What is a Resident Assistant?

Tenaye Yun - 13 January 2022

What do Resident Assistants (RAs) really do? It’s a question that no one seems to know the answer to. You see us checking up on residence buildings at night, leading community meetings and events, as well as responding to crises. However, there is so much more that we do to assist our communities as RAs.

RA training: Where it all begins

One of the first groups of people moving into residence is student leaders. RAs, Academic and Non-Academic Cohort Leaders, and Senior Resident Assistance (SRAs) move into our residence buildings in early August to attend Fall Training.

For two weeks, we learn about core concepts in residence including restorative justice and conflict resolution. We also practice creating programs that are reflective of our communities' current needs and values. As training comes to a close, RAs begin to prepare for the arrival of residents and we decorate our communities with posters, bulletin boards, and door tags.

At Basecamp and Eastern Ascent, we finally get to use the skills we learned during training. These can range from creating a sense of community by promoting diversity and inclusion to demonstrating to our residents how we are therapeutic listeners through supportive conversations.

During the academic year

The focus of orientation week is to help residents feel comfortable on campus and in residence. For each month after, we will choose a relevant topic and concept to explore in depth.

This December, my co-RA and I decided to focus on helping residents prepare for final exams. We put together a bulletin board on finding academic resources both on campus and within our residence building. Our interactive program of the month was a baking night where we encouraged our residents to share exam tips while baking some delicious study snacks.

Every week, we host community meetings which are a great chance to reflect and plan for the upcoming week. We also share updates and information with our residents on programs and events happening across campus.

Safety in the community

While running events, providing information, and meeting with our communities are great ways to educate our residents, sometimes we have to do a little more to ensure our communities are safe.

It is up to RAs, SRAs, and Residence Coordinators (RCs) to implement and run safety services and programs. Back in August, all RAs participated in a course teaching us how to respond to disclosures. We then had the opportunity to put those skills into action when we ran through situations with actors and our fellow RAs. Beyond this, we also offer monthly, one on one check-ins. These sessions are an opportunity to speak with us, especially if we are discussing something confidential.

Finally, RAs participate in Community Support Shifts, where RAs perform nightly walk-throughs of all residence buildings. We check on high-risk areas, safety equipment and chat to residents in common areas.

In Lister Centre, we also run Checkpoint, and during this time, we only allow Lister residents and their guests to enter the building. This helps us ensure guest safety in the building by giving us a person to contact during an emergency. We also take this opportunity to allow guests to ask us any questions about house rules and community guidelines.

Within residence, RAs take on many different roles. Although we are student leaders and are there for support, we are also residents who love being involved in our community. Next time you see us around, don’t be afraid to say hi!