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The Extra Curricular: Resident Assistant

The following blog post was written by Aaron, a junior in the Elliott School studying conflict resolution and psychology. Aaron is also the peer advisor training coordinator! You can learn more about him here.

A Gladiator in Sweatpants with Sleepy Eyes

We all know Olivia Pope. She’s the fixer.

The one you go to with everything from the tiniest question to the monumental crisis. She’s got all the connections you think you need and even a few that you’ve never thought of trying. Most importantly, when you think you’ve had enough, she reminds you that you’re just as strong as anyone else and that together you can weather any storm.

She’s kind of like a resident advisor in college. Which is weird, because Kerry Washington WAS IN FACT an RA at GW.

Olivia Pope 1

As a resident advisor, I’ve had the unique privilege to be one of your live-in Olivia Popes. I act as a primary resource and a first line of defense in the residence halls. Knock or send us an email, and we’re there to answer questions, resolve conflicts, and support residents in their toughest challenges.

We’re also hiring.

Olivia Pope 2

So, I’d like to give you an insight into a job that has allowed me to grow as a leader, challenge myself, and meet some of my closest friends.

As a leader:

At the broadest level, being an RA drops you into a position where you have the freedom to implement your own style of leadership.

There are guidelines and building blocks provided in our training, but I feel that we are encouraged to learn the information and then apply it in the way that best allows each of us to use our diverse strengths. This is an ideal setting to try new things and learn how to be your best leader.

Olivia Pope 3

As a challenge:

Residents can plan all they want, but eventually many will encounter something they never expected. That’s when, as an RA, you really get to be there for someone. You need to think on your feet and be a creative problem solver. You need to know how to listen and support them.

I always have the full support of the Center for Student Engagement, but in those moments, what I say, what I do, and how I approach the problem can make a big difference in how that individual processes the situation.

This is not an easy thing to do. I can practice all I want, but it doesn’t compare to the real thing. To mediate a conflict or to sit in uncomfortable silence or to make a late-night phone call – it’s hard. It’s supposed to be hard. If it weren’t hard, everybody would be an RA.  The hard is what makes it such a valuable experience. (See A League of Their Own for the origin of this paraphrasing.)

Olivia Pope 4

As a friend:

I had never encountered a team that was truly the epitome of the concept until I became an RA. My team, this year made up of the RAs in Potomac, is fluid and supportive. No ropes course can stand our communication skills or our ability to motivate each other. We often bounce ideas off each other and suggest new perspectives from which a problem might be tackled.

More than anything, I’m proud to call my teammates my friends. Just as we foster community in our building, we are a community in ourselves. Returning as a second year RA has given me the great opportunity to be a leader within this team, as well as make a second team’s worth of new friends.

Olivia Pope 5

I’m just one RA in a long line of RAs who have also been in the Honors program. It’s an invaluable opportunity. Applications open this week! Here’s the link to the application and the schedule for required information sessions! https://studentengagement.gwu.edu/resident-advisors

* I chose to write this blog of my own volition. My views do not reflect those of the CSE. I simply wish to share my experience and encourage other UHP students to check it out!