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Dorms interview RA candidates

Kaitlynn Riely | Friday, March 3, 2006

When Paul Hagan was applying to be a resident assistant (RA) in Zahm Hall last year, he knew part of his job would be encouraging – or discouraging – the dorm’s notorious traditions.

Now, Hagan is interviewing prospective Zahm RAs, and the issue of upholding Zahm’s identity is a question he and the other RAs are posing to the applicants.

“We ask questions about how they feel about our dorm culture, because obviously Zahm has a very unique or outspoken culture, so [we talk about] how they would want to change it or nurture it,” Hagan said.

The RA selection process is either underway or completed in all 27 residence halls. Students interested in applying for the position submitted an application and three letters of recommendation to the Office of Student Affairs in mid-January. Though dorms differ slightly in how they conduct their selection process, the rectors, assistant rectors and current resident assistants usually hold a series of interviews, and then the rector makes the final decisions.

Anne-Marie Rick of Welsh Family was awarded an RA spot last week. She found the application process – which included three separate int-erviews in one hour – to be fairly easy.

“The interviews go over everything from how would you handle it if you were aware of one of the girls in your section being bulimic to what do you think is the biggest thing you’re going to have to give up,” Rick said.

In some dorms, competition for an RA spot, which includes free room and board, can be tough. Zahm Hall has 16 applicants this year for seven spots. Other dorms, like Morrissey Hall, have less intense competition. Matthew Schultheis is one of nine Morrissey juniors applying for eight spots. If he’s offered an RA position, Schultheis wants to help Morrissey residents adjust to life in the dorm and at Notre Dame.

“I feel like I’ve had great role models in my life, particularly freshman year,” Schultheis said. “I hope that I could make freshman year easier and more fulfilling for the freshmen as my RA did for me.”

Alexis Phillips, an RA in Pasquerilla East Hall, has been helping to interview 18 applicants for six spots. The competition was stiff last year as well, Phillips said. Phillips says she has enjoyed spending her final year at Notre Dame as a leader in her dorm.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself … how to deal with all kinds of situations, things that I never would have thought I’d have to deal with,” Phillips said. “I think it’s very rewarding. I would do it again.”

While the hall staff considers each applicant’s leadership skills and personalities individually, they also try to pick a group that will work well together.

“When you are picking seven people, you want different personalities that are going to mesh well,” Hagan said.

In his interviews, current Morrissey RA Dan Reynolds asked juniors questions about how they understand the dorm’s character and what they can contribute to residence life. Reynolds also asked candidates about their faith lives.

“[Resident assistants should be] willing examples of conscientious faith, no matter what kind of faith it is,” Reynolds said.

In the resident assistant description on its website, the Office of Student Affairs says RAs should possess Christian values evident in their lives and in their lifestyles.

Rectors will make their RA picks by today, and the Office of Student Affairs will inform all applicants of their status March 10.

Thinking back over the past year, Hagan said being a resident assistant is a great job to have on campus. In addition to lowering the expenses of attending Notre Dame, the privilege of being respected by other residents and being a leader in the dorm makes the job one Hagan recommends.

“It helps you grow up and mature … [and to] be in a leadership position as opposed to [being] the person the RAs are trying to control,” Hagan said.