Resident Director of Nesbitt, Joey Ramirez, thinks about Resident Assistant training in terms of story and community.
“We want them to talk with people from all walks of life and make them feel welcome wherever they are at in life,” he said. “We realize that we cannot create community, but that we are given a space for community to happen.”
“Behind closed doors” is one of the larger and more infamous parts of training. Since time is limited for this part of training, the topics covered are more carefully chosen. This year a “diversity room” was added.
In the training, “residents”—who are role played by residential life staff—speak for themselves and RA’s in training must listen to their stories.
The room included different scenarios with “residents” that the RA in training had to engage in conversation with. The “residents” would be discussing something about their background—how much money they have or how their parents are divorced. The RA would then enter into the conversation and exercise listening as well as empathy skills.
Second year Resident Assistant Drew Leman, who serves in Nesbitt, was an actor in the diversity room. Scenarios included fights over controversial issues as well as the use of derogatory language towards minorities.
“It was pretty much like engaging in any kind of argument,” Leman said. “We were looking for the RA to engage the students and not the [political or social] issue. They needed to listen and deescalate the situation.”
Amanda Hogan, resident director of McClain Hall, has been planning the implementation of RA training for the past two years. In May she has the “bones” of what the training will look like. By July, she finalizes the details—including what speakers will be brought in and what topics will be covered.
ONU recognizes that diversity is a concept that includes more than just racial issues, but also issues concerning socioeconomic status, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, and more, Hogan said.
Residential life desires that RA’s not put labels on their residents, but rather that put expectations on them to succeed regardless of who they are, Ramirez said.
Nuanced workshops, team building exercises, and case studies help equip RA’s with the ability to make this philosophy a reality.
“I truly believe that the Church of the Nazarene is focused on journeying with people,” Ramirez said. “They realize that it’s not just a prayer for salvation and that’s it. They understand that there is a longer journey of Christianity.”
—Nathan DiCamillo, News Editor