Grace McBarron’s decision to become a resident assistant was largely influenced by her own experiences during her freshman year at UO.
“My freshman year I had a fantastic RA,” McBarron said. “He helped me through probably one of the most difficult times in my life.
Now McBarron is a junior and second-year resident assistant in Living Learning Center North, thanks to her RA.
“That inspired me to want to be able to do the same thing for somebody else,” McBarron said.
According to Heather Kropf, associate director of residence life, the University of Oregon’s Resident assistant program is special not only because of its residential learning model, but also because of the program’s focus on one-on-one interaction. For UO’s resident assistants, one of the most important functions of an RA is providing support to students.
For McBarron, one of the best things about being a mentor resident assistant is being able to impact her resident’s lives.
“Sometimes they go through things that are really difficult, and being able to be the person that they come to and seek help from is a really rewarding feeling,” McBarron said.
Each resident assistant undergoes two to three weeks of training prior to the beginning of the school year, during which resident assistants learn about social justice, how to handle documentation and how to interact with the UO Police Department. However, RA Wyatt Waterbury said that many aspects of the job can only be learned from experience.
“As the year progresses different things come up and you learn different things about your residents, you learn different things about yourself and how you react” Waterbury said.
Waterbury is also a junior and a second-year mentor resident assistant in Walton South. Waterbury is majoring in marketing with a minor in Arabic, and after college he plans to join the Peace Corps.
“I think that the skills that you get from being an RA … directly correlate to what I’d be doing in the Peace Corps,” Waterbury said.
Each RA will typically be on-call one night a week and two weekends a term. During a resident assistant’s shift they are required to answer the designated on-call phone and to stay on campus. Typically, RAs will make two rounds on weeknights and three on weekends. During rounds, resident assistants check each floor of their assigned hall as well as the bathrooms and stairwells to ensure the safety of students.
“We’re trying to make sure that everybody’s safe,” sophomore Lauren Young said. “We’re like a safety blanket for everybody.”
Young is a first-year resident assistant from Mill Valley, California. For her, one of the most rewarding aspects of the job are the relationships she forms with her residents.
In addition to their on-call duties RAs offer support to their residents on a daily basis. Though they are only required to have two one-on-one sessions with residents per term, McBarron, Waterbury and Young all find time to meet with students regularly.
“It’s just a way for us to keep up-to-date with everything that’s going on in their lives,” McBarron said.