Many students traveled long and far before they took their first steps onto campus as college freshmen. They unpacked their bags, wiped down their surfaces, said goodbye to their families and greeted their roommates, all with a huge welcome from their Resident Assistants (RAs). The first day jitters did not just rest with the new residents; the RAs set foot on campus with many curiosities in mind, too.
Five weeks into the school year, protocols for COVID-19 are still an adjustment for many faculty members, students and staff, including those in the Residence Association. Senior nursing major Noah Stangebye, an RA at UCCS for six semesters, shared his fears, hopes, observations and advice.
“I did have some worries as I began my move back to campus in the beginning of August,” Stangebye said. “What exactly are things going to look like? How cooperative are the residents living on campus going to be? What additional tasks will I have to complete as an RA? These are just a few of the questions that were going through my head at the time.”
Now that some time has passed, Stangebye feels more informed about the conditions and preventative measures for COVID-19. When asked what living is like in the dorms, he said, “Amongst the roommates and residential halls, it is expected that each and every resident holds each other accountable in staying safe by following the campus guidelines, both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19.
“We have asked for residents to make a plan with their roommates on how they are going to frequently sanitize their area to help limit the spread. Additionally, as with any building on campus, we have asked that all residents living on campus wear their mask whenever they are outside of their individual room and in a building.”
Stangebye highlighted some of the positives and negatives of the situation and how he is trying to balance them. “Needless to say, the transition into this new school year has been both good and bad. It’s been good in the sense that a somewhat on-campus experience (events, social interaction, independence, etc.) has been maintained. It’s been bad in the sense that I am almost completely online and am having to think twice about tasks that I normally wouldn’t have.”
Not only have his personal life and academics been affected, but also his work as an RA.
“First and foremost, my main concern as an RA during this time of COVID-19 is the mental health of each and every resident living on campus,” he said. “One of the most rewarding things about being an RA is seeing new connections and communities grow on campus. With this said, creating a sense of community is a lot harder when opportunities for social interaction are scarce, as it is this year.”
There were many changes made to the RA training sessions as they prepared for a new year as well, including being moved to a virtual setting.
“Normally, RA training consists of roughly a full week of in-person breakout sessions, guest speakers and campus partner seminars to ensure that us RAs are up to speed on protocol, living requirements and resources,” Stangebye said.
In regards to how RAs could best be supported by students, Stangebye said, “I personally feel like the best way to support RAs during this time is to simply understand where we’re coming from and what we are having to do to ensure that the safety of the Residential Halls is maintained.”
Stangebye also shared that he feels RAs get a bad rap for doing their jobs. “Ultimately, us RAs are here for the students living on campus,” he said. “The safety of the residents and overall residential community is what we’re after. When we are telling residents to put their mask on, socially distance, etc. we are doing so with safety being the priority.”
Stangebye gave encouraging advice to those living on campus, hoping that they will “utilize their resources and be creative with ways that they can make this year just as fun and exciting as past years Go on walks to change up the environment, designate a buddy to FaceTime once a week and journal.
As far as what he wishes to see more on campus in terms of enforcing COVID-19 protocols, he recommended “to better advertise the requirements for stepping foot on campus, and to ensure that punctual notification and communication is taken.”
“More specifically, I feel that there should be bigger and more apparent signs for when 6 feet should be maintained, when only four people can be in an elevator, etc.,” Stangebye said. “Bigger and better advertising of the state mandates/guidelines makes it more difficult for individuals to willingly not abide and respect the state mandates.”