Melissa Vaughn is getting up to go to work. It’s 2:30 in the morning, and her long day is already getting started as she prepares to work behind the desk at Ward Hall.
This is one of the many jobs that fall within the scope of being a resident adviser (RA for short). In fact, most people probably cannot even begin to recognize all of the roles the RAs play in their respective residence halls. Most people probably do not recognize how vital RAs genuinely are to a residence hall either.
So what is an RA, you may ask? In terms of what it means here at Ferris, an RA is defined as a trained peer leader who coordinates activities in the residence halls. However, there is so much more to it than those words can even try to explain.
Vaughn, a pre-veterinarian sophomore here at Ferris, has a busy schedule as she tries to balance helping Ward Hall run smoothly while also succeeding in her school work and having a pleasant social life.
However, according to Vaughn, this is not as hard as one might think, especially because she is good at time management.
“You’ve just got to keep an eye on your residents and make sure no one’s doing anything dumb and that everyone is OK,” Vaughn said. “You have to plan events to try and include everyone and create a community.”
Of course, that is easier said than done, as residence halls typically lack in quiet and make up for it with an almost constant supply of stupidity and obnoxious activity.
This, of course, segues to another part of the never-ending responsibilities of an RA. People in this position on campus are also in charge of “documenting” residents when they are doing things they are not allowed to be doing. Whether those things include simply being too loud or starting an eight-person brawl in the hallway, the process starts all the same.
This is a dynamic process as it plays out, and one that Vaughn describes as an “awkward” process, primarily when it includes her friends in the hall. However, while she has enforced the rules on numerous occasions, she has only had to “doc” somebody once. Despite this, her residents have noticed the awkwardness displayed by Vaughn on these occasions where she has to enforce the rules.
“I think she’s the nicest person I’ve ever met,” said Ferris psychology sophomore Rebekah Caudle, a resident of Vaughn’s on the second floor of Ward. “But she needs to be more assertive. To be an RA, I feel you need to be assertive as much as you are nice.”
While the authoritative side of the job is not her favorite, Vaughn loves the community building part of the job and loves how she can help everybody interact in the residence hall.
She plays her part too, as many people within the hall have sung praises of her impact in the positive vibe in Ward, her boss included.
“She’s always smiling,” said Chad McConnell, the Hall Director of Miller, Ward and Travis Hall.
This statement is echoed by plenty of other members of the Ward Hall community, much to the pleasure of Vaughn.
Vaughn takes great pride in this part of the job, as she feels like an RA must make the hall a friendly place. In fact, of all the tasks that she has to perform, this is the one she places above the rest, and that includes working the desk, setting up programs and enforcing the rules among other roles.
“The importance of an RA is to build the community, and a lot of people just see them as police officers,” Vaughn said. “We’re here to enforce the rules, but we’re trying to make it fun for everyone. We’re not just here to get them in trouble.” Of course, trouble inevitability comes with the territory, but Vaughn works to offset that with the joy she brings to the hall.
The job of an RA is challenging, and it is easy to lose sight of what the true mission is of the job, but if one thing is sure, Vaughn’s eyes are still wide open and can see that Ward Hall is thriving because of it.