Resident Assistants Begin Intensive Training

The RA team for the 2011-2012 school year at Menlo College.

July 25, 2011

Today, Menlo College’s 14 resident assistants (RAs) arrived on campus early, three weeks before the rest of the students, in order to get a different kind of education—how to help their fellow students have a safe and responsible college experience. The training tries to address the full gamut of issues that the RAs may be faced with, whether it’s how to handle a complaint about a noisy roommate, how to talk to a student about a potential eating disorder, or how to identify possible drug use.

“The goal is to create a well-rounded RA so that whatever issue comes up on the floor, they’ll have the tools or know who to point that student to for further assistance,” said Jessie J. Guilliot, III, Menlo College’s Director of Residential Life and Judicial Affairs, who has 16 years of experience in the role.

All the RAs are students themselves—they must be at least in their sophomore year—and go through an extensive application process to see if they’re a good fit. This year, there are eight returning RAs and six new RAs, assuring that there are experienced RAs on staff.

Team-building exercises are part of the RA training.

The training is a very intense process, starting at 9 in the morning and often continuing late into the night. The RAs become familiar with the school’s policies and how to enforce them. The days are filled with presentations by experts in the field, including sessions by a representative of the San Mateo Police Department, who brings in samples of drugs and related paraphernalia to help the RAs identify what contraband looks like and students that might be using; suicide prevention; sexual assault and how to educate students to avoid it; eating disorders; and conflict resolution and speaking skills to enable RAs to have those difficult conversations with their residents. New this year is a session about how to “create a safe space” for students who may be figuring out their LGBT identity.

The RAs construct “warm fuzzies” boxes; during the rest of training, their fellow RAs leave compliments and inspirational thoughts in the boxes.

The highlight for many of the RAs, according to Guilliot, is a session called “behind closed doors,” in which returning RAs act out different scenarios that may happen during the year: for example, two students who are in conflict and yelling at each other. The new RAs then have to try and handle the situation. Afterwards, everyone gets together to critique their effort and share advice. “It’s pretty stressful to go through the gauntlet like that, but it’s a great way to learn,” said Guilliot.

To learn more about the individuals RAs are at Menlo College—and get the latest news about student life—follow the new @MenloStuLife Twitter feed.