RAs, RHDs hired

By Lisa Crawford

August 22, 2006

A new semester brings new students living on campus and new students bring fresh residential assistants (RAs). This year, Missouri Western State University interviewed nearly fifty students for RA positions for the fall semester. The Assistant Director of Housing Sean O’Reilly was highly involved with this procedure.

“We were highly selective at picking them, but I believe we got the best out of the pool,” O’Reilly said.

Morgan NolandAlso this year there will be three new residence hall directors (RHDs). The new RHDs include Stacie Middlebrook, Morgan Noland and Jen Kacere. O’Reilly said Western did a national search to bring in a nice mix of talented people. Middlebrook comes to Western from Memphis, Tenn; Kacere is from Cedar Rapids, Iowa; while Noland is local, from St. Joseph.

“All three have been RAs but are directors for the first time,” O’Reilly said. “They have all gone through two weeks of training with myself and I believe they are highly qualified.”

With a new fully-trained hall director staff moved onto campus, the RAs now receive training of their own with their specific hall director. This training lasted nine days and focused around the main goal set this year by the residential life staff: building community. While in training, the RAs also worked on diversity, customer service, thinking “outside of the box,” programming ideas, as well as how to run the front desks of each building and how to deal with all situations that may arise.

After working with the directors during this training period, senior RA Nancy Diederich said, “The new RHDs are doing a really good job; I’m excited that our staff has become more diverse.”

Director of Housing Michael Speros said last year there was not an assistant director until O’Reilly was hired in late August. Many times Speros would be called away from training, leaving the RAs to learn from each other.

“Sean has done an excellent job and has made a solid RA training program that focuses less on programming and more on community growth,” Speros said.

Jen Kacere Thirty-six resident assistants were hired with about half returning from last semester. There are three RAs for Juda Hall, four for Logan Hall, three for Beshears Hall, six for Leaverton Hall, five for Vaselakos Hall, and 15 for the Living Learning Center (LLC). Returning RHD Lindsay Hayden will continue to run the LLC building while Middlebrook will monitor the suites, Noland will run Leaverton, and Kacere will run Vaselakos.

With community being the main goal for residential life, individuals have made their own goals for the year as well.

Middlebrook wants to evoke change when needed wherever possible, even if it is within herself or her staff. Diederich’s goal is to be a strong senior RA, a leader for other RAs, and to keep a healthy balance between school and her job.

Speros has also set goals for the RAs. They are to know every residential student by name by the second week of classes as well as having had at least one conversation with each of them.

Stacie Middlebrook “It’s been challenging, but I feel it’s going to be a wonderful year full of changes, excitement, and growth,” Middlebrook said.

O’Reilly has worked 14 years with residential life at five different schools across the country. He said building community is the primary goal of the residential staff as well as the residents. His experience has shown him that community decreases undisciplined behavior and vandalism while increasing retention rates.

“My plan is to build a large RA team as well as have individual hall staff teams. The RAs have been preparing for the communities to open. I teach about philosophy, diversity and counseling available to students either peer, crisis, or academic,” O’Reilly said.

O’Reilly plans to have the RAs prepared for anything they may face this up coming year. He wants the incoming residents to know that the staff cares and will be available to assist with any problems they may have and they are not just enforcers, but reinforcements as well.

The selection process this year consisted of interested students first turning in applications. After the applications were assessed, then there was a two-part interview process.

The first interview was personal. The applicants met one-on-one with a current member of the residential staff.

The second interview was a group interview where students interacted with each other to experience what it would be like to be part of a team of residential assistants.

After the interviews, students who were accepted as RAs were given letters congratulating them. A first for this year, some students were considered alternates in case an accepted student was unable to fulfill the duties of an RA.