RAs prepare to lead the pack

University Housing is dedicated to creating a positive experience for residents. This year, more than 200 students participated in the week-long Resident Advisor (RA) training prior to student move-in. Nearly 80 students are returning RAs with at least one year of experience and 11 students are returning for training as third-year RAs.

RA training for residents of East Campus (Avent Ferry, Wood, North, Watauga, Syme, Gold, Welch, Becton, Berry and Bagwell halls) began on Aug. 7. Activities for the 72 RAs included safety training, building preparation, scenario skits, team building and more. One popular team building exercise included a high ropes course.

“We take all our RAs to a high ropes course to do something outside training that can teach them team collaboration,” said Sahana Sankar, Resident Director (RD) at Avent Ferry Complex. “The RAs truly love the ropes course because they are really able to push themselves out of their comfort zones.”

On West Campus (Bragaw, Lee and Sullivan halls), 53 RAs moved in Aug. 6 and six Administrative Coordinators (ACs) moved in on Aug. 4 to prepare for the upcoming year. On Aug. 5, the ACs gathered for a retreat at the Friday Institute to prepare for their added leadership roles and to outline expectations of their position. “The AC Retreat ultimately provides a time for the Resident Director (RD) and AC to get to know one another and figure out the best ways to communicate with each other and what additional responsibilities the AC can manage,” said Cherelle Pinckney, RD for South Bragaw.

During RA training on West Campus, residents participated in icebreakers, teambuilding exercises, training sessions and evening socials that encouraged interaction and engagement among RAs. “This year for RA training, we decided to include Turi Watson from the Office of Student Conduct and an additional session QPR-Suicide Prevention Program from the Counseling center,” Pinckney said.

On Central Campus (Bowen, Metcalf, Carroll, Tucker, Owen, Turlington and Alexander halls), 58 RAs   began training sessions Aug. 7. Some training sessions were held online through a Moodle site while others involved traditional skits and hands-on participation. All training sessions were loaded into Guidebook and RAs used their mobile phones to find the right place at the right time.

“I would say the training session RAs are most impacted by is our Behind Closed Doors session,” said Christina Ujj, Community Director Alexander and Turlington halls. “Returning RAs act out scenarios and the new RAs get to try the skills they acquired during training to respond appropriately.”

Training for RAs in charge of on-campus apartments began earlier than for residence halls. With earlier move-in dates, RAs needed extra time to prepare for incoming residents. Wolf Village residents began moving in Aug. 10 so 16 RAs began training Aug. 1.

To encourage team bonding, RA and Resident Mentor (RM) training included a Leadership Retreat.  “We were able to facilitate a lot of conversations on multicultural leadership and team building by coordinating many different activities at UNC Wilmington and on Wrightsville Beach,” said Sam Byrd, RD at Wolf Village. “The RAs and RMs had a chance to spend ample time together over the trip and develop meaningful relationships.”

Even though this was the first year of RA training for residents of Wolf Ridge, the 10 RAs enjoyed many team building activities leading up to opening Aug. 1. During their five-day training, one exercise called “Crossing the Line” really resonated with the new staff members. RAs were silent as the RD read statements aloud about identity. If the RA agreed with the statement, then he or she took a step across an imaginary line. The group then discussed how the statements made them feel and how they could use the experience to assist residents of Wolf Ridge.

“Crossing the Line was one of the favored events because it allowed people to see that they were not ‘alone’ in identifying what often are invisible characteristics or identities,” said Detric Robinson, RD at Wolf Ridge. “It helped them gain a sense of belonging and understanding. I was told that it also played a role in building trust and friendship because of the high level of trust that was needed to openly identify with some of the statements.”

To learn more about becoming a Resident Advisor in your area, visit the RA application page.  Applications open Oct. 1 and information sessions begin Oct. 22. “Being an RA is an awesome job opportunity,” Ujj said. “You will learn so much about yourself and gain great skills that can transfer to any job after college.”