A Hidden On-Campus Resource for Students
Published: Sunday, September 9, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
Boston College is teeming with resources, from extra academic help in the Connors Family Learning Center to a network of Jesuits willing to meet with students to grab lunch and discuss their classes—or even just plain old life. From the time a freshman steps on campus for orientation until the teary day in May when diplomas become more than just a mysterious looming warning that the real world awaits, he or she is facilitated through each stage of their time at school.
Meeting with advisers is a great way to become more acclimated with the school and to be walked through the convoluted web of core classes and major requirements. One avenue that is often overlooked as a vital resource to help students with the rollercoaster ride that is college and academia is the community of Resident Assistants and Resident Directors campus-wide.
RAs are often given the stigma of being “alcohol police”—purely out to get students for bad behavior. Many RAs and RDs have walked the same paths as the students that live in their buildings, however, and can offer crucial advice.
Maura McAssey, LSOE ’13, one of the RAs on the third floor of 66 Commonwealth Ave., is an example of someone eager to help those living on her floor in more than just conventional ways.
“We’re here to be supporters for the residents, both in terms of listening to them, being there for them in times of stress or trouble, and also during times of excitement and joy,” said McAssey of her duty as an RA. “We are essentially community developers.” She highlighted the importance of not only dealing with students’ immediate residency concerns, but also connecting students to resources on campus that could help them with a variety of different issues.
As upperclassmen, McAssey and other RAs in buildings of freshmen and sophomores can act as mentors, offering guidance in all areas of college life. In order for mentorship to work, RAs and students must forge relationships. For example, RAs can serve as a source of knowledge of topics such as how to go about finding off campus housing for junior year, or how to choose programs for going abroad.
“It’s a two-way street,” McAssey said. “Residents need to be willing to form relationships with you as well. In that way, you get to know things that interest both of you.”
Once a relationship is formed, RAs and RDs can create programs that residents would actually appreciate and take advantage of. Whether it’s taking a trip off campus to a new restaurant in Boston or supporting a fellow floormate who is in the ALC Showdown, programs can be tailored to the needs of the students. It is important that RAs and students form an initial relationship and can openly communicate what programs or events they would enjoy.
RAs can also join forces and create building-wide programs. In 66 Commonwealth Ave., a coalition of Resident Assistants are planning an absentee ballot program to share information about how to register to vote, how to obtain and complete an absentee ballot, and information about the presidential candidates.
The position of a Resident Assistant is actually one of more involvement than many students may assume. All RAs return to campus two and a half weeks before school starts and attend different planned events, including lectures from a variety of offices on campus, from the Plex to Dining Services. They also receive training in different areas, such as counseling services and BCPD protocol. Team building within and outside of the immediate building is also essential to the RA training program. Through interactive programs, RAs are prepared for many different issues they may encounter during their time as Resident Assistants.
“I personally see the role much more in the community and the support sense,” McAssey said. “For me, that’s the most important—being there for my residents. Policy is essential, but the relationship is also extremely significant.”
If students and RAs are willing to collaborate, the allotted money given to each Residence Hall for programming can be used for rewarding programs and activities.
Grace Kalnins, CSON ’15, noted that the best programs were the spontaneous food-related ones scheduled during times of high stress. “Last year, my RA decided one day to use the funds allotted to programming for our floor to order Crazy Dough during finals. It was not only a bonding experience for our floor, but also a much needed stress-reliever.”