Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation: WIU’s Resident Assistants

Most WIU alumni and students have something in common: we’ve both lived in a residence hall and had a Resident Assistant (RA) head our floor. After today, another group of WIU students will be chosen to lead residence halls for next semester, leading a new group of students.

University Housing Complex Director Megan Thurston explained what an RA needs in order to be successful. Among the various traits an individual should have, Thurston said sincerity and comfortability in one’s skin makes an RA successful. “I think an RA needs to be themselves,” she began, “There isn’t one specific thing that makes a good RA; we hire a very diverse group of students to represent the student body. We’re just looking for people to be themselves and have the ability to [communicate] and relate to people on campus,” Thurston said.

For the past few weeks, 65 students have applied to be RAs for next semester. Once Thanksgiving Break is over and students return to WIU on November 26, RA interviews will begin. Soon after, the Fall 2013 RA application process begins. “We bring in about 200 applicants,” Thurston explained, “We employ 132 RAs; and that’s a combination of returning RAs and new staff. It all depends on the number of returning staff that is invited back,” she said.

Once the Resident Assistant positions are filled, they are assigned to a residence hall floor with approximately 40 resident students. RAs undergo training during January and August. Thurston said, “Training for RAs is during the summer for about a week and a half for about eight hours; but training really is continuous throughout the year,” she said. The university has great expectations of them; that’s why they undergo training throughout the year. Thurston explained that RAs are required to follow six core components. “They are to serve as a university representative, community facilitator, programmer, referral agent, team, member, and administrator,” she said. “Within those components, it breaks down more specifically in what it requires them to do: facilitate paperwork, be available on the floor, encourage students to get involved, as well as insuring the health and safety of residents at all times,” Thurston said.

Thurston explained that during staff meetings, they have a workshop covering whatever they feel is a campus-wide issue. This year she said her main focus has been on safety. “I brought in the Office of Public Safety (OPS), and we did different things concerning alcohol and drug education as well as personal safety,” she began. “Our specific teams’ officer here in [Tanner] trained them about things they can talk on their floor about…especially with [the] escort service here on campus and what OPS can offer their residence,” Thurston said.

Thurston said she was an RA herself at one time, and it was a significant part of shaping who she is today. “I was an RA for two years,” she said. “I loved being an RA. I became more confident as an individual. I became a better facilitator…comfortable speaking in front of large groups; and it honed in on my creativity,” she said.

Being an RA is a tough job, but it provides a lot in return. “The RAs are given a room and board stipend, so their housing and meal plan are covered for their position. We take our staff on retreats in the fall to reconnect and to spend time with one another,” Thurston said.

Resident Assistants are a large part of what makes WIU students successful, and they assist students in their transition to living on their own. Thank you to Western’s Resident Assistants for all you do!

How about you? Were you ever a Resident Assistant at WIU?

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