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RAs breathe residential life into campus

Published on September 23, 2021

RAs breathe residential life into campus

Resident assistants help Eastern bounce back amid pandemic

Freshman Housing, Constitution Hall
Constitution Hall, residential building for first-year students.

Campus life has bounced back this fall semester after a year subdued due to the pandemic. Fundamental to reactivating campus are the University’s resident assistants (RAs), who are dedicated to engaging and supporting fellow residential students. Eastern’s Office of Housing and Residential Life has hired 63 RAs for the 2021-22 academic year, who oversee 14 residence halls and have worked hard to bring excitement to residential life despite the pandemic.  

Before Eastern’s academic year began, RA training covered a multitude of topics and issues. “They underwent special training in mediating conflicts, programming and Title IX,” said Paul Serignese, associate director of housing and residential life. “This semester RAs will facilitate programs that build community, educate students on health and wellness, and prepare them for their future career. Throughout the semester the RAs will work as a team to establish connections with each resident and build social networks in their hall.”  

The ongoing pandemic presents unprecedented challenges for RAs as the campus continues to adjust to a new normal. “Guidelines for the semester were laid out from the start,” said senior Chloe Chenot, an RA in Crandall Hall. “The mask policy was one of the bigger guidelines. I believe I am prepared for the potential challenges that could present themselves this year.” 

Alexis Annan ’24, resident assistant in Burnap Hall

Emily Hailu ’22, resident assistant in Winthrop Hall

Eugene Bertrand ’24, resident assistant in Constitution Hall

Chloe Chenot '22, resident assistant in Crandall Hall

Chenot explained that although the pandemic may have been a deterrent for some students pursuing an RA position, it only made her want the job more. “COVID-19 didn’t really have a negative impact on my decision to apply, it actually motivated me even more. COVID-19 has been so frightening and rapidly changing, and students will need help navigating more than ever.”  

Burnap Hall RA Alexis Annan ’24 said that the mental health of the RAs has been prioritized this year. “While managing programs and also focusing on our mental wellbeing, they are making sure that with COVID and our job we are able to have time for ourselves in the end.”  

Other students, like Winthrop Hall RA Emily Hailu ’22, found that working for the Office of Housing and Residential Life allows for her to gain back social interactions she missed out on in the past year. “I was a commuter last year and didn’t get to spend much time on campus. I knew being an RA would give me a chance to redeem my time lost.”  

Many RAs said their inspiration to apply came from their own experiences as residents. “The first person who motivated me to become an RA was my previous RA and now co-worker Safa Danesh,” says Constitution Hall RA Eugene Bertrand ’24. “Safa took it upon herself to see the potential in me and encourage me to become a better student in my first-year at Eastern.” 

Many other RAs also noted that it was their peer mentors who shaped their decisions. “My RAs in Winthrop my first year created a close community and welcomed me with such open arms that I wanted to provide the same for students,” says Chenot.  

The opportunity to engage with their residents, as well as provide them with new and exciting programs, was a major motivator for many of the applicants. “I would say personally I'm most excited to engage with my residents,” says Will Horvath ’23, an RA for Burnap Hall. “My residents are very fun and easy to talk to, and I hope I can connect with them and make them feel welcome for their first year of college.”  

From Ben & Jerry’s night to a prom night, RAs are working to create a community in their halls. “I am very excited to work with my staff, holding multiple programs a month to ensure residents have a good experience,” says Bertrand. 

Along with hosting exciting events, the RAs hope to be a resource for their residents. “I’m really looking forward to being able to get to know my residents and be a mentor and friend to them,” says Annan. “Being a first-year student can be so difficult, especially during COVID, but I want my residents to know that I’m here for them whenever they need me.”  

Written by Molly Boucher

Categories: Housing