Residential Assistants: The Balancing Act

Between skipping class to finish homework for another class, spending a semester’s worth of textbook money on Chipotle, and eating dinner at 1 AM because we were too busy to fit it in earlier, college students have all had those moments where our own well-being cowers in the shadow of our busy schedules. With an academic career, social life, extracurriculars, and hobbies to worry about – let alone sleeping and eating – it’s hard to imagine taking care of nearly fifty people besides ourselves. But for many college students, this is their job.

IMG_9133 final jpegMost everyone understands the role that residential assistants (RAs) play in student housing and their importance in helping students transition into community living, but like most jobs, there’s more that goes into it than meets the eye. Along with performing “administrative, programming, and paraprofessional advising functions,” as KU Student Housing lists in the RA job description, RAs also have a stake in making students feel like they can call their floor or their hall “home.” When teenagers are leaving home for college, it can be intimidating thinking of the adventures that await – whether they might be from another country thousands of miles away, from just two states over, or even from right here in Lawrence. But the communities that RAs help build make KU seem a little smaller and can make a huge difference.

Megan Fox, a second-year RA on Daisy Hill, said, “Being able to work through issues that some of my residents had was meaningful to me because I had experienced some of those problems in the past, and being able to share my own experiences was helpful.”

After talking to RAs from every corner of KU’s residence halls – including their scholarship hall counterparts who are known as “proctors” – we learned that despite struggling with time management, stress, and balancing their professional and social lives, RAs think their experiences on the job make everything worth it.

When one has to manage time efficiently, take care of others, and step up when unexpected problems arise, those experiences can make a person stronger and carry on later into life. Being an RA is not just a job that students work during the school year for spending money, but the position can lead to positive experiences whose impact really lasts. Our own Director of Student Housing, Dr. Diana Robertson, was actually an RA herself during her college years.

“My motivator for becoming an RA, honestly, was because I didn’t have the best RA. I know how important that role is, so I thought I could provide that and do an even better job to make sure students had a positive experience,” Dr. Robertson said.

The residential assistant role has been around for a while, and has become such an integral part of the college “dorm living” experience.