Make Community Happen: RAs Share Their Stories
Each fall, Housing and Residence Life invites students to apply to be a Resident Assistant for the next academic year. Resident Assistants (RAs) are students who serve in the residence halls as a resource for their residents. The main function of an RA is to build community and relationships with residents by providing programming, individualized support, campus resource information, and academic encouragement.
This year’s application for the 2023-24 academic year closes at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 7.
Hear from four current RAs about their experiences.
It’s All Connected
Purna Pratiti Saha is a third-year industrial engineering major and is an RA for Nelson Shell. She started working as an RA in her second year and is now in her fourth semester supporting residents.
“I’m a Covid-19 first-year and my RA was really helpful during that time, and I wanted to pay it forward. The RA compensation package is good, we get free housing and meals, and we get to have a great community, so it’s a lot of fun.”
Purna called the Nelson Shell building “love at first sight.” She likes how close the hall is to West Village, the CRC, and the shared courtyard with Maulding and Zbar.
“We have a community of 430 residents here. We arrange events together, we go off campus, and we also have events on campus where we go together. It’s a great leadership opportunity and you get to make a one-on-one impact on each resident and get to know Georgia Tech on a deeper level.”
Each year, RAs go through extensive training for their responsibilities, and they can meet with campus departments and learn about resources for students, giving them insight into the ecosystem at Tech that they can share with their residents.
“It’s all connected, and I feel like I am actually a part of Georgia Tech and contributing to this community.”
Wouldn’t Change a Thing
Third-year neuroscience major Christina Whitehead is in her second year as an RA in Armstrong Hall.
“I’ve loved working in Armstrong. We are a tight community among the RA staff and the residents. I’ve loved being an RA and realizing there are no strangers at Tech. I’ve met so many residents being a second year as an RA. I’m always passing someone I know, someone to wave at, someone in the dining hall, and it’s been a welcoming experience.”
Christina originally became an RA because she wanted an on-campus job and was searching for a way to get more involved in the Georgia Tech community.
“This is the best job on campus because you’re living where you work, and it completely enhances your campus involvement and community. I can say I’ve found the best community I could ever ask for and I wouldn’t change anything about it.”
Live Where You Work
Hector Collazo is a third-year biomedical engineering major and is in his first year as an RA in North Avenue Apartments South. He likes the convenience of being an RA there because of the amenities and being close to North Avenue Dining Hall.
“This is my first semester being an RA and the thing I like most is that I get to meet all the residents and make new friends. I decided to be an RA because it’s convenient to live where you work, and you get free housing.”
Hector was a first-year during the Covid-19 pandemic and had the chance to live in North Avenue Apartments, typically allocated to upper-class students. Most of his interactions with his RA were virtual during his first year, so he likes being able to connect in person on the other side of the experience.
“Every time a resident passes by, I say ‘Hi, how are you doing?’ and ‘How are classes?’ I invite them to all the events, so I try to make it more fun and less stressful. After a long day of school, you go back to your room and keep studying, so at least that interaction in between can make it less stressful.”
This year Hector is an RA for the Second Year Experience Program, a self-selected living option to help second-year residents, including transfers, access the services and resources that are relevant to their needs.
“Being an RA for second-year experience and above is more professionally driven since they will come to you with internship questions, interviewing questions, or resume questions.”
Paying It Forward
Fourth-year industrial engineering major Jessie Turner is an RA in Howell, and this is her third year on staff. She has also had the opportunity to work in Cloudman and Towers residence halls and has a lot of experience supporting students.
“I’m a big believer in paying it forward — someone was there for me, so let me be there for someone else.”
Jessie was a summer first-year and had a hard transition to college, not knowing many other students when she got here.
“I lived right next to my RA, and she was amazing, talking to me, dragging me out of my room, texting me to check on me, and I always felt very seen and welcomed. It was very crucial to my transition to college, and I wanted to be this for somebody else one day, and that’s why I applied.”
She has many great memories from the events and connections when she joined Grand Challenges, one of the first-year Living Learning Communities (LLC). LLCs offer opportunities to further explore an interest through experiential and academic programming while residing with other students who share that interest.
“It’s been one of the best things I’ve done. I’ve had five groups of first-years and it’s so great to see everyone out and about and be in class with them and play intramurals with them. Everywhere I go, there is one of my residents, and it’s fun to watch them grow and thrive and see them make an impact.”
RAs are available to provide general information and support and make appropriate referrals as needed. They also have a responsibility for residential safety within the halls. They function as liaisons between residents and the administration.
“Being an RA has helped me with conflict resolution, communication, de-escalating situations, supporting students, and pointing them to resources. I’m a caregiver and I didn’t realize how important it was to me.”
Some of her favorite memories are coming back from winter break and reuniting with her residents. Her best friend was her co-RA, and she believes she wouldn’t have the friendship if she hadn’t been an RA. She’s hoping to continue supporting others after she graduates, getting involved, or volunteering with similar groups.
“I want to be here, and I hope I’m enriching their lives because they are enriching mine. A lot of us come in for the free housing and stay because of the residents. I have no regrets, and I love it so much.”
Apply by 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 7 to join the RA community. Additional information and the application are available at housing.gatech.edu/reslife/employment.
Photos by Catherine Rennell.