As an RA, you help create environments where college students can be successful. Additionally, you have probably made a difference in many individual lives through your caring and conscientious attention to the residents on your floor. You may not get immediate feedback from those people, but at some point, I am confident that you’ll hear those magic words, “Thanks for being there when I needed you.”

Hopefully, you are enjoying your experience as a residence life staff member. Not every minute can be a peak experience, but I am betting that you are learning more through the experience of being a student staff member than you realize. I can recall being uncomfortable in confronting disciplinary situations or listening to residents as they told me about their fears. I also remember the struggles of working in a team that had a few folks who didn’t pull their share of the load. Several of you may be having some of the same experiences, or others such as conducting your first floor meeting, handling crisis situations, learning to manage your time, or how to say, “No.”

The experience I had as an RA prepared me well for my career and my life, and I’m confident that it will do the same for you. You see, being a student staff member or being active in residence hall government can be a portal to a career in housing and residence life. I chose to enter the student affairs field because of the environments that universities provide, and because of the great people that work in residence life. They were my mentors, friends, and associates, and I wanted a life that was fulfilling and exciting. Now, you may not consider the lives of your hall director and director of housing to be exciting, but they are! Hall directors get to experience more in a year than most people do in a lifetime. They work with energetic, motivated, and creative young people. They develop skills in areas such as mediation, administration, supervision, and motivation. I know of few other professions where the sense of collegiality is stronger. If you get a few housing folks together, you’ll hear the chatter long before you see their faces. They have a bond that is forged through common experiences and aspirations.

I would encourage each of you to give some thought to the field of housing and residence life. I often tell people that it is a noble profession. Housing professionals make significant contributions to the collegiate experience, and they live lives that are congruent with the values of care, honesty, charity, and dedication. Will every housing professional get rich? Probably not in terms of money, but we are a profession that is rich in friendships. Another positive aspect of housing careers is that they are diverse. Perhaps your skills are best suited to develop creative publications, then look at marketing in housing. Maybe you are strong administratively and enjoy solving complex procedural problems, then look at housing administration or facilities. Maybe you love working with people and developing activities, then residence life may be right for you.

The housing and residence life profession needs bright, capable, dedicated, and motivated individuals such as yourself. After I entered graduate school in student personnel administration, I can honestly say, I’ve never looked back or regretted my choice of a career. I think this is mainly due to the fact that my career in housing has made an indelible, positive mark on my life. I think it can do the same for you.

Alan Hargrave

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