Feb 3, 2009

Earning Position of RA

by Daniel Martinez, News Reporter

There is only one weekend a year at Liberty University when a student will be asked to look into the face of the person sitting next to them and explain to an assembled group why that person would not adequately fill a leadership position. As difficult as that may be, students cannot step down, because, during Liberty’s annual Resident Assistant (RA) Qualifying Weekend, they are asked to give everything they have.

“It’s like a baseball tryout,” Vice President for Spiritual Development Dwayne Carson said of the weekend and its varied tests. “You have to put people in the various positions they’re going to have to play, and see what they can do.”

On Friday, when 240 students met in the Towns Alumni Center for 25 hours of unique experiences, the positions in question were the remaining Resident Assistant positions for the 2009-2010 school year. The number of vacancies currently available to those 240 applicants is 120. As Carson said, “Competition is healthy.”

To anyone who spends time around the Liberty campus, the term RA is a common one. Most dorms on campus have two of them. But when it comes down to it – particularly to those who are hoping to become one – what is an RA?

According to Carson, RAs are student leaders entrusted with the responsibility of assisting students as well as assisting the university by overseeing dorms, assisting faculty and staff in the event of disaster and educating students concerning discipline. The latter includes enforcing the Liberty Way.

“We place them on floors to disciple and develop each student,” Carson said. “We also ask RAs to plan (dorm) events, while also promoting Liberty events.”

With such a load of responsibilities, RAs are chosen carefully. The “qualifying” process contains a rotation of exercises that test their abilities in six different areas, people skills, speaking/teaching skills, event planning, confrontation, counseling and problem-solving abilities.

They had also been given a week to prepare a five-minute lesson to deliver to a small group to show what they are passionate about. These lessons were presented to groups of nine or 10 people, led by a Resident Director (RD), who spent the entire time together, including eating meals and spending Friday night sleeping in randomly designated places around the campus.

For many applicants, simply spending time with their group members was sufficient for good experience.

“I love bonding with the girls in my group,” sophomore Pam Pecoskie said. “We’re all in the same situation (so it’s easy to relate to them).”
“My favorite part of the whole thing was just staying with the guys last night,” junior Chris Deaton said after spending the night in RD Dustin Rife’s apartment on East 27.

Others enjoyed pouring themselves into preparing and giving lessons to their groups.

Junior James Ritter’s five-minute message centered around the idea that love never fails. Using 1 Corinthians 13:8, he discussed this ideal, reminding the group that “love is more important than our abilities.”
Using Philippians 4:6 and Romans 12:10-13, junior Patrick Sims spoke on the importance of prayer and “being real with God.”

All the applicants had the opportunity to tackle various issues in pretend scenarios.

Junior Tiffany Talley greatly enjoyed her practice with the idea of confrontation, knowing “it was practical…I’ll use it.” She had to confront a girl concerning dress code issues and practice taking her ID. “She put up a little fight but it wasn’t too bad.”

Ritter had to counsel an RA acting as a student whose father had just died.

“I just allowed him to talk, to get it off his chest, to recommend going to the Student Care Office,” he said. “I thought it went well.”

Despite many interesting experiences, the applicants were put through the mill, particularly in delivering information in mock hall meetings and on-the-spot acting with little or no preparation.

Sophomore Bethany Geel called the process “stretching” and “nerve wracking,” especially having to deal with circumstances and processes before being given any directions or advice. This approach is crucial, Carson said, “because RAs have to know, day one, how to respond to crises.”

“I think (the qualifying process) will definitely help us (as RAs),” freshman Josh Kellogg said. “People will have issues in their lives, and it is our job to help them.”

Pecoskie spoke of having more responsibilities to handle and more rules to enforce than her current position as a Spiritual Life Director, while Deaton learned that he had to grow more accustomed to presenting hall meetings. Freshman Ana Kempner realized she had to gain practice in confronting individuals and Geel expressed the importance of learning to balance different things in life, such as schoolwork and RA ministry.

Sophomore Seth Grutz and Senior Joe Dekreon had to learn teamwork skills early in the weekend when they found a giant spider web of yarn stretched throughout a room. The whole team needing to help each other navigate through the web without touching the strings or taking the same path one after another.

Talley, who confessed to not having much experience with counseling, had to practice talking with a girl concerned that her roommate was having homosexual desires, and ended up teaching her the importance of communicating in order to discover the truth.

“My favorite part was being able to interact in the scenarios,” Sims said. “I got to see how my personality could benefit being an RA, and feeling a sense of calling to it.”

“I’m a women’s ministry major, and this is a great opportunity to dive right in (to what I hope to be doing),” Geel said.

For the next week, from eight p.m., RA applicants will be RAs-in-training on different dorms around the campus, learning to administer convocation checks, room checks, curfew checks and conduct hall meetings. Their host RAs and RDs, as well as Carson and his associate directors at the Office of Student Leadership will sit down and finalize their decisions after evaluating each of them.

Carson, who spoke specifically of looking for knowledge and ability, hopes to have the results announced on Feb. 23, two weeks after the RAs-in-training have had their last chance to impress.

“We have high expectations of them,” Carson said. “We have to get the right person.”

With an intense 25 hours behind them, but an important week ahead, the applicants can hardly sit and rest. They have gained a little experience, and a greater appreciation for those who are already RAs, according to Sim.

“It definitely gave me a fuller view of the random things RAs have to deal with,” Sims said. “Sometimes, in the scenarios, I didn’t know (what) to do because I didn’t know (the students’) personalities. But you still have to counsel them.”

Contact Daniel Martinez at


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