Katherine Nichols, a senior at Grove City College, balances a busy schedule between a major in Biology, a minor in French, and being a Resident Assistant (RA) for those living in Mary Anderson Pew (MAP) West. Living with primarily freshmen ladies, Katherine can offer advice from the perspective of not only a senior, but also a third-year RA.
She explains that since her first year as a sophomore RA, she has seen a few changes in the Student Life & Learning department. For example, a few Resident Directors (men and women who oversee a particular dorm) have come and gone while some have changed buildings. In her opinion, the changes that most directly affected the RAs, were amendments to Open Hours. Initially called ‘Intervisitation Hours,’ these policies govern how men and women may visit dorms for the opposite gender. When Katherine was a freshman, the guest was required both to be escorted through the building by their host and to register to the host’s room. Now, a visitor may go directly to the host’s room, but is still required to sign in – to the floor, not to the specific room. Katherine explains, “This change has given the students privacy and responsibility.”
Life as an RA comes with many unique challenges. Being assigned to a floor of residents, Katherine says, means that as many as 30 or 40 students “go to you as their first point person.” She has helped with stress and roommate conflict, offered prayer and tutoring, and has even smashed “that weird looking bug on the ceiling” in the line of duty. However, these issues are just a part of the job description. Katherine explains that the real challenge lies in finding a balance between fulfilling RA responsibilities, while also dedicating time to academic and other responsibilities. In her words, “I want to be able to take my residents out for coffee and shopping on a whim every day, and just live college like it’s camp, but I am pretty sure I would fail out of Grove City College if I did.”
While RA life comes with challenges, it also comes with unexpected blessings. Katherine says that “it’s the little things like notes, a hug, or chocolate that keeps you going.” These are reminders that the sacrifices, like staying up until 3 a.m. or hours devoted to a fun program, are worth it. In addition, it is a blessing to “represent the school well, to foster community, and to minister to your peers.” She loves the opportunity to develop relationships with 40 ladies that otherwise she might not have met. As a new student at Grove City College, the prospect of making new friends can seem overwhelming, but having a familiar, friendly face on your hall makes the transition easier.
Though part of her job is to enforce the rules, Katherine explains that the stereotype of a strict, overbearing RA is a misconception. She says, “RA’s are not out to get you. Our job is just to help make sure that Grove City is a safe, functioning, and loving community.” After helping to foster a loving community for three years, she has excellent advice to offer freshman students. For her, patience was the biggest factor in gracious dorm life, as well as the ability to “walk in the other person’s shoes.” Being able to empathize with the other person, and to understand the personalities and experiences in play, makes it much easier to effectively address any problem in dorm life. She urges new students to “get to know your roommate, suitemate, or hall-mate as best as you can – it’ll make a world of difference.”