By Hannah Melcher
Being an RA doesn’t feel like having a job, at least not according to Matt Golden, who serves as the resident assistant (RA) for the second floor of Primo.
Golden is one of the many RAs who live in Bellarmine’s residence halls. Their jobs may seem stressful to those on the outside, and there are a lot more responsibilities than one may realize. Whether it is helping to resolve a problem, pointing a resident to resources on campus, or simply connecting with those on his floor, Golden shows what student leaders do to serve their fellow residents.
During his first few months at Bellarmine, Golden had a lot of trouble in his residence hall room. After a bad roommate situation and mediation sessions with some of the Residence Life staff, Golden learned more about the role of being an RA.
As he developed a bond with the Residence Life staff in Kennedy-Newman, he said he felt a desire to apply and talked with them about his decision, and they encouraged him to submit an application. Almost a year after he was selected to join the staff, Golden said he has no regrets about that decision.
“I was not very involved before, but being an RA has allowed me to do so,” Golden said.
RAs receive a free single room and meal plan. But their responsibilities begin weeks before the school year starts. Prior to each fall semester, RAs are required to return to campus about two weeks before classes begin and residents move in, and they attend many different training sessions to prepare them for the upcoming school year.
Various departments such as the Counseling Center, Disability Services and Public Safety give presentations to assist them. Along with their Residence Life Coordinators, the RAs practice scenarios that could happen within the halls.
They also decorate their buildings and prepare for residents to move in. But most importantly, this is the time where they all get to know each other.
“We always end up going to each other for advice, so getting to know all the RAs is important,” Golden said.
Once the semester starts, there are still many requirements that the RAs must fulfill weekly. Their main priorities are enforcing policy within their halls and relaying important information to residents.
At least one night a week, RAs are required to “sit desk” in their building’s lobby. Between 7 p.m. and midnight, they monitor entrances, conduct rounds on each floor and assist residents if they are locked out of their rooms or have an issue.
Each week, RAs fill out a Community Development Report they share with their supervisors. Biweekly, they meet with their supervisors to discuss the reports, how they are doing, how the residents are doing and if there are any concerns.
Throughout each semester, RAs create bulletin boards that are approved by their supervisors. To inspire a sense of community and connection, they also plan activities for their building. For this month, Golden formed a partnership with Hanna Warren, RA for the third floor of Quarto, to plan an event to bleach-dye masks.
Golden said he is sad about not being able to connect with the residents on his floor because of COVID.
“There is a lack of contact,” he said. “And there is not nearly as much interaction.”
Despite limitations, he said he still attempts to be there for his residents however he can. Ryan O’Neill, one of Golden’s residents, said Golden seems more like a friend than an RA.
“Matt has a way of making sure he knows everyone on his floor. He goes above and beyond to be social with as many as he can.” O’Neill said.
One of the biggest lessons being an RA has taught Golden is that of balance. Managing his role as an RA, excelling in his classes, and keeping up with his personal life can be exhausting.
“I have to spend my time wisely,” he said.
Each day, Golden wakes up at 7 a.m. Along with going to class, he prioritizes studying and staying on top of his work. “We are still students,” Golden said. “So we have to keep our grades up.”
Working out has been a staple in his life, so he makes time each day to head to the gym for a workout. Last semester, he competed in Bellarmine’s powerlifting meet where he hit a personal record for both squat (380 pounds) and deadlift (430 pounds).
With his plate full of responsibilities, Golden makes sure to never miss a meal. It is no surprise to see his plate piled high in the dining hall, especially with the grilled chicken.
“Working out allows me to take my mind off of everything,” Golden said. “And eating good allows me to perform better in the gym.”
He also prioritizes time to keep healthy relationships with his girlfriend and friends. “It was a lot at first and I am not very good at multitasking,” Golden said. “But I have definitely improved in keeping up with my responsibilities and making time for the other important things in my life.”
Living in the residence halls can be a big adjustment for any student. Golden, who is from Pineville, Kentucky, can relate to this. When he first came to Bellarmine, he said he did not have much of a social life but becoming an RA allowed him to invest more in Bellarmine’s community and make new friends.
Like Golden, Christina Porter, RA for the third floor of Kennedy, said community is everything. “While I am an enforcer of rules on the floor, I also want them to know that I am there for them in whatever they need,” she said. In Residence Life, this is called “servant leadership.”
While they are leaders in the halls, RAs are also there to best serve and cater to their residents’ needs. “Being an RA is more than about being a leader,” Porter said. “It is about using that role to push our residents to do their absolute best.”
Even in the midst of COVID and restrictions in the halls, Porter said she makes sure her residents know she is there for them. With both the physical and mental strain going to college in the midst of a pandemic carries, she said she knows that students are having a hard time.
“Everything has been turned upside down for them,” Porter said.
To help combat the loneliness or anxiety many of her residents may face, she said she prioritizes connecting with each of them. Whether it be sending them personalized messages of encouragement, putting inspirational quotes on the floor’s bulletin board or sparking up a conversation in the hallway, Porter said she ensures those on her floor have the support that they need.
According to Bellarmine’s website, “RAs are students of sophomore, junior and senior status who act as role models, counselors, teachers and administrators for their buildings.” To be selected for the position, applicants go through a competitive selection process.
The hiring process begins with an online application where students are required to submit a resume and fill out a questionnaire. Next, group interviews take place where applicants participate in problem-solving tasks such as roommate conflicts or ideas for bulletin boards. The process wraps up with an individual interview with current RAs and the Residence Life staff.
To students who are considering applying for an RA position, Golden said he supports their decision.
“Being an RA has really improved my experience at Bellarmine,” Golden said. “If others are considering applying, I say go for it. It is such an amazing opportunity.”