Even standing outside the door of the lounge, I can smell the cupcakes being baked.
I walk into the kitchen to find Hallie teaching a resident how to bake cupcakes from a box but add homemade touches so as to save time as a college student, but still pour love into the batter like any great baker. The cupcakes of choice for the day were vanilla with a cookie dough base and kit-kat candy bar stuffed in another. No recipes from Pinterest, solely creativity.
Hallie sits down with me to answer some of my questions while watching over her shoulder to monitor the cupcakes.
1. Tell me a little about yourself. What year are you, what's your major, where are you from, and do you have any siblings or experience that prepared you to be responsible for other students?
- Hallie is currently a junior majoring in philosophy with a focus in pre-health. She is from Hickory, NC and has experience being responsible for other individuals because she has taken care of her younger brother her entire life since she was old enough to stay home alone.
2. When did you become interested in being a residential assistant, also known as an RA? How?
- Like most incoming freshmen students, Hallie had a rough transition period where it was hard being away from home along with all the new experiences and responsibilities that accompany being a first-year college student. Luckily her RA, Daniel Bradley, was amazing at his job and really helped Hallie adapt, allowing her to become better acclimated to the college settings. Daniel and her had a lot in common, allowing them to become friends over shared interests such as skiing. During that year as a freshman, Hallie thought that if she could be helpful and kind to someone like Daniel had been to her, it would be amazing. There are so many people who need help in different areas, maybe it's schoolwork or perhaps it is that initial transition period.
After first semester of her freshman year, Hallie was hired as a programming assistant and fell in love with the work.
3. After hearing your comments about Daniel, how would you define a good RA?
- Being a great RA isn't about hosting the most events and being extravagant. Instead, a great RA is about making your residents comfortable, for them to know that they can come to you for help or anything, whether it is a social question or a roommate conflict. Creating an open and safe space is crucial for open communication between an RA and their residents.
4. Explain a bit about how to become an RA.
- In mid-spring semester there are a bunch of emails and ads out on campus about becoming a residential assistant. To begin the process in becoming an RA, you must attend the interest meeting that is held. From there, you then sign up, turn in an application, have an individual interview, and also a group interview on a separate day. This is all about a 3 week process. Before the end of the year, you are notified if you have been chosen. Training is 2 weeks in the fall, and then 1 week in the winter.
5. Do RAs choose the residence hall they live in?
- When chosen as an RA, you put down a preference of a residence hall, but then you have to explain why you think you would be a good "fit" for that residence hall. Similar to how the school pairs roommates based on personality, they also try to put RAs into residence halls in which they would thrive. For instance, an RA who is outgoing, social, and perhaps is more comfortable interacting with athletes will be placed in Mills residence hall due to the more social layout of the residence hall. On the other hand, an extroverted RA may prefer movie nights and social events within the residence hall may be placed in either South or West Ridge due to their quiet and secluded style.
6. Over your years working as an RA, which has been your favorite? Which your least favorite?
- Every year has their own pros and cons, they are all very different.
As a freshman and a sophomore, Hallie worked in South Ridge, which is one of the quiet residence halls that hosts mainly freshmen. She enjoyed this hall because it is heavily based on community due to their multiple study lounges and common rooms.
Now, as a junior, Hallie works in Governor's Hall which is an upperclassman residence hall. Due to it being an upperclassman dorm, it is not as community based and does not have as many common areas. What drew Hallie to this residence hall was the notion that a lot of upperclassmen are left to be by themselves since they are no longer new and sometimes confused freshmen. Therefore this year Hallie wanted to try and account for those residents.
7. Every week you invite your hall's residents to join you for "Theatre Thursdays" in your room, where you bake us cupcakes and have a movie to watch.
You also plan events outside of this weekly one, this is more than most RAs do... Why do you make so many ambitious plans?
- Hallie's simple answer to this is that RAs are friends too. They want their residents to view them as peers, and not solely as an authority figure. Friends have each other over for movie nights and bake cupcakes.
8. How did these ideas come to you?
- At the beginning of the year, Hallie had all her residents fill out a survey sheet to gauge their interests such as hikes, movie nights, or creating artwork. These answers are what have fueled her events so far. For instance the haunted hike she planned (see Haunted Trail Trip with My RA blog post) was for the outdoorsy people. Weekly movie night is for the ones that wanted to watch movies. Lastly, she converted the columns in the residence hall into chalkboards, which the residents can draw on, for the art lovers. Hallie tries to make sure that there is something for everyone, and that no one is left out.
9. Any other comments you feel people should know about you, or RAs in general?
Such as, is it worth all the training and time commitment?
- Being an RA is hard sometimes because you become friends with the residents and then they mess up and you still have to deal with them in a professional manner.
Despite this setback, Hallie still slaps her knee and proclaims "TOTALLY WORTH IT!"