Just down the hall
From September to June, they are now in it together. Shoes scrape and scuff the red brick path as freshmen enter into the Performing Arts Center. After getting residents settled for their official welcome, the resident advisers stay behind for a celebration of their own.
Senior Makayla Henry, resident adviser for Beta-Gamma, has been preparing for this day for weeks. Her passion for becoming an RA however, has a much longer history.
It was only after having such a positive experience as a student living in the dorms that Henry decided to become an RA. She felt extremely welcomed by her own RA and couldn’t wait to be that figure for others, she said.
“You could just walk in to her room whenever and she’d be like, ‘Oh yeah, let’s just sit and talk.’” Henry said. “You didn’t realize how much work she put into it, or at least I didn’t until I got this position.”
Moving in on Sept. 8, the advisers had time to break the ice and meet each other, Henry said.
“You’re not just one RA for the Beta-Gamma community, you’re an RA for Western,” Henry said.
This is Henry’s first year as an RA. She oversees around 60 residents and is one of the 60-70 RAs who manage the 4,060 students utilizing on-campus housing this year, according to Western’s website.
“By the time the students get here, we’re just adding to the family,” Henry said.
RAs spend hours of training and goal setting. Their community becomes so close-knit that when they see each other on campus, it’s like seeing a brother or sister who knows exactly what your life is like, Henry said.
The transition from resident to resident advisor requires extensive training, Henry said. During training, RAs learn how to plan events such as hall meetings and socials with other halls, Henry said.
RAs craft posters, set goals and discuss what it means to have a healthy and thriving sense of community on campus, Henry said. They also learn about the intricacies of campus life, she said.
“We hear about the different resources on campus, especially the health center and the counseling center. University police comes in and gives a really good presentation on what they’re here for,” Henry said.
Henry comes from a line of RAs as her mother and sister were both resident advisers at different universities. She knew what it took to be an RA and and knew that supervising residents is a privilege, she said.
“Sometimes all the students see from us is policy enforcement, but it’s so much more than that. We’re here to listen to their stories and create community for students at Western,” Henry said.
Freshman Morgan Donahue, living in Mathes Hall this year, thinks of her RA as someone there to help her out with directions and give her guidance.
RAs are there to be the underclassman who can lead you through the first year and answer your questions, Donahue said.
“I keep finding in college that the things I wasn’t worried about all of a sudden hit me, and the things I was worried about were a lot easier than I thought,” Donahue said.
Sophomore Megan McCardle enjoyed her dorm experience so much that she came back for a second year of resident community. Her RA was one of the main reasons she made close friends freshman year and came back for more fun, McCardle said.
“My RA was amazing last year. She was actually the one who introduced me to my neighbors who I’m living with now,” McCardle said. “I came winter quarter and it was my first day and she introduced me to all these people. She took me to dinner because I was the only new person on my floor.”
Roommates Kaitlin Neary and Rachel McCardy said they felt extremely cared for by their RA last year.
“Our RA made personal connections with us,” Neary said. “She was really intentional about knowing about our lives, which was awesome.”
Her RA helped get her through the first year, McCardy said.
Henry hopes to hear all of her residents’ stories; she cares about them, she said. Her main goal is to foster community at Western and celebrate the diversity among residents.
The day in the life of an RA can be long, and often full of unseen tasks, but the end result is worth it, Henry said.
*Editor’s Note: The original article contained an error regarding Makayla Henry’s last name.