The student-staff series features people who both study and work on campus, and showcases their experiences and hardships when it comes to balancing work, academic, and social life. As a student as well as part of the staff on campus, I find myself sacrificing one important component for another. I wanted to know how other student-staff feel and highlight their experiences and personal successes and torments. For the first segment of this series, I had the opportunity to speak with Brody Bird. He is a resident advisor (RA) in his second year of Manufacturing Engineering who won “RA of the month” in September.
Madeline Grove: Why did you apply to be a RA?
Brody Bird: I worked as a camp counsellor a lot in the past, and the idea of being able to create—even on a small scale— that same type of community in college seemed really fun to me.
MG: How do you balance work, academic, and social life?
BB: Most of the residents won’t know this, but RA’s have around 18 meetings a month. About a fifth of those RA’s, who are senior RA’s, have over 30 meetings a month. This does not include running large-scale and small-scale programs, community builders, LLC [Living Learning Community] events, and stuff like that. So, the number [of hours worked] that is put out is around 18 hours a week for being a RA. There’s some debate among RA’s about how accurate that really is, depending on how involved you are, what you're doing, or what type of programs you are running.
Balancing that and school can be a little bit difficult. For me, the best way to go about it is writing everything out and making a calendar. But, considering you are constantly involved and you live with your co-workers, it makes it a lot easier to remember that you have to do stuff. Because, you’ll be sitting down for breakfast or lunch and someone will be talking about something that you have to get done and you’ll be like: oh, I have to do that; yes, I have to write that report; oh yeah, I have that meeting. So, on one hand, living where you work adds more stress, but on a completely different note, it can be really helpful.
MG: What about your social life?
BB: My social life doesn’t exist (he chuckles). You know, when you live where you work and where you live you go to school, it all kind of blends together. So, your social life is your work life which is your academics which is your social life which is your work life. And, where one stops and the other begins is a big grey area that … I don't know how to define.
MG: Is being a RA what you expected?
BB: This is a really good question. As a resident coming out of the 2020 COVID academic year, I had no idea what to expect in a normal year because my RA had so many limitations applied to them. I had no idea what a normal RA was, what the normal RA experience was, or even what a normal resident’s experience was. So, I had little to no expectations and I've only been pleasantly surprised.
MG: What is it like to be a RA?
BB: To be a RA is to have lots of small victories and big defeats. The small victories include running programs that residents enjoy and come to. I get a sense of happiness knowing I'm making residents [feel] a little bit better. It's baking fresh cookies and handing them out to residents, it's running a pumpkin carving contest, it’s running spike ball tournaments, it's doing stuff that I would love to do if I was a resident.
The bigger defeats are when you put a lot of time and energy into a program and it doesn't get the turnout, or there's not as much interest as you would have wanted. But, I think that comes with the territory, you know. You’re trying to create opportunity, you’re trying to create events for residents. Sometimes they aren't interested, they're busy, or there’s midterms. There are a lot of factors that come up in life and pointing at any one is hard. But, I think the small victories and the small feelings of adding to your community definitely outweigh some of those losses.
MG: What are your future goals as a RA?
BB: Well, I want to run some Christmas events. What I really want to do is a Christmas caroling event—whether it be with other people who play brass instruments, or whether it be RA’s who do caroling, or it be a residents-based caroling event. I really want to get some inclusive Christmas cheer going on. I understand that there are a lot of religious denominations; some people celebrate Christmas and some don't. The way I would like to approach this as a RA is to be inclusive of anybody and everybody during the holiday season by focusing on the side of Christmas that has more to do with cheer and goodness in a time where it's the coldest outside, and it's the winter solstice, and when we most are in need of those around us. I think the way to do that is through song and cheer, and those don't have to be based upon any religion. Other things I want to do include a pumpkin carving competition this October, and I want to take my residents skiing at Big White.
MG: Describe your residence community and atmosphere.
BB: So, I’m on the first floor of Purcell. There’s only around 25 [residents] on my floor which creates a smaller community atmosphere. I know my residents have made friends with each other, but I’d really like to foster a larger floor community rather than those secular groups of friends. Doing that is hard because people have very different schedules, interests, and backgrounds. But, I think friendship is uniting and I think my floor has a lot of promise.
MG: What are the pros and cons of being a RA?
BB: [The pros:] The power (he chuckles jokingly). There’s actually not a lot of power that comes with it. Mostly, it’s responsibility. I like having the opportunity to make my residents’ life better.
[The cons:] As much as residents get tired of being reminded to wear their masks, RA’s also get tired of reminding them to wear their masks. Please wear your mask. It makes my job easier.
MG: What is the community atmosphere between the RA’s?
BB: I think being a RA is the best non-club on campus. The application period is super hard; the process of joining is an interview process. Once you're a part of it, it's an incredible opportunity not only to meet other people, but to have just fantastic experiences. I get to work, see, and host programs with amazing people. And, I get to see them every day. I think being a RA helps you create a community on campus that in a lot of scenarios, especially during COVID, is really hard to make. Being able to come to campus in August and spend two weeks training—I think 140 hours or 180 hours—with a group of people that then you get a see for the rest of the year can be a little bit daunting, but it definitely makes you feel really supported in your community and it makes it feel like you are a part of UBCO.
MG: Is there anything else you want students to know?
BB: RA’s want to help the residents, they want to plan programs for them, and they want to do stuff that their residents will enjoy and will be meaningful. So, if you have an idea for your RA about something they can do to make your Residence Life better—whether it be baking cookies, or painting the windows, or going skiing—let them know. They’re there to help and they want to help.