Meeting with your Resident Assistant (RA) in a “get-to-know-you” fashion can be somewhat of a hassle. In the long run, however, it can create a better environment throughout the year.
All RAs across Mercyhurst’s campus are required to meet with their residents in some way. RAs in the freshman living areas have to do programs such as “movie night” or “DIY nights,” in an attempt to get the freshmen out of their rooms and their shells. The sophomore areas are similar, with RAs helping with programs, but they take it a step further. As of last year, the sophomore area RAs have to add “intentional interactions” to their bag of “Residence Life tricks.” I met with Sabrina Sosa, a second year RA for sophomore area housing, to discuss the nature of these interactions.
I began by asking if the junior and senior housing required the same effort as the underclassmen interactions. Sosa, a senior, said the upperclassmen RAs are not required to do traditional programs with residents, but their meetings are referred to instead as “reflective engagement.” Sosa said that the engagements are individual, not by apartment, and are supposed to be more reflective and in depth than the sophomore ones.
Intentional interactions are a great way for RAs to get to know their residents in a relaxed setting, but having them as a requirement can make students feel as if the RA does not genuinely want to know their residents.
When I asked Sosa if she would do these interactions if they were not mandatory for her job, she did not hesitate in her response of “yes.”
“If the first time you meet someone is when you write them up, it is hard to form a relationship after that,” Sosa said.
It is better to build a relationship with your RA early, as it can make the situation less awkward when they have to bang on your door at 3 a.m. when you are blasting music. It is also nice to know that your RA wants to meet you, and is not necessarily speaking with you because they have to.
There have been whispers of the types of questions that are recommended for the RAs to ask during the interactions, such as discussions about religious views or subjects that some might be otherwise deemed “touchy.”
Sosa put those to bed by showing me the questions currently provided for the engagements. They range from the origin of roommate situations to what kind of programs residents would like to see this year and spring break plans.
“The questions are meant as suggestions, it’s based on how much you want to share with me,” said Sosa. “If we sit and talk about food the whole time, great, if you want to talk about school, that’s fine too.” She said that this will be up to the RA’s individual style.
My concern with these “intentional interactions” is that, in the sophomore area, they are meant to be with all roommates and the RA. I know in my apartment none of us have the same schedules. With work, classes and clubs, it would be hard to find a time where all of us could sit down and meet with Sosa.
“This was definitely the hardest part of getting these done last year, because I had a full schedule and people would not get back to me,” Sosa said of this concern. “I know you are busy, and it’s okay if the meetings are ten minutes.”
All in all, it is a good idea to have some way to meet the RA, whether you are a freshman, senior or anything in between. It really is a good feeling to know that your RA feels that these meeting are a relaxed fun way to meet all their residents. The idea of meeting an RA early on likewise fights the high school stereotype that the principal only knows the bad kids’ names.