What is The Future of RAs? It’s Time To Break Up The Role

What is the Future of RAs

This blog series features different writers responding to the prompt, “What is the future of the RA role?”

Guest Post by DJ Stroud, Professional Staff Member

Resident Assistant. Resident Advisor. Community Mentor. Just like the entry-level professional roles in our field, the job titles for our live-in student staff members vary from institution to institution but the core values of the role have largely remained the same and deepened over the years. For a while, it seemed like the different names were simply about semanitcs– being about what the right job title was versus what the scope of the job is and should be.

But then, COVID happened…

That’s when the real questions began to surface. How could we continue to build community, ensure safety, and provide a well-rounded experience for students if the RAs that we had leaned so heavily upon could not engage in the traditional ways we framed our engagement models. Even now that we have returned to the “new normal,” we are still asking the question, “What is the future of the RA role?” For many institutions, RAs continue to wear all the hats.


Let’s think about just a few of the hats that RAs wear in higher education today…

RAs are conflict mediators. They are community developers. They are crisis managers. They are policy enforcers. They are support systems. They are community patrollers. They are resource connectors. They are safety inspectors. They are mandatory reporters. They are the eyes and the ears on the pulse of our residential communities.

Talk about transferrable skills… and burnout. Many institutions have started to investigate how to make the role equally rewarding, developmental, and challenging while providing a healthier school-work-life balance for their student staff members. How does this work? Let’s get scientific. Think of RAs as stem cells. They have all of this amazing potential. Some, but not all of them, may exceed expectations in a variety of areas. Some of them may have very pronounced strengths and weaknesses in particular areas. What if, like stem cells, we differentiated the RA role into multiple other roles and truly allowed our students to step into roles that played to their specific strengths while also allowing them to continue to develop additional transferrable skills? In my opinion, that is the future!

This may look different from institution to institution based on what all the traditional RA role has encompassed. Perhaps you split it into two new roles, one that focuses on community development and engagement and another one that focuses on policy enforcement, safety, and security. The possibilities are endless, but I think the future of the RA role and its vitality rely on us to make educated decisions and be open to change.

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