Conversations With Resident Advisors

four head and shoulder images of college students
Caption: (top row, l-r) Jasmine DuMaine, Liam McDade (bottom row, l-r) Sujung Hwang, Emma Dove

Change makes most of us uncomfortable. But resident advisors (RA’s) can make the transition a little easier for new residence hall dwellers trying to get along with roommates, manage their new independence, or simply navigate college life.

As student leaders and employees, RA’s are trained in community building, advising, conflict assistance, and health- and safety-related issues. They work with professionals on campus, meet the parents and grandparents, run hall meetings, and organize events.

They can have a big impact on the college experience of new students, who share with them their complaints, anxieties, fears, and dreams.

But who are the dedicated RA’s at Rhodes College? Meet four of them:

  • Emma Dove ’23, English and chemistry major from Baton Rouge, LA
  • Sujung Hwang ’22, educational studies and English major from Seoul, South Korea
  • Liam McDade ’23, chemistry major from New Orleans, LA
  • Jasmine DuMaine ’23, biology major from St. Louis, MO

 

Why Did You Make The Decision To Be A Resident Advisor?

Emma: I had a difficult time my freshman year really reaching out to people. I had some trouble with my roommate and didn't feel that my RA addressed it as well as she could. And I really wanted to help students who were in my same position, or maybe who just aren’t that social, be able to get involved at Rhodes and enjoy their four years fully.

Sujung:  The RA my freshman year was really great. She was very welcoming. Since I was an international student, she tried to make sure that I was included in all our programs, and I wanted to be someone like that.

Liam:  I think to get more involved in the community and help develop that community. Coming to Rhodes was amazing, but it did take me a little bit to really sink my teeth into it my first year. After I got through that, I found it to be a really welcoming environment.

Jasmine:  During my freshman year, I had a difficult time transitioning away from home. My RA was someone who I could lean on because she was in choir with me. I felt like I could confide in her and talk to her about my problems, and she was always there to listen. If I had problems with classes, she would connect me to the resources I needed—like the math center, because I struggled with statistics because I hadn’t taken math since I was a sophomore in high school. And so, I just really wanted the opportunity to give back to residents who were struggling and transitioning for the first time away from home.

 

What Are Your Interests Outside Of Academics?

Emma: I love being outside, so it’s not uncommon to find me trying to climb a magnolia tree or just hanging out.

Sujung: I love looking for restaurants and eating different kinds of food. Baking and cooking food.

Liam: I spend a lot of my time with friends, and I’m really a go with the flow kind of guy.
Jasmine:  I’m in the Rhodes Singers. I really do enjoy singing; I’m an alto. 

 

What Is Your Advice For Students Transitioning Back To Campus After A Life Of Remote Learning?

Emma:  We’ve been alone for a long time and often don’t want to interact just because of everything that’s been going on, but once you do connect and once you reach out beyond your limited scope of self, you’re going to be so happy that you’ve been able to do that. And you’ve made community and connections and expanded your circle.

Sujung: I found that reaching out to people is very important, whether it’s reaching out to your RA or to your friends or your professors, just going during their office hours, or checking out career services, that kind of thing. 

Liam: I think a huge part of that is kind of getting involved, whether that be through your RA or through clubs. 

Jasmine:  It’s definitely a struggle transitioning back from being on the little Zoom boxes to seeing my professors in real life. I plan on helping my residents by just encouraging them to go to office hours and start building relationships with their professors and to take the time to form study groups with their friends so they can just stay connected in real life.

 

What Is The RA’s Role?

Emma: The first thing I tell my residents when I meet them is that “I’m here for you.” My job is to connect people to resources and to other people, and say, “Hey, you’re interested in this. Well, I know someone who’s also interested in this.” Community is just people helping people. So even if two people don’t necessarily like each other, then maybe I can find two other people that they do really like, and who they can connect with. And then those people can connect them to other people, and they can get involved and go beyond just sitting in a dorm room, watching TV or playing video games or doing something by themselves, because people do need people. My job is to connect them and to help them when they’re having their bad days and congratulate them on their good days.

Sujung: I have pride in being an RA. Although I’m a student, I’m also a student employee of the residence life office. I live in the residence hall and can interact with students much easier. Just being there helps them know that they can reach out for any resources, for any concerns, or for complaints they have. 

Liam: We spend a lot of time trying to create activities for residents in our halls to participate in, but I think a really big part that might be underrated is actually talking with residents, in the hallways and checking in and making it known that you are their neighbor and you are their friend. And even though you have to report them every once in a while, you’re always there for them. And that can be exactly what they need.

Jasmine: We have guest speakers come in and talk and we actually take the students out into the community as a group to experience a show or eat together.  That’s just another opportunity to get my residents out into the city of Memphis so they can experience it as a group before they adventure out on their own.

 

What Are Some Things You’ve Learned? 

Emma: As an RA, I feel like I’ve learned the campus a lot better—know all the buildings and where everything is. I’ve tried to learn where resources and people are so I can help students, and I’ve gained this learning through relationships with professionals who work at Rhodes. 

Sujung: I have been able to meet a lot of RA’s from different places and different class years, and also residents who are from different places and class years who I might not have met. It’s been a good opportunity for me to get actual professional experience.

Liam:  Seeing what goes on behind the scenes. Understanding policy and the resources, such as the counseling center, for students. On top of that, knowing things such as Title IX policies and diversity policies and what we’re trying to do as a campus to create an accepting environment and a comfortable place for students.

Jasmine: I would definitely say being an RA has changed my experience for the better because when I was a freshman, I really kept to my classes, had the same group of friends—but as an RA, I meet so many different new students. People I’d never thought I’d be friends with, grabbing lunch, hanging out with them, learning just so many new things.