Freshman year of college proves year after year, student after student, to be a learning experience and in some cases an unforgettable journey. This tends to be especially true for those students who are able to spend it living on-campus. Going without home-cooked meals, and friends from home, and pets, and the bed that had been worn in just perfectly can be quite daunting. But, there are certainly plenty of people on campus who are there to help support the incoming class as they start their collegiate careers.
One such group of people there to assist in acclimating to campus living is the group of RAs that live right alongside the freshman class. For those unfamiliar to the term, RA stands for Resident Assistant. As the title suggests, the RA’s job is to assist residents throughout the semester, maintain the rules of the college in the residence halls, and to build a community among the residents.
In terms of assisting the students, the RAs function as the ambassadors between the students and the Office of Residence Life, and are in charge of disseminating any relevant information about the living situations, as well as reporting any problems that may arise throughout the year in the hall. For instance, if the MicroFridge (one being provided for every room) stops working, a student could report this to his or her RA, who would then put in a work order to get that fixed as soon as possible by the maintenance crew. Each individual RA will go more into detail about this process as individual situations arise, and will keep the students up to date on any answers to questions they may have. In terms of going to your RA for help, current RA, Jess Hague (who has had two years of experience in First Year Housing) says, “The best way to approach an RA is just to be open with them. Come directly to them and don’t try to beat around the bush. Try to remember that your RA was a First Year student at one point too.
As far as upholding the rules of the college, each RA will hold a meeting and go through a set of rules within the first week of school. These rules range from what items are acceptable to have in the residence halls, to policies regarding underage drinking on campus, all of which are concerned with the safety of students and the progression of a healthy learning environment. These are important to pay attention to, and following them should keep you out of trouble on campus. However, to make sure that all of the rules are being followed, each building is assigned an On Duty RA each night.
This means that an RA will make a round of the building three to five times throughout the night and will be on the lookout for anything that seems to break the school’s policies. If any student is found to be breaking the rules that have been established, then they will be documented and will go through the disciplinary process, which can lead to a number of different outcomes. Hague weighs in on this too, saying, “[New students are] going to be under enough stress adjusting to college life when it comes to classes, making friends, and being away from home. If they have to start dealing with disciplinary issues as well, that could end up being way too much for them to handle and it could become difficult for them to succeed in their first year.” Just as mentioned above, the rules serve to ensure everyone’s safety and ability to live healthily on campus and in an environment that promotes learning and succeeding while at McDaniel.
One of the most important parts of this environment that McDaniel and the RAs strive for involves community. McDaniel is a small campus, and it will soon seem like you see almost everyone you know just about every day. This is something that seems to be unique to McDaniel and even the RAs help to bolster the feeling of being one big family. This is primarily attempted, with the result depending on the students, by holding building-wide and floor-wide events throughout the year.
These programs, as they are called by the Office of Residence Life (ResLife for short), are geared towards allowing the people living near each other the opportunity to meet new people that they may not have met otherwise. In talking about how important this feeling of community is to the students, especially freshman, Jess provides this, “my best advice: don’t be afraid to open yourself up and introduce yourself to new people! You never know who you’ll meet. Maybe they’ll be your best friend for the next fifty years.” RAs are also grateful when a lot of people show up, and some have been known to have a pizza party if enough people are on board.
This is a basic overview of what freshman can expect from their RAs to-be, and a bit of advice about how to get a good start in the first year of college. With this knowledge, the Class of 2016 should have a head start on its brand new surroundings, and be able to start building themselves a McDaniel family, right from day one.
Editor’s Note: Zach Brown has served as a Resident Assistant since 2011.