For love of friendship, not money

February 28, 2013 | 11 a.m.

Resident assistants explain why they chose their job

Culture | Cherie Suonvieri for The Clarion

For love of friendship, not money

Heritage RAs pose for a photo. | Photo for The Clarion courtesy of Matthew Winkel.

The RA selection process for the 2013-2014 year is well underway, and the Residence Life crew is hopeful about the new applicants. According to Ryan Britt, assistant dean for Residence Life, they had a large number of students apply. The applicants go through a process of individual and group interviews, and the positions will be offered to the chosen applicants on March 1.

The selection staff looks for certain qualities in the applicants, including a desire to make an impact on the student body. Britt explained, “[We search for students] who show signs of strong leadership ability, as well as students who care deeply about other students and their experience at Bethel — someone who wants to invest and make an impact on other students’ lives.” 

Secondarily, it’s important that they show signs of responsibility, maturity and the ability to handle administrative tasks well. An RA’s job isn’t limited to planning events and interacting with students, but also includes room checkouts, keeping records if policies are broken and regular business meetings.

Connecting with students and completing administrative tasks are some of the responsibilities that remain the same regardless of the class RAs serve. However, there are a lot of responsibilities that differ depending on the age group.

Some feel that the necessity for RAs in upperclassman dorms isn’t as great as it is for freshman dorms, but Heritage RA Matt Winkel would argue that they are equally essential. 

“Students that decide to live in Bethel housing are likely those that are still looking to live in a community atmosphere,” Winkel said. “And it’s our joy to bring that community to the floors and buildings that we serve.”

Winkel says that an upperclassman RA’s biggest responsibility is to be a resource to his or her residents when they face the inevitable decisions as their time at Bethel comes to a close. “I enjoy providing space for them to ask the hard questions about their future and about things that they are wrestling with,” he said. 

Being an upperclassman RA was a personal preference of Winkel’s. “I enjoy the interactions and in-depth conversations that I have with my residents,” he said. “I enjoy walking alongside of residents as they plan the next stage of their lives.”

Freshman RAs also serve as a resource to their residents, but in a different way. Their job revolves around helping freshmen students adjust to life at Bethel, which might include anything from finding classes to helping them connect with other students.

Nelson RA Elyssa Sheard shared a few differences that she sees. “I feel like as a freshman RA, you’re more able to live life with your residents,” she said. “People’s doors are open more, and you’re able to go in and be in community with them.” Since freshmen typically don’t have their friend groups established right away, RAs are also able to serve as a friend to their residents.

Because of Sheard’s own experience with her freshman RA, she has the desire to help students through the transition period. 

“I didn’t want to be an RA just to be there to enforce rules,” she said. “I wanted to be there for the community, to get to know people, and to be a role model.”

Sheard has found the openness of her residents to be most rewarding in her RA experience. “When [my residents] come to me and are willing to share things, good things and bad things … and being able to be there for them, but also knowing that when I’m having a bad day that they’re there for me too,” she said. “It’s just a really rewarding thing to know that as much as you love them, that they’ll love you back and return it.”

Britt’s final comments summed up his view on the importance of RAs to the Bethel community as a whole. “They have a huge heart for the students on this campus and a huge heart for developing the community that we know and love at Bethel,” he said. “They don’t do it for the money, but they do it for the opportunity to impact students’ lives.”

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