Feb 5, 2008

Follow the Leader

by Natalie Lozano
After enduring rumors of noxious smoke and methods of interrogation, Resident Assistant (RA) applicants completed their latest step in the process of becoming next year’s student leaders. RA applicants are first required to complete a 25-plus essay questionnaire that details spiritual and doctrinal beliefs, leadership views and even what books they have read. Applicants must also request recommendations from both of their current RAs, complete and pass both a biblical knowledge test and a test detailing Office of Student Leadership (OSL) practices, and finally, participate in multiple interviews with their current Resident Directors (RD). If an applicant is selected to proceed to the second round, they first participate in Exposure Weekend, which was held this past Friday and Saturday in and around Liberty’s campus. Over 200 RA applicants crowded into DeMoss 1114 along with 23 RDs, numerous current RAs and other members of OSL. Of Friday’s opening session, freshman Joshua Cushing said, “Most of us were expecting a more serious business atmosphere, (but) they threw techno music and strobes at us.” The evening began with an introduction to this year’s theme, “LOST,” and applicants were informed that that they had just crashed onto a island, their mission being to survive and escape “the others.” The beginning of the weekend is always the best part for RD Kristi Wollbrink. “Everyone is pumped, energy is high, and a little of the unknown that surrounds Exposure Weekend begins to unravel,” Wollbrink said. Following the opening session, applicants were then dismissed into groups of approximately 10 students with two observing RAs and one RD. Throughout the evening, students faced different challenges in various rooms of DeMoss. “I felt like I was at camp again with all these obstacles,” Janessa O’Connor said. One of the most memorable activities for junior Raphaela Torman was called “Running from the Smoke.” Applicants lined up with their hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them. Everyone except the last person in line was blindfolded and the person who could see directed everyone in front of them as they maneuvered around DeMoss. Occasionally someone would shout “smoke, and we’d have to duck,” Torman said. During several of the activities, only one or two people could talk at a time, which allows for individual leadership, communication and problem-solving skills, or the lack thereof, to stand out. Friday evening, the applicants remained in their assigned groups and headed back to either the RD’s on-campus apartment or a house off campus. Leslie Parks, RD for Campus East dorms 1, 2, and 12, was excited to take her group to her parent’s house, providing them with a different environment to build relationships. According to sophomore Lindsay Beck, the evening was “a good time to get to know people on a personal level and just be more relaxed.” Saturday brought workshops and more activities. The applicants heard from other RAs on everything from confrontation to counseling and were given opportunities to apply what they were learning through role-playing situations. One scenario in the confrontation room challenged applicants to address someone whose body odor is less than pleasing. Learning to navigate such difficult conversations is not only an essential trait of a RA – it is also a valuable life skill. “The applicants leave the session with not only a better understanding of the part that confronting plays in the life of an RA, but really how important and beneficial confrontation is to everyone as we strive to bring God glory,” Wollbrink said. “Whether or not we make RA, everything we learn is still going to be beneficial to us,” said Matt Toogood, a sophomore from Pennsylvania. Exposure Weekend concluded with a final word from Dwayne Carson. However, the application process is far from over. Training week began on Sunday evening at 11:45 p.m. when applicants arrived at one of the 122 “host” halls, where they will learn the ropes of the job under current RAs. “It’s fun, cause they are letting us know what the real schedule of an RA is,” junior Sarah Shoaf said. During the beginning of the week, applicants spend time reading the RA manual during quiet hours and shadowing RAs. As the week progresses, applicants gradually take on more responsibilities under the encouraging eye of their host RAs. Determining which students train on which halls is not a task that is taken lightly. Every year “a group of RDs come together and seek to place students on halls where both RAs and the host RD will be able to draw out both strengths and weaknesses and assist them in bettering themselves,” RD Tom Hinkley said. By the end of exposure week, applicants will be doing curfew and room checks on their own and will also have the privilege of planning and leading a hall meeting on their host hall. Applicants will be notified by e-mail on Feb. 20 whether they were selected to be an RA for the 2008-2009 school year. “We have some phenomenal students who have applied,” OSL Director Dwayne Carson said. “(There are) only so many openings with some incredibly qualified people that you have to say ‘not right now.’” According to Hinkley, who has been involved with Exposure Weekend for five years, OSL is looking for an “individual who emulates Christ, puts the needs of others before his own and seeks to leave a legacy larger than himself.” For Carson, the qualifications go beyond just a heart for people. Applicants must desire to see people grow and mature. Ultimately, RAs must want their students “to be what the vision of Liberty wants them to be, champions for Christ,” Carson said. Hinkley’s advice to students who did not try out but would like to next year was to spend time with their current RA now. Students “learn the most about what it truly means to be an RA, not from any book or RD, but from their current RA,” Hinkley said. “Looking back I can see how the things that I learned through Exposure last year helped me this year,” said Kristi Negron, an RA on Dorm 28-1. Contact Natalie Lozano at nalozano@liberty.edu.
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