SDSU resident advisors lead freshmen by example

by Julianna Ress, Staff Writer

Everyone comes into contact with resident advisors at San Diego State, but many students are unaware of what the job actually entails and how fulfilling it can be.

Journalism senior Juwan Armstrong said students tend to make assumptions about RAs.

“RAs are not the police, but just student leaders who care and want to make an impact on first-year students,” he said.

Armstrong is currently completing his sixth semester as an RA and notes how gratifying the position has been throughout his college experience.

“It is super rewarding being able to watch, and occasionally guide, a whole floor of first-year residents (finding) their way in a new environment and (creating) their new lives as college students,” he said.

The process of becoming an RA begins at the end of the fall semester when students begin to apply for the position. Applicants are screened and interviewed individually and in groups, during which they are presented with situations they may face as an RA.

“This allows us to see firsthand how candidates may handle situations that may occur while on the job and better informs them of what they may experience when building a community in the residence halls,” Maya and Olmeca residence hall coordinator Adam Sibenaller said.

Sibenaller was once an RA himself and now has a hand in the selection process.

“What I look for (in a potential RA) is someone who has a strong sense of humility, is honest, values team work, values inclusion and diversity in a community and is able to be adaptable,” he said. “Good communities need strong leaders who can address a multitude of needs at any and all times.”

The job itself involves managing a floor of 60 to 80 students and being a constant role model.

Armstrong said that being an RA means maintaining a balance between order and fun. Sibenaller said the job also requires creating a safe environment for people of all identities.

Additionally, the position provides opportunities for students to build up their leadership skills.

“Not only do we get formal leadership training during RA training, we also get to live the role of a leader every day,” Armstrong said. “We may not be actively leading a meeting or team in a formal sense, but we live as leaders by being role models 24/7.”

RAs are held to high expectations, but Armstrong has found ways to perform the duties of the position as best as possible despite the pressure.

“Time management for RAs is key to having a great and stress-free year,” he said.

Sibenaller has found in his experiences both as a past RA and current residence hall coordinator that being an RA is testing but rewarding.

“It challenges your confidence, self-efficacy and leadership skills in such a way that it truly brings out the best in a person,” he said.

Armstrong urges future RAs to come into the position with positivity and an open mind.

“You will meet many different personalities and perspectives,” he said. “Take every experience as a learning experience.”