Students who live in on-campus housing, such as Helaman and Heritage Halls, are likely familiar with their resident assistants from their interactions during cleaning inspections but may be unaware of how many other duties an RA has.
RAs at Heritage Halls are also responsible for hall meetings with their residents, informing the residents of available resources and helping their students navigate campus life and their overall college experience.
“There are so many meetings, reports, lessons, programming and planning that the residents never see,” Heritage Halls RA Leslie Frazier said.
Following last year’s housing policy change, single undergraduate BYU students are no longer required to live in BYU contracted housing beyond their first two semesters, during which on-campus housing is a popular choice.
Nicole Olson, first semester RA and senior at BYU, said she feels like an older sister to her freshmen residents in Heritage Halls.
“I know a lot of times it seems like we’re just hanging out or we’re having fun, which is true,” Olson said. “But we’re trying to build a community and help them get to know each other.”
Some of the perks Olson said she appreciates are having her own room and simply living on campus. “I think there’s a really strong sense of community that you kind of miss out on if you’re not living on campus,” Olson said.
However, being an RA is not always easy, according to Olson and fellow Heritage Halls RA Myles Conant, who is in his third semester as an RA.
“As an RA, I have to balance communication with over 50 residents, my own education and my personal health,” Conant said. “To juggle that, I prioritize getting a good night’s sleep and just make sure I’m eating and having my time for myself.”
One way Conant prioritizes his time is with a time tracking app, with several stopwatches running every day. Frazier, in her second semester at Heritage Halls, said she utilizes Google Calendar to keep track of when she has meetings or classes or free time.
“Putting everything on a schedule helps me physically see where I am spending my time, and lets me know if I am not balancing my life right,” Frazier said.
Olson said she sometimes has to change some plans in order to tend to her duties as an RA, but responsibilities are usually pretty flexible. Every night, certain RAs are responsible for roving, where they go around making sure people are safe, that the opposite sex is out when visiting hours are over and that the doors that need to be locked are locked.
Even with hall meetings and RA classes, Conant said, “A big thing that would surprise people about being an RA is it’s so flexible to your own time. And it permits us to not only help other people, but to grow and help ourselves.”
One of the main ways Conant said he helps others is by working to cultivate an environment for his residents where everyone feels welcome in addition to ensuring that it is spiritually enriching for the residents.
“I didn’t realize how much empathy would be needed toward people sometimes, because some people just need to talk,” Conant said. “I wouldn’t change it for the world, though. I love my kids.”
Olson also said being an RA can sometimes be emotionally draining, emphasizing the importance of setting boundaries and taking time for oneself.
Conant echoed that sentiment, telling potential RAs they should learn how to set and uphold boundaries for themselves, placing limitations on the degree to which the residents can rely on them.
Olson, Conant and Frazier all applied to be an RA for different reasons, such as wanting a change of scenery from Helaman Halls and recommendations from friends and relatives, but each of them mentioned how much they care for their students.
“As an RA, we do honestly care about the people we are watching over,” Conant said. “It’s not just a job, it’s a place where we can learn to love someone else.”