What I Wish I Knew: Get to Know Your Resident Advisor

by Rebekah Bruckner

One element of on-campus living is the resident advisor (RA). These students are highly trained, caring, and energetic; prepared to take on any challenge with gusto, snacks, and a smile. RAs do everything that a normal student does—live next door to you, go to class, stay up late to finish homework—and fulfill dozens of additional tasks that go along with this position. “A successful RA is organized, courageous, outgoing, diligent, determined, and manages time well,” said Jaeda Smith ‘19, acting for the stage and screen major, and an RA in Azusa Pacific University’s University Village. “Some days it is tempting to do the bare minimum, but I remind myself that even a smile could be the necessary encouragement that one of my residents needs to make it through their day.”

What it Takes

Taking on the position of resident advisor is not an easy feat. This adventure starts early, with applications due about six months before the fall semester. Once selected, RAs go through strenuous training, including a 10-day backpacking excursion called Walkabout, which includes solo time to fast and pray, lots of hiking, rock climbing, and a 5k run at the finish. Student leaders are pushed far past their comfort zone and into a space where they learn to rely on God and each other. This training prepares them for the best and the worst that will come with their leadership position.

Why It Matters

Freshmen RAs play a significant role in the experience of new students—they are friends, mentors, and encouragers. I truly appreciated my freshman-year RA as she played an important part in helping me to understand the culture of our school by teaching me new lingo, pointing me in the right direction if I was lost, and making sure that I knew about fun events on campus. Morgan Harrison ‘21, English major, shares a similar experience: “As a freshman, I had great interactions with my RA. I built a friendship with him that I appreciate.”

I also had a great experience with my sophomore-year RA. As a transfer student, it was my first year at APU, and she was incredibly generous with her time and resources. She encouraged me to join her at events, checked in on me regularly, and spent time getting to know me. Her dedication made my experience as a transfer student wonderful. She developed a welcoming sense of community within our living area. “I really treasure the sense of community that I feel in my hall,” said Harrison of her first year on campus. “My RA and others in my hall have made sure that I feel welcome, creating an atmosphere that I can call home. In this, they truly reflect the spirit of Christ.”

Welcome Home

One of the top priorities of a resident advisor is to make sure that their residents feel welcome in their living area. These spaces become home for the year, and that transition can be difficult for some students. “Before the school year, I hadn’t met most of my residents,” said Smith. “Through this experience, I learned what it takes to walk alongside these students and support them better by finding ways to pray for them and connect with their needs.” She encourages students to live on campus for as long as they can, “Living with other students reminds you that you aren’t alone. There is a special type of support system that many find by living on campus. When you are surrounded by a community of other college students the difficulties of college life seem less overwhelming.”

Rebekah Bruckner ‘18 is an editorial and public relations intern in the Office of University Relations.