Community advisors play important role in college life

For some students at the College, Community Advisors (CAs) are looked upon as the enemy. They are the ones who need to be watched out for when partying on the sly; the ones with the clipboards and the roving eyes and ears.

Yet, as many residents who choose to reside on campus can attest, a CA can be much more than a rule enforcer. Ideally, a CA can also be a helping hand, a confidante and a friend.

In order to become a CA, potential candidates go through a rigorous application process that includes submission of resumes, essays and a day of interviews with both student and professional Residence Life (ResLife) employees. Although the requirements may seem daunting at first, for most students who opt to vie for a position within ResLife, the choice is a no-brainer.

“My CA freshman year was awesome,” Alex Manning, sophomore criminology and justice studies major and CA of Travers 10, said. “I really admired how he did his job, and it sounded really fun to live with and above all help freshmen with the transition to college.”

CAs have a variety of responsibilities that range from holding floor meetings and contacting Building Services to running programs for their residents.

“The CAs have a variety of programming requirements that include educational programming, social/community building programming and hall government support,” Michael Robbins, First Year Experience Area Director at the College, said.

“Social programs are important at the beginning of the First Year Experience to build a community on the floor,” Daniel McGovern, senior physics and secondary education major who is currently a Housing Assistant in Townhouses South, said. “Programs about career paths and job interviews become important into the upper class experience.”

Not surprisingly, CAs noted that the most successful programs are those that directly relate to the college experience.

“Usually the most popular and the easiest to get residents to are the alcohol and sex programs,” Lauren Vieth, junior criminology and justice studies major and CA on Travers 6, said. “As long as they are fun and give residents a little bit of knowledge on the way out, then it’s a perfect program.”

Manning agreed, citing the success of “Sex Fest,” a program which focused on sexual health education and pitted residents against each other in competitions that included trivia and a race to inflate condoms.

“We had a huge attendance,” he said. “I can’t remember an exact number, but there must have been 50 to 60 residents.”

Yet another successful technique for attracting residents to a program is to model it on a well-known aspect of pop culture.

Last week, residents of Centennial 2 participated in a program called “Trading Doors,” based on “Trading Spaces,” a cult-favorite home renovation show broadcast on The Learning Channel.

Technical aspects of the position aside, it seems like the most important job a CA can do is to promote a sense of openness, community and tolerance among residents on a floor.

“Anytime I was in my room, my door was open, which created an open environment for residents to come in and hang out,” McGovern, who has also been a CA and Assistant Resident Director (ARD) during his time with ResLife, said. “Creating that comfort level was very important in building a relationship since when you first meet a CA, you know that they are the ones who can get you in trouble.”

As a current CA on a freshman floor, Vieth echoed these sentiments.

“When you’re actively involved and genuinely excited about being part of the floor, residents notice,” she said. “They have more respect for you and then you can have more control over what goes on and what doesn’t. It’s all about respect.”

According to Vieth’s residents, this attitude is the key to building a close bond.

“I love my CAs,” Katie Greco, freshman English secondary education major who resides on Travers 6, said. “I don’t just consider them figures of authority on the floor. I consider them my friends, too.”

With the importance of a friendly personality placed high on the list of qualities deemed important by College residents, ResLife stresses the interview process.

While not every candidate is expected to be extremely outgoing, a person who is negative and unapproachable will not be offered a position, Robbins said.

“The really stellar CAs are the ones that are good at connecting with their floors,” he said. “Learning everyone’s name quickly, remembering to ask people about their day, leaving their door open, stopping by to visit rooms just to say hello, keeping their specific residents in mind when planning programs instead of just doing them to fulfill a requirement and other such personalized efforts go a long way towards getting the residents to appreciate and respect the CA.”

Although CAs may think that their hard work goes unnoticed, preceded by their reputations as the College’s law enforcement, those employees of ResLife who go above and beyond the call of duty are noticed and appreciated.

“An above-average CA knows how to achieve a level of comfort on his or her floor that virtually makes it your home away from home,” Greco said. “I think both of my CAs have accomplished this.”

In residence halls across campus, many students would tend to agree.