More than rules and write-ups

Resident Assistants say there’s more to their jobs than being dorm watch dogs


Photo by Meghan Hosely

Story by Meghan Hosely, Online Editor

Last spring then-freshman Danielle Koenig had an interview to be a Residence Assistant in Governor’s Hall in the fall.
As the meeting wrapped up the interviewer told Koenig he’d let her know the decision by March 3.

“That’s my birthday!” she said instinctly.

A few weeks after the interview, she  received an email from the Hall Director, but she was too nervous to even open it.

“I didn’t want it to ruin my birthday,” Koenig said with a laugh. “It could’ve been really good or really bad. It took me so long, my
friends had to tell me to look.”

After opening the email, Koenig learned she would be a Resident Assistant on the fourth floor in the east wing of Governors Hall, overseeing 22 women, mostly freshmen.

“I was in my room (when I found out),” she said. “I was screaming and crying … I had to read it two times because I was like, ‘Am I actually reading this?’ It turned out to be a great birthday.”

Resident Assistant in training
Koenig is one of 120 Resident Assistants on campus. Before residents move in at the beginning of the fall semester, every RA comes to campus about two weeks priortraining.

Before coming, Koenig said she didn’t know what she was getting herself into. She came with some door decorations for her wing, which proved to be a smart move because she said there was “no time” during the training weeks especially with a training camp mid-week.

“We went to camp for about two nights,” Koenig said. “That’s where you really get to bond and hang out with your staff.”

Koenig said when she was on campus the rest of the time, she would have training mostly on D2L and on lower campus.

“(There was) a lot of stuff I didn’t expect to learn,” she said. “I didn’t realize how much you needed to know. But I was equipped with a lot of information for the upcoming year.”

Being seen differently
Even with a leadership role in the dorm and being a go-to person, junior RA Andrew Bonlender said when he’s in the dorm, he automatically has to “strap on the RA hat,” which naturally sacrifices the way people look at him.

“Students have been talking about something they’re going to do, and then they find out I’m an RA, they might cut off the conversation mid-sentence and just kind of not proceed to tell me about their extra-curricular activities,” he said.

Bonlender said at first, when residents would treat him differently because of his role in Governors it would make him feel bad, but he said he realizes it comes with the title.

“If they choose to interact with you in that manner, it’s certainly their choice,” Bonlender said. “For those who don’t want to interact with you because you’re an RA, I take it more as a challenge … like I want to be your friend.”

Governors Hall Director John Reichert echoed Bonlender’s challenge, and said the junior RA often tries to reach out to residents who don’t normally come to wing events. Reichert said Bonlender reaches out in ways so the residents are comfortable with him as their RA, even if they aren’t comfortable with participating in wing events.

Koenig said she’s also experienced situations where she knew she was being treated differently because of the plaque on the door.

“The first week my door was open, you couldn’t see the Resident Assistant plaque … this big group of people come to my room, passing through,” she said. “They were really relaxed and talking, and then someone saw the door and asked if I was the RA … their attitudes just switched like that.”

Building relationships
Bonlender said the main reason he applied to be a RA was because it gave him a “good opportunity to better care for people around (him).”

Throughout his three, going on four semesters of being a RA, Bonlender said he’s seen how caring for his residents through constant conversations has impacted their college experience.

“I have seen what it takes to really be there for someone,” Bonlender said.

Koenig has also built personal relationships on her floor, especially with a few freshmen students.

The sophomore said a resident she’s really grown close with over the course of the year applied to be a RA for the upcoming school year because of Koenig’s impact on her life.

“It’s really cool to see the transformation,” Koenig said. “Looking back, I wanted to be an RA because my RA last year was great, and this girl wants to be an RA because of me, which is cool to hear. I’m glad she sees me as a positive role model.”

Giving the big things up
Reichert said when a student is hired to be a part of a residence hall staff, there’s a lot of personal things they have to give up in order to fully commit to being a RA.

“They do have a curfew each night, and they can’t just on a whim decide to go somewhere on the weekend, they have to take the weekend off,” he said.

Despite the time commitment that comes with the job, Bonlender leads a bible study on his floor, works two other jobs and balances his school and social life.

“You give up as much as you want to give up,” Bonlender said. “For me, I just naturally want to pour into the guys on my floor and be there for them. I’d want to do that even if wasn’t an RA.”