The “PRO” in RA ✄ Programming ✉

Planning, coordinating and facilitating specific-themed programs (events, workshops,  etc.) are one of the main assignments RAs must complete, typically twice or more on a monthly bases.  However, if the programs are irrelevant to the students, then a lot of time, energy and effort will be wasted. That said, below are three practical ways to build and facilitate successful programs for schedule-tight students.

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Informative fliers, social media and chalk drawn sidewalks are just a few advertising methods students are used to getting information from on and around campus. The key here is to use the least amount of words to give the most amount of information. Honesty with what to expect is also important–so if you’re advertising an Xbox tournament from a huge projection screen  it better be there!

Framework

As the program facilitator, developing and following an agenda is a must–rather it’s a high energy or low energy program. If the students never see order, you’ll never see them again. Time is another factor, chose the best time frame that works for most students. If the program is an hour and a half  and starts and ends at a specific time try to follow that schedule. Finally, although programs follow a specific theme, aim to facilitate a program that reaches a wide range of students; you want to maximize your audience, not minimize it.

Incentives

Most students have a tight schedule with varying time constraints, so anything extra added to their schedule must be somewhat valuable to them as students. Most programs have a direct benefit depending on its theme, (budgeting, time management, etc.) though the indirect benefit is just a critical. The attached image is of  Program Reward Cards I made, and every time a student attends a program I design they get a stamp. Obtaining six stamps and completing the card allows the student to trade it in for an exclusive prize at the end of the semester. The program reward card can also easily travel with the students where ever they go. Incentives like these can definitely motivate students to attend more programs then they would have otherwise.

Mario Adkins is a senior at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus facilitating programs and events as both a resident assistant and vice president of membership for GVSU’s OΔK Circle–a national leadership honor society. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked.

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The Koolest Bulletin ̶B̶o̶r̶e̶d̶ Board

Bulletin boards (or white boards) are a highly effective tool used by resident assistants to communicate with their students. They are typically updated monthly and follow themes based on the RA’s overall floor agenda. Though RAs spend much time on bulletin board, students do not like to waste theirs–meaning if it isn’t relevant to them then they will be ignored. That said, below are three ways to design a bulletin board that students will actually utilize.

Informative

This is the main goal for most bulletin boards; to display information. If RAs need to communicate with students indirectly then a bulletin board message is perfect. Floor meetings times/dates, monthly floor themes and programming messages are the main functions for indirect messages.

Inclusive 

A bulletin board MUST be inclusive to all students on the floor and use inclusive language. This is because the floor is a community and should include all students. For example, instead of creating a bulletin board strictly on the service work of Greek Life, [which may not interest some students ] create a bulletin board on service work from many, if not all applicable departments. This will give students options instead of focusing in on just one area.

Interactive

Many bulletin boards solely display information, and after reading them the students may have no further reason to read them again. However, if the bulletin board is interactive with a game or puzzle, the students may give it more attention to complete the objective. Though my bulletin board (attached below) was questions and answers based, it also gave students the opportunity to write their own questions on sticky notes to get them answered later.

Mario Adkins is a senior at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus facilitating programs and events as both a resident assistant and vice president of membership for GVSU’s OΔK Circle–a national leadership honor society. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked.

Decked Out

First impressions matter, and that’s why college door decorations (hence forth shortened to “door decs”) are so important for new students moving into their living areas.  Though door dec designs vary from RA to RA, the idea to greet new students by name is the case for them all. The attached image is of  my own door dec designs, which are white envelopes colored with crayons and outlined differently with a coordinated grey boarded that varies from color to color. The three bullets below outline the main three uses for door decs with my own serving as examples for the outlines.

Welcoming

The first role door decs serve  is a greeting tool–an advanced name tag of sorts.  Most door decs have the names of the students to welcome them in by name and to confirm they are in their correct living area.  Many RAs use printed, computerized name labels to save time, though I chose to hand write my names to personalize them to their fullest extent.

Informing

Most door decs inform students indirectly, such as gauging the “creativity” of the RA or the “theme” of the floor. Messages can also be written on them to further convey information such as greeting messages or important dates. My door decs are envelopes specifically because they allowed for a nice area of designing and gives the door decs an added mailbox option. Handwritten notes are in all my door decs and allows the option to putting notes/messages in their door dec instead of sliding them under doors.

Styling

Straight up, the kooler your door decs look, the kooler your floor is. Resident Assistants are tasked with building community and door decs add a make-or-break effect to that atmosphere. The aim for my door decs was to have an aesthetic symmetry–and the early arrival students seem to like them very much!

Mario Adkins is a senior at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus facilitating programs and events as both a resident assistant and vice president of membership for GVSU’s OΔK Circle–a national leadership honor society. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked.

RA Administrative Work

The entry RA = Resource Accessible outlined the resources most students can expect to get from their RA. However, various types of administrative work must be completed to allow new student access to their living areas and to ensure those areas reach maximum functionality. The five main tasks below are critical to achieving housing setup completion–done by RAs for new students.

Housing Condition Summaries (HCS)

Housing condition summaries are single sheets of papers that are subdivided by rooms (bedrooms, bathroom, kitchenettes, etc) and list specific items in those rooms to be defined as good, damaged, or not applicable/present. This allows the college facilities department to gauge what work needs to be done and gives new students the opportunity to keep on record any prior damages (and gauge new damages after their move out!) Though facilities rely on the HCS to fix any damages prior to student move in. The paperwork is detailed and each room requires an individual HCS, so taking time to fill these out by RAs assist in making sure all rooms/areas are adequately ready for new students.

Key Repairs/Replacement

Electronic key cards and brass keys are expected to be in excellent condition by the housing department of Grand Valley State University. Electronic keys allow students access to their building while brass keys allow access to their rooms. Replacing damaged keys, lock changes and pin number resets for the electronic key cards are just a few reason why RAs deal so heavily with keys and why this site is named after them. Also for duty and maintenance work, RAs have access to a master key that opens the door to every door on their floor–so trust is key when completing this type of administrative work.

Bullion Boards

Bullion Boards are the single most important aspect of a college dorm floor. This is because various resources are placed here; from programming info to other departments that could benefit the student. Many student come to college with many questions and the bullion board can instantly answer them. It can also give students new information they never considered was important and/or relevant. A single contact number or post on a bullion board can save a student confusion, time, money, and maybe even their life.

Door Decs

Door decorations, better known as ‘door decs’ are the ultimate welcome for new students just moving onto campus. It lets them know they were thought about and anticipated within the dorms. Most door decs follow a ‘floor theme’ and really create an atmosphere for the dorm. These must be created for an entire floor and could be the most time an RA spends on anything! (Not really, though it DOES take awhile)

Post Move-In Administrative Work

Even after new students move-in there are still a variety of administrative tasks that may need to be completed. An example are indecent reports, which must be filled out timely, accurately and honestly. Additionally, pre/post program (event) evaluations are another piece of the administrative puzzle that must be completed. This behind-the-scene work is critical (and mandatory) for an RA to have finished–or else there would be no scene.

Mario Adkins is a senior at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus facilitating programs and events as both a resident assistant and vice president of membership for GVSU’s OΔK Circle–a national leadership honor society. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked.

RA = Resource Accessible

The acronym ‘RA’ has more than just its standard meaning of Resident Assistant, it actually means Resource Accessible. This is because being a resource for students and being easily accessible is the most important part about being an RA. Though there are many resources new students have, I have outlined the top five in no specific order. Any new students reading this you are not just limited to these five, asking simple questions such as “what time is it?” is are also welcomed!

Information

Information is the first thing new college students will want, specifically those living on their own for the first time. From directional information of the campus to laundry rules, the questions are always specific and RAs must always provide answers. However, this does not mean RAs must have knowledge of everything. Referring a student to a specific area is the key. For example, if a student wants to change their major an RA should direct them to the counseling and career center so this can be done officially and after discussion.

Events/Programming

Most new students are not accustomed to campus life, nor might they know where many campus events are. An RA plans events and programs in two ways. In-Area and Out-Area. In-Area events and programs are planned and facilitated by the RA(s) in their area so student never have to go far for something entertaining. Out-Area events are events RAs take students to that may be going on around campus, such as a homecoming event, a service projects or a campus-wide conference. These events are  usually academic-based or recreational-based.

Mediation 

Mediation = conflict resolution. In college many students have never had their ideas challenged or their style of living questioned. This can cause issues when this conflicts with a roommate’s living style–and the RA is the first resource for students. In no way is conflict destructive, in actuality it is constructive. Life is all about learning and becoming adaptable to different circumstances, and RAs aim to help roommates by encouraging them to create a fair game plan that works for them both–not in compromising, in collaborating.

Counsel

Low grades, homesickness, boyfriend/girlfriend issues and depression are just a few issues RAs may encounter from their new students. Everyone has their down days, and the most important aspect to remember is that these feelings are momentary–meaning they’re not forever. With that said, RAs aim to assist students by stating the problem, understanding how/why it’s affecting them, and working on a solution to remedy the issue. It is here where RAs use their discernment in knowing if they can successively remedy an issue or make a necessary referral for the student.

Entertainment!

Every RA has their own way of having fun with their students. From football outside, cooking and even watching a movie in Kirkhof’s theater, the options are endless! I’ll have an Xbox in my room so any of my students are more than welcomed to get beat in MW3 or defeated in HG! Though college is all about learning and doing new things, sometimes it’s doing your favorite hobbies with new friends that turns them into lasting ones.

[The site zerolocked – The Keys of An RA, will always proceed ‘RA’ with the article ‘an’ and not ‘a’, unless the word is spelled out–hence forth known as the RA Rule. This is because annunciation-wise, RA = Are. The grammatical rule is that if the word after the article is a vowel then an is used, while consonants use a. (An article, A vowel). There are exceptions to the rule. You would say “An Xbox”, even though X is a consonant. Again, annunciation-wise Xbox = Ex, so the RA Rule applies!]

RA 4 West A

If you’re reading this, then you’re either one of my friends or one of my residents.  Though I’ll keep the intros about myself short, it’ll answer the “Who is this guy that’s my college RA” question. I’m Mario, though I go by Ari here at Grand Valley, and I’m one of the three Resident Assistants (aka RAs) for the West A Living Center. I have an identical twin brother who is definitely similar to me and my home town is Detroit, MI. I’ll start this fall in my senior year and I’m psyched to hang out with all the new incoming freshmen assigned to West A (and the surrounding dorms) and help with the transition from high school to college—and I know about that very well myself.

I was home schooled since the 6th grade and it still stands as one of the best experiences of my life. The only ‘negative’ aspect of getting home schooled to me was my twin and I could never switch classes (I mean, the most we could do was switch seats and what fun is that?) Also, I could never skip school, because, well, it was like running away from home… (Again, not something worth doing).  Those aside it was THEE koolest experience. I graduated not knowing my major so I enrolled into Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) and graduated from their Honors Program and with an Associates of Arts degree. My time at GRCC helped define my major after transferring to GVSU and this RA position of mine helps it even further. That means if you guys don’t come to me for anything I’m going to be very bored! Heh, well not really but my future master degree program is College Students Affairs Leadership M.Ed, to connect all this together.

All that said, I’m here for any and all new students so keep me posted with any questions and all of us RAs will be sure to provide you guys with all the information you need and relevant programming.

Ari