As we hit the midpoint of the semester, Resident Assistants (RAs) within our halls are already able to start reflecting on some of their efforts towards building community amongst residents on their floor. We had a chance to speak with two of our RAs from Froggatt (AFM) Hall, Sam Peskie (4th floor Froggatt) and Kayla Jellison (3rd floor Froggatt).
Both Sam and Kayla are serving as RAs on floors for first-year students and heading into the fall semester they were aware of how their jobs would look different. Learning about their intentional interactions and creativity, we can see how these great communities developed.
The efforts towards building community in the halls started as soon as residents and their families began moving in. On day one, Kayla was on her floor talking with students and their families by introducing herself and helping residents feel welcomed. The start of WeekOne Orientation allowed for some fun time to be together in daily sessions or more casual environments like their first dinner picnic. Sam enjoyed her floor’s first wing meeting that weekend. As roommates logged into the virtual space, it was a call “full of two little faces in pairs on the screen.”
As the weather allowed, Sam planned a floor hike, a visit to Tripp Falls, and began to set-up her one-on-one meetings with her residents. Residents felt most comfortable meeting with Sam in a variety of ways, from virtual Teams meetings or a socially distanced chat in the lounge to a walk outside.
Kayla found that her residents were taking advantage of opportunities to chat in the hallways, knocking on doors to connect and say hello. Kayla also shared that, in a way, “it’s cool only being able to hang out within your building. Staying in, there are a lot more friendships with 'neighbors' than last year."
The bonding of residents on these floors continued from there in a mix of virtual and in-person interactions. Both RAs found success in setting up Spotify playlists for their residents to share their musical tastes, encouraging the love of Among Us, and have kept up communication with weekly emails. Sam’s favorite email she sent out included a picture of a greenhouse and a playlist of calm twinkle music with an invitation to “sit in my greenhouse with me and catch up.”
Kayla’s thoughtful addition to the floor was a “Proud RA” fridge. Although only a paper version of a refrigerator, it’s already full of postings that the residents are proud of. Halloween was a great time for another program with a door decorating contest!
Sam and Kayla agree that their floors aren’t a great space just because of them. They both described their residents as just “really good people” interested in knowing and having a relationship with their RAs and who wanted to talk. Sam said the most helpful thing about her residents was that they were vocal about what type of activities and offerings they were hoping to see offered, which makes the work much easier and rewarding.
In addition to the fun ideas that create a community environment, RAs support students in their academics and connect students who need resources for their mental health. Our RAs also know and understand the importance of family and the support systems their students have.
Sam and Kayla recognized the unique experience that students, especially first-year students, are having this fall. It’s more difficult to find pockets of friends from other places on campus, and classes require a different kind of attention and focus.
Kayla shared that if you can do anything for your student, “Support them. Wholeheartedly, support them. If they talk to you about something they are struggling with, validate it. They aren’t overacting. It’s real for them.”
Support can be as easy as sending mail. “It makes my day when parents send mail. It makes my day, and I know it makes a lot of other people’s days too.”
Great RAs like Kayla and Sam can make all the difference to a community. Still, it’s important that students take advantage of the social programs and opportunities for meeting one-on-one with their RA when possible. Encourage your student’s participation, and as the rest of the semester continues, we look forward to seeing more examples of the fun social happenings within the halls!