Whether you think it sounds like an easy gig or a tough, thankless job, being a Resident Assistant is an awesome responsibility—with a rigorous training program supporting it.
Officially, per their job description, Resident Assistants (RAs) on the CUW campus have six primary roles: “community facilitator,” “team member,” “administrator,” “programmer,” “policy advocate,” and “referral agent.”
Unofficially, per how their job plays out in real life, the roles of an RA are a little different: fast friend, trusted advisor, roommate mediator, question answerer, activities organizer, emotional support human, rules enforcer, and probably countless other roles depending on the circumstances.
It’s a big job that requires a lot of training, for both new RAs and experienced veterans. It happens every year—and it all starts nearly three weeks before most students even arrive on campus.
Ready for Anything
The bottom line, explained Beckie Kruse, CUW director of residence life, is that RAs have to be prepared to deal with just about any situation that may come up as part of life on campus. Having a problem with your roommate? Talk to your RA. Someone threw up in the hallway? Find an RA. Have a question about a campus activity or your class schedule? Your RA can steer you to the right resource.
It’s not that the RA will directly handle every issue, but as the designated front-line resource, he or she will know who to call or what the next steps should be. It’s not always as “routine” as the above examples.
“RAs are trained in gatekeeper training—that’s suicide prevention—how to have difficult conversations, how to enforce campus policy, how to handle emergencies, what to look, and listen, for when they go on ‘rounds’ at night, leadership, and so much more,” Kruse explained. “It’s a very comprehensive program.”
Much of the training is done by Residence Life staff, but they also work with other campus resources, such as Campus Ministry and the Counseling Center, to broaden the scope.
“This year we brought in Erik Hollander [associate professor of business] to lead us through the Clifton Strengths Assessment and Andy Miller, a former employee, to lead the MBTI personality inventory,” Kruse said. “Darcy Paape, director of the Women’s Leadership Institute here at CUW, came in to take us through her mentorship training program.”
They also invite outside experts for specific topics. For example, the Mequon Police Department provides training on how to recognize drug paraphernalia and use, as well as how to deal with the situation if they suspect a student has an issue. The team also enlisted two local authors, Liz Carver and Josh Green, to lead a training session on the Enneagram personality types.
If it all sounds very serious, that’s because it is. But the training regimen also includes some lighter areas of study, such as community building. RAs are required to develop and present at least four “programs” each semester. These can be a fun activity such as a campus scavenger hunt, or a more informational event that helps students know how to connect to various on-campus resources.
“For instance, they might bring in academic resources, or an advising team, into the hall to answer general questions for the residents,” Kruse said.
All of it, whether it tips toward the fun or serious end of the scale, is designed to help students thrive on campus.
All in this Together
One key to success is to understand that, as an RA, you’re never out there your own; there’s a whole team supporting you. This includes fellow RAs (a team of 48), Resident Directors and Assistant Resident Directors (six each), Kruse and her staff, and the Campus Safety team, which works closely with Residence Life to keep things running smoothly and safely.
The team also uses a mentoring model to pair experienced RAs with newbies, to help first-year RAs feel more comfortable a little faster. “We want RA’s to feel well supported and well cared for, because it is a demanding job,” Kruse said.
Everyone goes through the entire training program year. Some sessions include everyone at once, while others are tailored to specific groups or breakout sessions. Though much of it is review for returning team members, there’s always some new insight to be gained, some new policy to learned, or some piece of “old” information that didn’t quite stick the year before.
“Though we have had a year under our belt and we’ve been through training before, it is still always good to refresh our knowledge and improve on our skill sets for the job,” said Yannik Gruner, an international student assigned to Regents Hall. “As a second-year RA, I have tried to take on the role of helping some of the new RAs in training, giving them tips, and explaining how some scenarios will happen in real life.”
“I can honestly say that being a part of RA training is one of the best experiences I’ve had here at CUW,” said Sabrina Moore (’24), a first-year RA assigned to Wittenberg Hall. “I met amazing people and learned so much about Concordia that I doubt I would’ve known if I wasn’t a part of this process.
“We had our days that were pretty long and draining, but I know that we needed to get through them to help me better prepare for the year,” she added.
No doubt, it’s a lot—but it’s vitally important. A well-trained staff of RAs is crucial to the Concordia mission. As the first point of contact for a lot of what happens on campus, they can make a lasting impact on the students they serve. Just as important, the experience makes them better students, stronger leaders, and brighter lights for Christ in the church and the world.
“All of this put together helps to reveal how God has already equipped them so specifically for his purpose,” Kruse said. “We get to celebrate that and encourage them to approach conflicts and hardships with confidence, knowing they were created for this time and place on purpose and for His purpose.”
A Day in the (Training) Life
Here’s what a typical day of RA training (a Tuesday, in this case) looks like:
|8:00 AM -8:30 AM||RD/ARD Meeting||Prostaff/ARD|
|9:00 AM -9:30 AM||Student Affairs Welcome||New RAs|
|9:00 AM -9:30 AM||Incident Reports||Returning RAs|
|9:30 AM -10:00 AM||Student Affairs Welcome||Returning RAs|
|9:30 AM- 10:00 AM||Incident Reports||New RAs|
|10:30-12:00||Response Training||All staff|
|12:00 PM||LUNCH-DAs eat with Beckie|
|1:00 PM -1:30 PM||Maintenance Requests/Weekly Logs/ CUW App||Even Small Groups|
|1:00 PM – 1:30 PM||Visitation, Noise, Appliance, Safety Check, How to have these Conversations||Odd Small Groups|
|1:30 PM – 2:00 PM||Maintenance Requests/Weekly Logs/ CUW App||Odd Small Groups|
|1:30 AM -2:00 PM||Visitation, Noise, Appliance, Safety Check, How to have these Conversations||Even Small Groups|
|2:00 PM -2:30 PM||Medical, Utility Outage, Bodily Fluid, Weather, Etc. -Online||New RAs|
|2:00 PM -2:30 PM||Read Student Code of Conduct||Returning RAs|
|2:30 PM – 3:00 PM||Medical, Utility Outage, Bodily Fluid, Weather, Etc. -Online||Returning RAs|
|2:30 PM – 3:00 PM||Read Student Code of Conduct||New RAs|
|3:30 PM -4:30 PM||Working with Campus Safety||All Staff|
— This story is written by Mike Zimmerman, corporate communications manager for Concordia University Wisconsin. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-243-4380.
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