RAs sacrifice time, energy to help CMU students
He calls it the “wall of good.”
A collection of notes fills his room’s wall, all notes from students, some encouraging, others thanking him.
For Midland junior and Trout Hall Residential Assistant Josh Finch, the notes remind him daily of the impact he is having on students and what he sacrifices to be there for them.
“I just get worn down at times, you know, you’ve been going all day, you are so tired, and you just get so bitter when you need to talk to yet another student at 10 at night,” Finch said. “But I always feel fulfilled after. They write you a note thanking you for taking the time, and you know it’s all worth it.”
Finch is a second-year Residential Assistant at Trout Hall, which he describes as a perfect mix of the raucous atmosphere of the Towers and the community of south campus. His floor won the Maroon Cup last year, evidence of the commitment and community present within the residence hall.
When he’s not fulfilling his duties as a Residential Assistant, he goes to “meeting to meeting to meeting” as a sexual aggression peer advocate, is a member of Central Michigan University’s Leadership Institute and acts in a local student production.
It’s a schedule that’s full to the brim, but, with his position as an RA, it’s not only imperative to manage his time, it’s a requirement.
“I need to be succesful so my students know they can be succesful,” Finch said. “… It takes time to start doing things right, for sure. For example, I need to know when I have a time open for doing homework, and I can’t waste that time doing something else. I have zero time for homework on Tuesdays, so I have to work around it.”
Finch is one of several residential assistants at CMU who gives up comfort and convenience to be an RA.
Jeff Olson, a Waterford senior who has been an RA at Beddow Hall for seven semesters, had no problem listing what he sacrificed: hanging out with friends, off-campus jobs, several days out of every break and sleep. To balance his 18 credits and his RA position, Olson only averages roughly five hours of sleep per night.
Olson said balancing it all is not easy for him.
“It’s always a progress; it’s always something you have to work on. I don’t think you ever really get the hang of it,” Olson said.
Olson said he was attracted to being an RA because the position pays room and board, and, since he’s paying for college himself, the help is much-needed. But, for him, there’s more to it.
“There’s a lot more you can do for the people on your floor than you would imagine,” Olson said. “It’s also definitely the connections you make; you help build that community, and you’re a part of it.”
As an RA, though, he must do more than simply make friends.
“Discipline is one of the worst parts about doing the job,” Olson said. “I’m upfront with them. I’m honest, we’re friends, but I have a job to fulfill. I tell them exactly what to expect.”
Associate Director of Residence Life Michelle Veith said RAs have a more challenging job than most.
“We expect a lot from our staff, and their social life may be limited as a result. They need to be role models and are in a fishbowl,” Veith said.
Even though the job has its challenges, Veith said the majority of RAs find the job worth it.
“I think most of our staff would say that, in addition to the skills they have learned, they have learned so much more about themselves and feel good that they gave back and helped others,” Veith said.
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