Community is a word that gets used a lot around Northwestern’s campus. Many students can attest to the fact that NW stands out in terms of fellowship and cultivating a sense of belonging, but who is responsible for fostering this community? This would be the role of the many RAs in the dorms and apartments.
RAs at NW carry out the duties of encouraging their residents in their spiritual, social and intellectual areas of their lives. They are expected to lead by example and commit themselves to their wings, all while enforcing standards. An RA is one who wears several hats: friend, manager, counselor and mentor.
With all these responsibilities, the life of an RA can be a busy one. Elyssa Tang, RA of Fern Smith Hall’s third south, explained one of the tougher parts of the job. “A challenge I didn’t expect was the struggle of finding the balance between being present on the wing and continuing relationships and involvements outside of the wing. I am definitely still learning and growing!”
Growth is something RAs witness a lot of, not only in others but also in their own lives.
A change many RAs have seen in themselves compared to when they were just an “R” is holding themselves to a higher standard. “Being an RA has made me more intentional about my actions,” stated Jakob VanDerWerff, RA of Colenbrander Hall’s third east. “I am supposed to represent NW student life, so I should be responsible and trustworthy. Moreover, it has led me to be more intentional in my relationships with the men around me.”
Through being intentional, RAs have the joy of seeing growth in their residents. “It has been so cool seeing how different people are growing,” said Tang. I like how my RA for the past two years put it – being an RA is a front row seat to seeing God at work!”
Perhaps an expected, but nevertheless favorite part of the job for most RAs is building relationships. Tang said relationships were what made her apply for the role. “I appreciate how being an RA gives me the opportunity to walk alongside people intentionally,” she said. “Growing up, many people have walked alongside me, especially in my faith, so I wanted to do the same.”
Through the many hours spent working and getting to know one another, RAs on campus have also built close relationships with each other. “One thing most people don’t realize is that all the RAs across campus get really close with one another,” said Ian Else, RA of North Suites’ second-floor. “I love working with the rest of my staff and all the RAs and RDs on campus. It is super fun being all together.”
RAs find that they grow close relationships to their residents, other RAs and resident directors, but those aren’t the only relationships being strengthened. For some, becoming an RA has led them to grow their relationship with God.
Lincoln Siebert, RA of Hospers Hall first-floor, reflected on how his walk with God changed since becoming an RA. “As normal resident my faith journey had stalled out a bit, and as an RA I could not fathom doing it without having a good relationship with God and digging into the word and prayer on a consistent basis,” Siebert said.
Challenging, yet rewarding may best sum up the role of an RA. The load of responsibilities may be a lot to take on, but most RAs would agree that the opportunity to give back to their dorm, connect with others and microwave popcorn without having to leave the room all make the job worthwhile.