WKU RAs making difference early on campus

Junior Bio Chemistry major and second semester Southwest Hall Resident Assistant Leah Beth Dublin, right, 20, from Cuba Ky. helps Senior dance major and Nashville, Tenn. resident Allison Quaintance, left, 23, fill out paperwork and sign-in Thursday morning in the lobby of Southwest Hall.

Lindsay Kriz

While most WKU students are still scrambling to hold onto the last few weeks of summer, students serving as Resident Assistants — or RAs — are already hard at work on campus.

Cuba, Ky., junior Leah Beth Dublin, a Southwest Hall RA, completed RA training for her second semester. Dublin is one example of the many students who returned to campus early to ready themselves to make a difference in their residents’ lives.

Dublin said her job has also helped her in making connections and serving as an example to others.

“I really like it,” she said. “I like jobs where you can make a difference.”

Dublin participated in events with other Southwest RAs during training, which included performing “Southwest” to the tune of “My Girl” and making a video on the final day that represented what Southwest is all about.

However, there was also time spent with other RAs at other buildings.

“We had lots of training sessions,” Dublin said. “All of the RAs are together and we’re paired up and rotated.”

The sessions discussed lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) and different religions. Other sessions also focused on team work and respect for the building and the floor, Dublin said.

During the “Behind Closed Doors” session, Dublin and her partners were given a scenario in which one roommate was absent while the other was accusing them of stealing a pair of earrings.

She said her role is to make residents feel comfortable and important.

“I want to build a solid community with my floor,” she said.

Dublin said that another part of her job is to walk the halls, check different parts of the building and work the nightshift.

As with many RAs, Dublin is trying to make her residents feel more comfortable and welcomed during the move-in by decorating her floor.

This semester’s dorm theme in Southwest is Harry Potter.

“On the doors there will be owls and lightning bolts, and I’m making my door platform 9 3/4,” Dublin said.

Mt. Washington junior Chris McHargue, a McCormack Hall RA, said he’s had to come out of his own comfort zone to help others feel at home.

“You really learn a lot about yourself and you grow as a person,” he said. “You understand and connect with people better.”

McHargue said because of his job, he talks to people he wouldn’t normally talk to and makes new friendships.

“This year is as good as last year, if not better,” he said.

McHargue’s thoughts were echoed by Chicago senior Brandon Evilla, who said the training has been a wonderful experience that helped him grow.

“It’s about stepping out of your comfort zone,” he said.

The RAs have participated in many bonding activities, including chants and cheers performed together every morning and roll call videos, which were made by members of each dorm and summed up what they’re about.

Evilla said that trainees also learned about dealing with different situations that may arise in dorms.

“I got into this job after interviewing for a front desk job,” he said. “They felt my ability to speak well meant I could do the job well.”

Brian Kuster, executive director of the WKU Student Life Foundation and director of Housing and Residence Life, helps to oversee all RAs as well as any other directors within the dorms.

RAs are an integral part of the college experience, Kuster said.

“To the students on campus, they mean everything,” he said. “They’re really the face for the students who live on campus. If you have a good RA and a caring RA, it can make the world of difference.”

Kuster said he also observed the activities that RAs participated in before the week of MASTER Plan.

“They’re a very close group because they all deal with the same things,” he said.

Steve Briggs, assistant director of HRL, works directly with the students.

He said the communication level this year between the RAs was excellent.

“I am giddy,” Briggs said. “I am really excited. The RA staff has really embraced that we’re here to help students academically as a resource.”