RA positions in high demand despite stress

By Zach Colick
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, March 25, 2005

Though only half of potential resident assistants get accepted for the job, some student applicants said the process is not as stressful as a regular job interview.

Linda Kasper, assistant director of residence hall operations and student recruitment and training, said there is an online application process where applicants answer questions and submit at least one reference to be considered for a resident assistant position.

Kasper said RA candidates then attend an individual interview and a group interview, where they are observed by hall directors and current RAs.

This year, Residence Life had about 400 student applicants to consider for an RA position.

"During this hiring time, we also have a process for our current RAs to apply to return for another year," Kasper said.

Of the 212 RAs Residence Life employs, typically 50 to 60 percent of their current staff applies to return for another year, leaving Residence Life to hire between 85 and 125 new RAs each year.

Jonathan Leonard, an RA at Villa del Puente Residence Hall, 575 N. Highland Ave., said he was confident about becoming an RA and did not stress over the interviews because his peers were reviewing him.

"You just want to be yourself and show your attributes as to why you should be hired," said Leonard, an electrical engineering junior. "It was a more relaxing and informal setting than a typical job interview."

With slightly more than half of the applicants being accepted, Kasper said Residence Life looks for students who can instill a sense of community and mentor residents with their personal, social, emotional and academic concerns.

"We look for students who can build relationships with residents on their wing and in their community," Kasper said. "RAs need to have an eye for safety and security issues in the halls, be accessible, work as a team with other RAs and keep on top of administrative duties."

Kasper said Residence Life requires a year commitment to the RA position, but said some RAs resign from their positions in the middle of the year, disrupting the residence hall community and Residence Life who has to search for another candidate to fill the vacancy.

"In addition to selecting new RAs, our search process provides us with an alternate pool where if any of our staff decide to leave the position or are not able to fulfill their contract, we replace these positions with RAs from our alternate pool," Kasper said.

Christopher Newman, an education senior and RA at Kaibab-Huachuca Residence Hall, 922 E. Fourth St., said he never thought about quitting, but he had doubts of whether the job was worth it after a student contemplated suicide and another student got into self-mutilation, both occurring during the two-week period before finals.

Leonard said the job can be stressful at times but never thought about quitting.

"I made the dedication for the entire year, and I would only create stress for my residents and my bosses if I decided to quit," Leonard said.

Leonard said being confident and showcasing abilities in being able to interact well with others made him shine brighter than other applicants.

Kasper said Residence Life approaches the applicants with the goal of placing them in communities where they will be successful. She said some applicants may initially be upset or puzzled by the residence hall they are placed in, but then discover the community was a good match for the skills they bring to the position.

"With 22 residence halls on campus, each with different configurations, traditions and living/learning communities, we have found that most applicants are not aware of all the aspects available in each community," Kasper said.

Though some RAs may be upset with the residence hall location they will be living and working in, Leonard said he enjoys being an RA and hopes to return as an RA to the same residence hall next year.

Leonard said the perks an RA receives are well worth troubling over an unpleasant hall placement.

RAs receive a room in the hall community they are working in, a 10 percent discount at the UofA Bookstore and $1,500 a year in meal and chip money, Kasper said.

"I wasn't even aware of all the perks you get when I was hired, but it's great having money on my meal plan and having the discount for books at the bookstore," Leonard said.