Ask a Residential Assistant: An Interview with a Summer RA

Shirley is a Wellesley sophomore who hails from Vancouver, British Columbia and studies Economics and Media Arts and Sciences at Wellesley College. Shirley serves Summer@Wellesley in Research, Marketing, and by being a Summer Residential Assistant in the summer of 2017.

As a Residential Assistant (RA), what was your role in One Wellesley Summer's 2017 Programs?

In general, Residential Assistants (RAs) support the academic, living, and social experience at One Wellesley Summer -- we, as RAs, essentially wear many hats. We do everything from running evening community bonding programs, to hosting tutoring hours, to mediating roommate conflicts, and to making sure that no one sits alone in the dining hall. Our ultimate goal is to provide a safe, comfortable, and supportive environment in which students can thrive at whatever they set out to accomplish in their One Wellesley Summer.

Over the summer, I tried to make myself as accessible as possible. I thoroughly enjoyed engaging with the students, hearing about the new ideas and transformative ways of thinking that they came into contact with through their classes. I also felt fortunate to witness the tight friendships that formed over the course of four weeks in the Pre-College Immersive Program.

Do Residential Assistants’ support students with their academics?

One Wellesley Summer is unique in that all of their Residential Assistants play an active role in supporting not only the students’ living experience, but also their transition into college academics, at the Wellesley level of rigor. As current Wellesley undergraduates, we are well aware of the challenge that pre-college students take on, in managing the balance between demanding coursework and social life -- because we’ve all been there ourselves! No two RAs pursued the same academic major, which meant that we offered academic diversity of experience when meeting a student's needs for whichever course or topic they chose to explore. In our residential staff team, we had a psychology major, a political science major, a women’s and gender studies major, a pre-med concentration, and various passions in education, child care, German language, visual arts, and photography.

In order to hold effective tutor hours, we also work closely with the faculty of Pre-College courses. Pre-College faculty are Wellesley professors that we, as Wellesley students, know and love! Prior to the program, we met with all of the faculty members to review course syllabi, and to gain an understanding of their expectations for each course. Throughout the program, there is communication between professors and RAs regarding student performance in the classroom and student feedback to the RAs about the material, workload, and course pace.

How did you prepare for your role as a Residential Assistant?

The team of Residential Assistant receive full staff training from Residential Directors prior to the summer, as well as supervision throughout the programs. Summer Residential Directors are full-time professionals with many years of experience who live and work with Wellesley students during the school year -- unlike RAs, they are real adults!

During this training, we covered topics and skills such as the expectations for our role, effective leadership, conflict resolutions, roommate disagreement mediation, and emergency situation response (fire drills), and discussed logistics for move-in, orientation, programs, and events. This prior training allowed for the RAs to bond with one another, so that when situations arose, we felt comfortable reaching out to one another for aid, ultimately providing a smoother experience for One Wellesley Summer students.

What can high school students expect from One Wellesley Summer?

Honestly, so much! From the residential staff and the faculty, you can definitely expect a close-knit and supportive learning and living atmosphere -- that is just how Wellesley is! You can expect getting to know like-minded, intellectually curious, and motivated women, and many planned opportunities that make bonding easy. If you’re international (like me!), you can expect that some of these women, like you, come from all over the world. You can expect the privilege of being able to access and utilize most of the same resources and facilities offered to Wellesley undergraduates during the school year, such as professor office hours, Stone Counseling Center, Health Services Office, Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, libraries and borrowing ability, Keohane Sports Center with fitness facilities, and the beautiful residential halls and serene Lake Waban. And of course, you can expect a course load that both challenges you, and inspires you.

What was the most rewarding part of being an RA, for you?

After a year of helping to create One Wellesley Summer from the ground up, meeting the exceptional students who attended our programs, seeing the programs come alive through daily interactions with the students, and hearing the amazing feedback from them, I felt my experience as an RA for One Wellesley Summer was a rewarding one. I enjoy still keeping in touch with several of the pre-college alums -- in fact, I recently recieved news that they chose to apply to Wellesley for early decision applications! Fingers crossed!