Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan


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Stressful yet Fulfilling: A Look into the Life of an RA

Elly Herrick
RA at East Lake building D Garrett Haugen stands outside his bulidling. RAs are required to hold events and in his event he brought his dog, Oscar, out for his residences to destress.

From the first faces many residents see on move-in days, to maybe the one-person residents who don’t want to catch them at night, Resident Assistants (RAs) are a vital component in housing at Winona State University. RAs are a staple in college life typically for first-year students to transition into college. Through floor events and mandatory informational meetings, RAs have become a resource to many in residence halls.

Second-year studying Creative Digital Media (CDM) Abby Gleason has been involved with her housing community since her freshman year. By getting involved with Hall Council in Prentiss-Lucas hall (PL) it became a no-brainer to continue being involved with her community.

“Through this experience, I got to know all the RAs in my building quite well. I also worked with the hall director of PL, Ryan Brinkman,” Gleason said. “This is what really sparked my interest in the RA position for me. I really enjoyed planning events and getting to know my fellow residents.”

Her overall positive experience is what led her to apply for the position when applications opened last year from mid-October through early February. She describes that process was intense, needing a full resume, cover letter, and two reference letters. Then all applicants have a formal individual interview with a hall director and the assistant hall director (AD).

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“Honestly, the job continues to surprise me, and I mean that in the best way possible.  Going into it, I really underestimated the rewards I would receive and that doesn’t mean just the tuition benefits,” Gleason said  “I’ve been able to connect with residents all throughout the building. I also find myself learning from them and their own life experiences, which has been really enjoyable.”

After that interview the applicants go to, you guessed it, another interview. This interview is in a group that hall directors use to see how an applicant works in a group in raw situations. After that, they then consider each applicant and the Hall Directors pick which RA is going to work in each building and send out a letter sometime around Spring Break in March.

“The big tip I was given going into [group interviews] was: it’s okay to be heard, but you shouldn’t be the one that has always been heard,” Third-year Secondary Social Studies Teaching Candidate, Garrett Haugen who is working his first year of being an RA at East Lake building D said. “You don’t want to be the one overshadowing everybody and you don’t want to be the one leading everything at all times…you want to genuinely be a team player.”

Through group lectures and hands-on exercises learning the responsibilities of being an RA, as well as taking Safe Space training, there’s a lot of preparation that RAs must do for the coming school year. RAs typically move in around the beginning of August and go through two weeks of all-day training with other RAs in their building.

“We have training called behind closed doors (BCDs) and that’s where RAs are training for kind of the unknowns of what happens when you knock on the door because of a noise complaint,” Haugen said “You might hear glasses or bottles clinking and you hear people talking about alcohol, you might smell marijuana coming out from underneath the door and stuff like that. So you kind of get walked through what your steps are.”

Second-year student studying nursing Phoebe DeBates became an RA to take advantage of the financial gain of free housing and a meal plan that comes with the position but has shaped a welcoming and fun lifestyle on the fourth floor of Lucas.

“The hardest thing so far about being an RA is just finding the balance between school, work, and social life,” DeBates said. “The most rewarding part of the job has been being able to help primarily freshmen transition into their first year of college and find their place at WSU.”

She explains how every RA is required to provide ten open-door hours (ODH) every week as a resource for residents to talk with their RA in a comfortable setting. They also have responsibilities at the front desk, creating two door decorations for residents per semester, doing rounds around the hall, holding onto the duty phone, as well as creating monthly bulletin boards.

“I knew being an RA I was going to have to duty nights, I was going to have to enforce rules, and kind of be the point of contact for residents…what I didn’t expect was that the bulletin boards are stressful!” Haugen said. “Being an RA just adds another dynamic and another stress level that’s good and bad to being a student. I knew it was going to add to the stress of being a student, but I didn’t think it would also add as much fun as it has.”

Although there is a good deal of things needing to be done, the job is different and new each day. Many RAs have their fair share of stress with their many responsibilities while attempting a balancing act with a social as well as academic life.

“Honestly, there’s no advice I can give for this part of the job,” Gleason said. “It’s just something people have to figure out on their own because everyone’s balance will be different…If I worked on this job 100% of the time, I would be very mentally drained.”

While RAs take turns going on duty and working the front desk in residence halls, work can easily take hold of RAs’ lives. Some nights RAs come home very late from rounds and have to go to school the next morning.

“If I have an incident that I have to take care of, at 11 pm sometimes, incidents take longer to deal with so I might not get to bed after paperwork and filling out the Incident Reports (IRS) and updating the hall directors on duty. I might not get to bed till 2:30 or 3 in the morning,” Haugen said. “Being an RA is a 24-hour job. I’ve gotten those funny emails where it’s ‘Hey, my stove is on fire.’ And you have to go respond…But it always keeps you on your toes and it’s a good time.”

First-year student studying Communications Art and Literature Spencer Bongard has not only survived the heat during the first months in Conway but now has become comfortable in the dorms.

“RAs are a built-in support system. It’s someone who from day one is there for you and wants to help you…every single RA I’ve met has been nothing short of an amazing person,” Bongard said. “My RA makes me feel super safe in my dorm, without my RA I don’t think I would’ve been so calm moving to college and continuing to feel calm and safe in my dorm. RA’s are very important and useful to the dorms, other staff, and all residents.”

The days can drag into nights, but the connections RAs build with each other by creating fun and stimulating environments are fulfilling to most RAs. Haugen sums up his passion in his position.

“You genuinely love what you’re doing,” Haugen said. “Yeah, you may be stressed, Yeah, you may get annoyed with things but I mean being an RA is one of the most rewarding things I’ve been doing.”

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About the Contributor
Elly Herrick, Online Editor
Elly Herrick (She/They) is currently the online/social media editor, business manager, features writer, and photographer. Try saying that five times fast. Herrick also works as the Communications Director on Student Senate, a 2023 Orientation Leader, and was newly added on a Tuesday 7-10p.m timeslot on KQAL. They are also the Social media manager for the WSU Pre-Athletic Training Club. Herrick is from Kenosha, Wisconsin, and is a second-year student at Winona State University studying Mass Communications: Public Relations with a minor in Advertising, Photography, and Creative Digital Media. They love following challenging and fulfilling stories. They also have a strong passion for writing and giving others a voice. Herrick loves to travel and over the summer, they traveled to Greece, Italy, and Barcelona. They are now saving up and planning on going to New Zealand this winter with their Aunt. Outside of school, they love taking the train and seeing live concerts with friends. They also love sharks and a good book!    

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