Summer training preps RAs for the new school year

GVL / Courtesy - Lindsay Bailey 
Lindsay Bailey

GVL / Courtesy – Lindsay Bailey Lindsay Bailey

Meghan McBrady

Since mid-August, Grand Valley State University’s resident assistants have undergone university training in preparation for the 2015-2016 school year.

With a focus on community building, crisis response, facilities management and mental health, the 115 RAs – a combination of new hires and returning staff – have been taught by the housing office staff to maintain order with their new student charges in their designated living centers.

Kristen Evans, the assistant director of recruitment and training, said the training program also helps the student staff contribute to university-wide efforts, with a focus on student engagement in academic and social fields, and serve as a trusted resource for students.

“RAs provide community, safety, support and guidance to students and because RAs are also students themselves, they are often effective with those efforts to a greater degree than faculty/staff,” Evans said.

During the training, a key part of the program is how the student staff would respond to crises – such as a roommate dispute or trouble with alcohol – within their living centers. While some of the issues may be kept private, such as anxiety about classes or homesickness, the RAs have been trained to ensure that their students are safe and comfortable within their new home.

Colleen Lindsay-Bailey, the associate director of housing and residence life, indicated that these workshops help the student staff understand the importance of acting in a quick and level-headed manner when they face an issue with one of their residents.

“RAs are the first responders for things that happen on campus,” Bailey said. “If there were roommate conflicts, situations with alcohol or any situations were a student needed help, they will be the first one to respond all the time and will make sure that the residents are safe.”

While the training in August did focus on serious issues and how they should be handled, the housing staff also focused on team-building exercises, fun events and friendly competitions between staff teams.

Emphasizing the “Dive Into RA Training” theme, students dressed in nautical gear during theme-dress days, which included resort wear, pajamas and under the sea life costumes, while the teams competed against each other to win spirit points and the “Most Spirited Staff” award.

Besides the friendly competitions, some of the activities at training included staff skits, a fun run, a day at the recreation center and a team building day at Pretty Lake Adventure Camp, Evans noted.

While the training experience was meant to be both fun and serious, it ultimately prepared the RAs to help new and returning students to live and learn safely on campus and have a great college experience.

“It is a super fun job to have,” Bailey said. “While it is primarily a work hard and play hard situation, if students are interested in being mentors to their peers on campus then this is a good job to have.”

For more information about applying for a RA position for the 2016-2017 school year, visit