Even as the coronavirus has mostly shuttered campus living, scattering students far and wide, Transylvania University’s residence life staff is creating ways for resident advisers to maintain the relationships they’d already developed. With virtual office hours online and by phone and text, students are able to connect directly with their student advisers for support.
“The idea came from having a simple way for people to connect even though we are not physically together,” says Madelyn Frost, assistant director of housing and residence life. “Just knowing that you aren’t alone and have the option to talk to someone is helpful.”
RAs and students are also communicating through GroupMe, an online platform initiated at the beginning of the semester, and through social media and other digital formats. Area coordinator Hayle Hall ’21 is eager for students to know they have a constant resource available to them and a team of people who are deeply interested in their lives and well-being.
“Although it is difficult to not have in-person interactions, we are aiming to create a space that allows for the same level of connection,” Hall says. “We want to help in any way we can.” She notes that many recent conversations have been about the public health issue and its impact on students’ personal lives.
“It means a lot to me to be able to engage in such vulnerable discussions with students,” Hall continues. “I think these talks help students to verbalize their emotions and make sense of everything around them.” And, she adds, “these discussions have the same impact on me.”
Resident advisers, Frost notes, balance multiple roles as adviser, counselor, community builder, role model and student. When choosing student advisers, Frost says she looks for kindness, compassion, empathy and a sense of responsibility. “I believe that being able to see life from another’s perspective is a skill that RAs have to have. They also must be committed to helping people.”
The results are already being felt. Frost emphasizes the importance not only of caring for others, but of establishing a sense of normalcy. She describes the reassurance a parent felt upon hearing their student and friends laughing together on a call with their RA and other residents.
Hall uses similar words to describe the impact of the supportive relationships. “Honestly, having office hours has helped me to increase my level of social engagement,” she says. “I get to interact with more people, even though I am confined to my house. It’s helped me establish a sense of structure and normalcy. I think these hours also help the student body have a sense of normalcy as they can engage with their peers as they would as if they were on campus.”
Transy students, if you haven’t connected with a member of residence life yet in their office hours, I highly encourage you to do so. It is a great opportunity to reconnect with your peers on campus, as well as have any questions you may have answered. I, and the whole residence life staff, are so eager to support students in every way we can!Hayle Hall ’21