“I’ve learned how to use my voice”: Checking in with Residence Life staff at the end of an unprecedented semester

The Department of Residence Life celebrated RA Appreciation Week from Nov. 16 – 20, taking time to give well-deserved thanks to student leaders who have been working long hours in residence halls (while juggling classes and other obligations) for the sole purpose of providing peer students with support, comfort, safety and joy under incredibly difficult circumstances for our on-campus community.

“Our paraprofessional staff in residence have been working so unbelievably hard this year,” said Shannon Moysey, coordinator of living/learning communities. “They have had to learn how to engage their residents virtually, plan and facilitate interactive programs, and essentially try to develop a supportive living experience for students in the hardest semester our College has ever faced. In many ways, they serve as a first responder of sorts – they provide emotional support, mental health resources, and help in having difficult conversations about race, equity, and the impact of these subjects on our community. They are also helping to make sure students are going for their mandated testing, and following COVID-19-related regulations in the residence halls. This all on top of them striving to be focused and successful students in a challenging, predominantly virtual semester.”

“One of the main reasons why we made it to the end of this semester is because of the hard work and dedication of our amazing Residence Life RAs,” said Corinna Caracci, director of residence life. “I am forever grateful to all of our staff for all they have done, and hope they all know what an invaluable part of the Residence Life team they are. The truth is, we wouldn’t have the incredible sense of community in our residence halls without each of them and their dedication to our campus.”

“I am always proud and grateful for the amazing work of the Residence Life staff but even more so this year as they negotiate interesting and trying times,” said Linda Eaton, associate vice president for student affairs. “Their resiliency is to be commended.”

In honor of that hard work and dedication, we’re using this space as a platform for students working in Residence Life to share thoughts about how they’ve been doing this semester, what they’ve learned and what they wish more people understood about what they do.

“This pandemic has affected every person in this country, and every university. This experience has taught me to be thankful, to have had the best support from my RA family, and that our school has remained open while others have shut down.” – Joshua Rebatta ’22 (Psychology), resident assistant, College/Shango Hall

“This semester comes with struggles and triumphs, but I’m happy to be here overall, and glad to be able to help the hall community around me. I’ve gotten to see more open expressions of mental health struggles, stress and other internal feelings that in the past residents have not been as willing on their own to bring into conversation. There have also been opportunities to show my residents that RAs struggle too. We understand their feelings of stress and other problems, which I think created greater understanding between the residents and RAs.” – Jessica Conklin ’21 (Psychology), resident assistant, Bouton Hall

“I wish more people understood how much time and effort Res Life paraprofessionals and professionals put into their positions. This has certainly been a challenging semester, but I think that Res Life staff members have made a tremendous difference in ensuring that the semester runs as smoothly as possible. Everyone who works in Res Life deserves thanks, credit and recognition for their hard work.” – Matthew Orlander ’21 (Adolescence Education), senior resident assistant, Lenape Hall

“I learned that it is imperative to listen to my fellow people and be understanding of all perspectives. It is a gift to have these responsibilities, and I am supremely grateful to have this position. It is an honor to be an RA.” – Jaden Robinson ’21 (Black Studies; Digital Media Production), resident assistant, Lenape Hall

“I am very appreciative of the department’s effort in trying to keep us all safe and in providing us with the necessary tools to be able to serve our residents. Nothing is perfect this semester, but I truly believe that we are all doing the best that we can with what we have in our toolboxes.” – Nyima Darboe ’21 (Sociology), resident assistant, Gage Hall

“I’ve learned that when a group of college students are being pit against difficult odds, they will band together and form a unit of support for the others.” – Andrew Wright ’22 (Digital Media Production), resident assistant, Esopus Hall

“I wish more people understood how draining the job can be, and how much work we put in for the sake of others. I am tired. I love what I do, but it can be so overwhelming at times. It is a lot harder to ask people for help when you’re the person on your staff everyone goes to for help.” – Emily Bourbon ’22 (Biology), resident assistant, Bliss Hall

“I appreciate just being here. Having the privilege to come back to campus and complete the semester at New Paltz is something I’m very grateful for. I’ve learned how to use my voice, and also how to form boundaries with residents, as a mentor, but also a friend.” – Nicole Morales ’22 (Mechanical Engineering; Mathematics), resident assistant, Gage Hall

“This semester I got to think a lot more creatively than I tend to. It was challenging to think of programming that was outside the norm of a typical semester, but ultimately rewarding when those programs were successful. It’s been difficult and exhausting at times, but very fulfilling and rewarding to have been able to watch my residents grow and form a strong community with myself and each other.” – Parker Alber ’21 (Visual Arts Education), community mentor, Shawangunk Hall

“I wish people understood that we’re students first. This semester we were thrown into this new normal, and we’re expected to adjust a lot quicker than others. During COVID there is more work to be done and we have to be more vigilant with our residents, which can be mentally taxing.” – Brianna Marfa ’21 (Communication Disorders), resident assistant, Minnewaska Hall

“I’ve been learning how to balance everything. It’s been difficult and I am still learning, but organization is key and I’ve been trying as hard as I can. I appreciate the fact that I can still connect with residents, and that’s been rewarding.” – Mia Bolton ’21 (Visual Arts Education), resident assistant, Lenape Hall

Halloween decorations via Zoom at Lenape Hall

“This has been an exceptional experience, and I am grateful for being a part of it. Facing challenges helps me grow as a person and this is definitely a challenge I am most interested in overcoming. It’s been an adventurous ride so far and I hope there’s more to come.” – Yugsrestha Das ’22 (Business Analytics), senior resident assistant, Mohonk Hall

“I learned how to manage my time better and I learned how to empathize with other people. I appreciate this opportunity to be there for others.” – Jaidiver Morales ’22 (History; Latin American & Caribbean Studies), resident assistant, Gage Hall