Among the hustle and bustle of students engaging in campus activity, there are very important and often overlooked student leaders in the crowd – Resident Assistants.
RAs offer opportunities for on-campus resident students to be engaged and connected to the UCF community as well as assist first-time-in-college students into a smooth transition from high school to college. They serve as mentors and are often seen as role models to freshmen; they are responsible for setting a standard in what they expect students to live up to.
RAs also facilitate programming to help residents develop intellectually, socially and culturally and truly give students a memorable college experience, the best it can be. They follow and enforce all established university and housing policies and procedures as well as build and sustain an inclusive environment.
Alexis Szelwach is an RA in the Neptune Community; this is her second year returning. She is a junior majoring in hospitality, and is obtaining a certificate in leadership studies with hopes of continuing to obtain a masters’ degree in Higher Education at UCF.
“I became interested in becoming an RA my first semester at UCF,” stated Szelwach. “I had a really hard time transitioning, and I did not have anyone I could go to. I found ways to help myself and I wanted to be that person for other students so they did not have to feel like they are alone.”
The responsibilities of an RA are to provide a safe and comfortable living environment that is conducive to the students’ academic progress. “We also construct programs, and are on call to make sure the students have someone there in case something happens or if a resident just needs someone to talk to,” said Szelwach. “We are also on night patrol to perform nightly rounds and lockouts.”
“I am in charge of my own floor in the Neptune Community which has 56 residents. RAs work as a team, and are always there for one another if assistance is needed,” said Szelwach.
RA’s facilitate monthly programs in which they can choose to collaborate with other RA’s or campus partners. “The unique thing about Neptune is that campus partners are always coming to work with them because it is a Living Learning Community,” said Szelwach. Living Learning is a curriculum that students incorporate in their housing.
“Although I am not a Living Learning RA, I provide monthly programs such as ice cream socials, or personality study-type programs that I hold myself. One program, I facilitated with another RA, was a body image social where we taught our residents steps to love themselves. In addition, I work with community partners to provide programs such as the TIPS [Training for Intervention Procedures] where we taught residents alcohol safety,” said Szelwach.
“My most rewarding time as an RA was when I helped two students who were going through a really hard roommate conflict. The incident was resolved and they left Neptune as great friends again. I think seeing that transformation and knowing that countless counseling with them and repeatedly being there for each of them . . I made that difference.”
An RA is a 24-hour job with duties that can be difficult at times. “I think the most challenging is the “Move-Out” process because it gets very stressful and often times some people work differently than others so it is a balancing game.”
On-campus housing provides a safe environment to thrive at UCF. “On campus housing made me fall in love with not only my school, but housing and the Higher Education world. Higher Ed found me, and I could not be happier with my decision to pursue that as a career because impacting and mentoring students on a daily basis gives me life. That adrenaline and constant interaction reminds me of who I am and why this department allowed me to develop and truly connect with myself,” said Szelwach.
The Department of Housing and Residence Life is in the Division of Student Development and Enrollment Services.