An Interview With Dinushi Fernando, Former Residence Advisor for Kalamalka
September 8th, 2017
Useful information for students interested in becoming residence advisors
Daniel Greene: Hello, Dinushi.
Dinushi Fernando: Hello, Daniel.
DG: So what exactly is a residence advisor, or an ‘RA’ for short?
DF: I think you just answered your own question. RA is short for residence advisor.
DG: What kind of daily responsibilities can one expect to have as an RA?
DF: Duties vary from day to day. Some days there’s nothing for you to do. Once a week we had an area meeting with other building teams in our group, we had building meetings with other advisors in our building and then we had a one on one meeting with our manager every other week. Some nights you’d have an on-call shift where you and a partner would walk around the buildings in your area, interact with residents, make sure the buildings are in good shape and deal with any situations that arise (someone’s locked out of their room, loud parties). And generally, you want to be checking up on your residents, see how they’re doing and having positive interactions with them. And deal with any situations that arise. Even if you’re not on call, you want to make sure everything is running okay.
DG: In your opinion, what kind of person would be best suited to be an RA? In other words, what qualities do successful RA’s have that other people don’t?
DF: Anyone can be a successful RA, you just have to put the effort in. The Residence Life Managers build area and building teams based on different strengths and qualities. Some advisors are really sociable and good at building a community on their floor or in their building. They’re good at planning small scale, casual events that everyone can just hang out and have a good time at. Other advisors love event planning and will plan big events that a lot of residents from across the buildings can enjoy. Sometimes they’ll get involved with RezLead or Rezletics and help plan RezGiving (a Thanksgiving dinner on campus), the semi formal dance, and the soccer tournament. And some people are really good at crisis management. They can keep calm in stressful situations, be quick on their feet, and know the appropriate resources. Conflict mediation is also an important quality. Sometimes roommates don’t get along and you have to be able to help them work towards a peaceful resolution. So really, being successful in the role isn’t hard, you just have to put the appropriate effort in. Know what you’re good at, and you’ll find your niche eventually.
DG: If you could relive your university years, would you choose to be an RA again?
DF: Probably, but I think I would’ve waited until my third or fourth year this time around. I don’t think I had fully adjusted to university in second year. Which isn’t the case for everyone, but I think I personally would’ve enjoyed it better later on in my degree.
DG: What’s your fondest memory from the years you spent as an RA for Kal?
DF: Probably the nights of Frosh and Recess. They weren’t exactly fond memories, but they were definitely memorable. Something was always going on that night and people can be pretty hilarious when intoxicated.
DG: How did you manage to balance the demands of a full course load and the responsibilities of being an RA? Did you ever find it overwhelming?
DF: I actually took four classes a semester the year I RA’d. I still found that some weeks were definitely overwhelming. But that’s like any other job.
DG: What’s your advice for prospective residence advisors?
DF: Make sure you spend time with your friends outside of residence life. That’s something I regretted not doing more. Everyone I met in residence life was fantastic and I’m still friends with quite a few of them. But I think it’s important to venture out of that bubble.
DG: RA’s are compensated for their work if I’m not mistaken. Did you find that the amount you received provided you with some financial stability? Could a position as an RA serve as a reliable means of income, comparable to a part-time job?
DF: It’s probably similar to what you’d get with a part time job, but I think you have a bit more flexibility with your hours. You get paid as a stipend, so every two weeks you’ll get the same amount on each cheque. They don’t pay you based on hours worked on-call or making bulletins. So it is reliable in that sense, but sometimes you’ll feel like the work you put in doesn’t equal the amount paid. But there will be times when you’re getting paid more than what you put in. So it evens out in the end.
DG: One last question: money aside, what was the most rewarding part of being an RA?
DF: I had such a good floor that year. My residents were definitely the best part about being an RA.