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RAs prepare for year of duty, residents’ arrivals

Megan Doyle | Saturday, August 21, 2010

As many students packed boxes of clothes and shopped for dorm furniture this weekend, a handful of seniors in each residence hall prepared themselves for another side of dorm life on campus. The resident assistants (RAs) for the 29 dorms on campus arrived days before the rest of the student body to learn to address their specific concerns for the upcoming year.

“I always looked up to the RAs as good examples of a Notre Dame student,” Zahm Hall RA Tim Woodward said. “I liked having relationships and friendships with them because I have always felt they are cool guys.”

The training process began two weeks ago when the RAs moved into their dorms on Aug. 8.

Senior Liz Davis, an RA in Lyons Hall, described the training process as multi-faceted and said the future RAs spent time not only with the rest of Notre Dame hall staff discussing general policy, but also on a more direct level with only their dorm staff.

“My expectations for the training were mini-lectures, hall staff dinners, late nights and great chats,” Davis said. “All were met.”

She said her past experiences with RAs in Lyons motivated her to reach out and provide the same guidance to younger students.

“I want to be that RA that not only sees the change but is the change,” Davis said.

Hall staff training provides not only insight into handling possible situations inside dorm life but also a network of people to respond should an individual RA not directly understand how to act, Davis said.

“Everything is great in theory but the practice is really what defines our job,” Davis said. “You cannot predict what will happen.”

Senior Rebecca Sharbaugh said she met an RA during her freshman year in Pasquerilla East who helped her transition to life at Notre Dame, and this first taste of dorm life inspired her to apply for the position herself to help students “through the highs and lows of their year here.”

“The first part of training included all the RAs in all the halls,” she said. “And we basically heard a lot of talks about the resources on campus, how those resources can help and how we can encourage students to use those resources.”

The training process was broken into discussions on general policy and conversations within each residence hall staff, Sharbaugh said.

“We also went through exercises where we did role-play and acted in difficult situations that we might encounter,” Sharbaugh said. “It gave the confidence to go into a situation when I do not know what to expect.”

Senior Jim Maslar applied for an RA position in order to be a “big brother” to the undergraduates in his dorm.

“[ORLH] did a good job of addressing the diversity of the students in our sections,” he said. “We talked about how to make people feel comfortable and make our sections welcoming.”

Nick Mancinelli said he spent his freshman year in Morrissey Manor living in a section of upperclassmen, but his RA was critical in getting him involved with the other freshmen in the dorm.

“I thought before we went into the training that it would be more about how to bring in someone feeling left out in the group,” Mancinelli said. “But the training in reality was much more serious than that.”

Mancinelli cited suicide prevention, homosexuality, gender relations, fire safety and CPR training as issues that were among the wide range covered during the training.

“I can really make or break their experience,” Mancinelli said. “I am excited for that responsibility.”