is one of the reasons I love my job. For these weeks I have the privilege to sit in a room with my colleagues and see the leaders at Southeast emerge. The process at this point is far from over, we will still interview the retuning RA’s and then have selection day (D-Day as I call it), but I’m confident that in the end we will have picked the best candidates for the next year. I can empathize for those who may not be selected but I think that all those who apply will learn something about themselves and if they truly want to be a leader in the hall they will continue to grow as people. and reapply again. I have seen some people apply four times before they are hired, showing true dedication.
As Delany and Michael both note, the process is one that is meant to help us find talented students and yes, the process is time consuming. While there is no perfect test for future RAs, I am confident the process we have in place is one that provides a good way for students to showcase their talents and interest and provides the Office of Residence Life with an effective way to select RAs. I wish the best for all those, new and returning RAs, who are hoping to join the Office of Residence Life team next fall and I am sincerely thankful I did not have to compete against such talent as we have today when I was a RA candidate, “way back in the day.”