October 30, 2007

Cornellians Find Resident Advisor Jobs Rewarding

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Among the many on-campus jobs offered to Cornell students is the popular Resident Adviser position. Resident Advisers live in the undergraduate dorm buildings on campus and are considered resident hall community leaders, a position that involves both fun and responsibility.
“I call it the best job on campus. As with any job there are some drawbacks but, in all, it’s fun and exciting, and you get to work with some really great people,” said Alex Kantrowitz ’10, an R.A. in Cascadilla Hall.
“Every R.A. will tell you that the best part of the job is the people you work with and meet along the way. I’d agree with that statement, especially when it comes to the fourth floor of Cascadilla, best floor in all the land.”
According to the Campus Life website, R.A.s at Cornell — which consist of sophomores, juniors and seniors — have many different roles. They are peer counselors, community builders, academic resource people, programmers and administrators. As residence hall community leaders, R.A.s encourage residents to respect one another, get involved with floor, hall and area activities and provide information about campus resources.
Becoming an R.A. is a multi-step process that begins in the fall with a mandatory informational meeting. The next step is a spring semester interview session with Resident Hall Directors and other R.A.s. Following this part of the process, candidates must go to Residence Hall open houses and meet with current R.A.s and RHDs, both of whom determine which R.A.s are accepted to which buildings for the following fall.
David Pelunis-Messier ’08,a third-year R.A. in Clara Dickson Hall, described some of the responsibilities individuals must take on as an R.A.
“The main responsibilities are being on-call in your building, programming and developing a sense of community within your hall. But you also have to be in tune to issues your residents might have, especially in a first year community, and ready to help them deal with those if necessary,” he explained. “What most people don’t realize about the R.A. position are all of the behind the scenes components, especially the interpersonal communication skills that are needed when working closely with residents and fellow staff members and the organization that goes into planning events. Some programs for example can take weeks or even months to plan. If you want to do these things well, it requires a significant amount of time and energy,” he said.
Vidya Gunasekaran ’08 was an R.A. in Balch Hall. She described her favorite part of the job as getting to know her residents, and her least favorite part as disciplining them.
“The main job function is to be an available mentor and adviser … enforcing the rules is really a side responsibility. Most people don’t realize the hours R.A.s spend attending their residents’ events (a capella concerts, hall dinners, etc.) or the hours R.A.s put aside for residents to come chat in their rooms,” she said.
Pelunis-Messier felt similarly about the best and worst aspects of the job.
“My favorite part of the job is the opportunity to have a positive impact on first year residents, and now – as a third-year RA – in mentoring new RA’s through their first semester or year in the building. My least favorite part is having to write up residents for hall sports, alcohol and noise violations,” he explained.
Kantrowitz, Pelunis-Messier and Gunasekaran all agreed that most RA’s seem to overall enjoy their job, and would recommend it to any interested student as long as he or she is aware of the responsibilities that come along with it.
“I would recommend being an RA if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to do a good job in the position, if you have the self awareness to act as a good role model and if you’re not afraid to put your foot down when it’s necessary,” said Pelunis-Messier.
Kantrowitz enthusiastically added, “it’s a great job. If you’re willing to make the commitment to it, the experience can be the highlight of your whole Cornell career.”