As An RA, Why Is Development Important?

transition like a box of chocolates meme with forrest gump

In August of 2020, I sat down in my first master’s class where I was completely SHOCKED to learn that a bunch of scholars kind of knew exactly what I went through as a college student. One scholar spoke to how transitions were hard and challenging, which is why college students need support. College is a time filled with many transitions–and they all happen at the same time. I remember thinking, no wonder colleges emphasize the importance of orientation and residence life. I was also someone who moved across the country to go to college, so the transition of leaving a high school sweetheart and family behind was definitely emotionally tolling. 

Another scholar spoke to how important validation is to the growth of college students. The concept of validation recognizes that the transitions that occur are a natural part of everyday life. All college students undergo some form of transition, which is valid and natural. This concept sounds so rudimentary, but validation helps students find community and build confidence. For me, growing up, I was always told that I was a terrible writer, so imagine my joy when my first professor in college validated a piece of my writing. That validation helped push me to want to be better and continue to grow.

It feels nerdy to type, but these concepts are under an area of study known as student development theory. Essentially, a bunch of researchers, faculty members, scholars, and practitioners (an example of a practitioner would be your supervisor! This is someone whose job at a university level is to support students on their personal and academic journeys) observed college students for a long time and assessed how they experience personal, academic, professional, emotional, and intellectual growth so that universities can offer support systems and resources to help students be successful. For example, if researchers know that students experience peaks in stress when they are going through finals, then practitioners at universities can hold programs that help reduce stress levels during those times.

So, why do you need this information?

Well, the series that you are reading is specifically tailored for your developmental journey as an RA. Whether you are a first year RA or returner, these developments will aim to help you grow as a student leader. You will read silly stories, reflect, answer questions, and engage in activities while going through this series to work on your student leadership development. Posts will answer common questions that RAs may have like: Why should I care about customer service?  They will also educate you on developing different skills, such as setting boundaries and time management.

It is valuable to pour into your development while on your RA journey because it’ll help you with maintaining self-awareness, confidence, and a growth mindset: all extremely valuable skills that are transferable outside of the realm of being a student and leader. 

Get ready to lean in, learn, and grow.

Flower Growing GIF by Chippy the dog

Reflection Questions:

  • What transitions did you experience when you went to college for the first time? How do you see these in your residents?
  • What can you do to help your residents navigate transitions more easily?
  • How do you want to grow as a person in your student staff role?
  • Do you you want to learn more about student development and it’s theories? Ask your supervisor.

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