There are few people as intimately involved in creating and nurturing your new home in the residence halls as the Resident Directors (RDs) and Resident Assistants (RAs). I spoke with two RDs to bring you an inside perspective on dorm life from the ones who see it all.
Meredith Gross is the Assistant Director of Residence Life and also the Resident Director of Harker Hall, one of the women’s dorms. When I asked what she thinks is the most important lesson one can take away from living in a dorm, she discussed the real life social impact of learning to live well with others. “Living in a residence hall is great! It is fun and enjoyable, you get to live with your friends and create a new atmosphere away from home, but you also get the chance to learn to live with people who are not your family,” Meredith said, talking about the joys and struggles of living with new people. She highlighted that a strong social life has a positive correlation with doing well academically, and the students who live in residence halls are learning valuable life skills like negotiation, compromise, and leadership. Meredith strongly believes that the life skills you learn as a residential student translate well to being prepared for your goals beyond graduation.
James Phillips is the Resident Director of Ketler Hall, one of the largest men’s dorms. He cited the importance of fostering true, genuine investment in students who want it, and fights to prevent a superficial sense of belonging just by nature of being in a certain dorm or hall. As James put it, “That is more my aim – not to create an artificial sense of belonging, but to give my students space to opt in if they want to. At any given time or given day, there are people in Ketler who want to listen to what they have to say.” Community is a lot more complex than we tend to realize, and difficult to put into words. James makes it a priority to let his students know that there are Resident Assistants and himself available at any time, while making it clear that he does not intend to force a sense of superficial community. It is a hard balance, but one that he carefully tends to so that his students have fulfilling community wherever and whenever they may need it.