RAs are the backbone of dorm-life at Wheaton, but it’s not an easy job to have. Features interviewed RAs past and present in order to share with you how they got the job, what it entails and the things they’ve learned from it.
According to Alley Kammer, the Evans 4 RA, the process of becoming an RA begins after fall break, as the applications are released the first day of B-quad. After the applications are submitted, there are two interviews one with the senior staff and also a group interview with current RAs. The names of future RAs are released before Christmas break. Following Christmas break, meetings begin, eventually floor assignments are released and the future RAs gather with staff in their intended building a few times before summer break to create community. After summer break, the RAs return two weeks earlier than normal. It’s then time to clean and decorate the floor, have more meetings and head to HoneyRock. When they return, they meet several more times together before welcoming the freshman and helping get them settled in. Then it’s a whirlwind of freshman orientation before classes start. After the first floor meetings where RAs lay down the ground rules for the floor, they are able to get into more of a rhythm.
On a weekly basis, RAs have many commitments. They must have weekly meetings with their fellow RAs and senior staff members as well as have dinner with them, meet one-on-one with their mentor who is an assigned senior staff member and also with their UCC or CLC. They also all take a class, Student Care in College Ministry, together. They must commit to being “in” two nights a week: From 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., they are on duty and cannot leave their building. On their “in” nights, they do rounds at 10 p.m., walking down every floor to check that all is well. Afterwards, they might head to post rounds, where they’ll chat with senior staff members and other RAs. In addition to all that, they must help plan floor fellowship events as well as take care of the students on their floor. Though this may seem like a full-time job, RAs also have classes, other extra-curricular activities and friends outside of their dorm to keep up with.
Without a doubt, one of the most challenging parts of life as an RA is balancing everything. “Part of the fun of living in a freshmen dorm is that there’s always something exciting going on, so it takes a lot of self control to make sure that everything gets done,” said senior Mary Elizabeth Goodell, RA on Fischer 2West this year. Senior Gareth Leake, a former RA on Fischer 5South, echoes the same sentiment, saying, “For me, it was difficult to balance my various relationships, and I had to place more priority on some and less on others.”
In this challenging balancing act, God still works through them on their floor: “(Each of the guys on my floor) comes from unique and different backgrounds, and we seem to live life together well in a very harmonious way. God’s grace is and will always be sufficient,” said junior Justin Dillenback, RA on Traber 4 this year. Senior Beth Loudon, former RA for Fischer 3South, said that, although she had a tough year last year, a note that she got from one of the girls on her floor allowed her to see how God had worked through her.
“She told me that seeing me broken allowed her and the other girls on the floor to see my humanness,” said Loudon. “And human was all that God created me to be — as an RA, as a student. It was all I needed to be for the girls on the floor. It was in this brokenness that God worked.”
Some aspects of being an RA cannot be anticipated. “I thought that in being an RA, I’d be a lot more organized and disciplined in different areas of my life — sort of like my old RAs tended to be. It totally doesn’t work that way at all! Growth like that doesn’t occur overnight,” said junior Jackson Bargery, RA on Traber 7 this year. Goodell has been pleasantly surprised by being an RA.
“I don’t think I expected how tight the community would be,” said Goodell. “I am just totally in love with both 2West and the other RAs and have been blown away with how supportive they’ve been and how great it’s been to work with 12 other students so closely.”
When asked about the most rewarding part of being an RA, the RAs interviewed gave a variety of answers. However, they all agreed that there are great things about being in this role. “Any time a guy on my floor would learn a new aspect of the Gospel or something new about who they are, I experienced great joy,” said senior Daniel Cummings, former RA on Traber 3.
“My favorite part about being an RA is the fact that I get to live on T7 another year, take part in this community and hang out with the guys and hear people’s stories. Nothing better,” said Bargery. A girl on Loudon’s floor had extended stay at the end of the year last year, and she helped her clean the floor.
“As we cleaned, she thanked me for all that I had done. There were many areas in which I had felt as though I failed.” said Loudon. “Yet these areas were some of the very places in which she had seen God work. It was a beautiful and restorative time.”
RAs at Wheaton are faced with the challenging task of leading a floor in a dorm as well as balancing other aspects of their lives. However, God works through them, whether in weakness or in strength, to foster community and growth on their floors. As Cummings said, “It was a great joy to pour into the lives of men and see them grow in knowledge of themselves and God. I felt as though I was a fly on the wall watching God do his thing.”