Meet (Some of) the RAs

by Alexa SchmidtAsst. A&E Editor

Each residence hall on Manhattan College’s campus comes with Resident Assistants, or RAs. Commonly seen all around campus, these students have a substantial amount of responsibilities like getting to know their residents, making sure they stay safe, putting on programs and coming up with creative decorations.

Along with these responsibilities, they also have to do things any other regular student would do, like go to class, attend club meetings and hang out with their friends. 

Juniors, and first-year RAs Kerry Cavanagh and Christopher “Topher” Nuzzo reside in Lee and Horan Hall, the suite-style dorms. They offered their perspectives on what a typical day as an RA is like.

“It definitely depends on what day it is. When you’re on duty, there are certain procedures that we have to take, and when we’re on duty we’re just doing rounds in the building to make sure nobody is being unsafe and that everyone is sort of behaving how they’re supposed to” Nuzzo said.  

“I think there really isn’t a typical day. Anything can really come to your door at any point and you have to be prepared for it. I think even in my first day someone had knocked on my door and I had to deal with it. You really can’t plan for incidents to happen, and you just really have to be ready to act as soon as possible to make sure people are safe and the situations don’t escalate” Cavanagh said.

On the other hand, senior Kevin Donald entered his second year of being an RA in Jasper Hall. He said his typical day looks like anyone else’s. 

“My day looks mostly the same. Honestly, it’s a lot of work, and a lot of effort, but it’s pretty manageable. It’s pretty small little increments of things, whether that’s hanging up posters or just checking in on a resident. It’s pretty minor stuff” he said. 

Jasper Hall is a traditional style dorm, so everyone’s doors are always open. 

“Being an RA in Jasper is really special because you really get a chance to build a community I think that you really don’t get in others buildings. There’s a certain atmosphere in Jasper that just doesn’t exist in other buildings. People are looking to make their own fun, they’re excited to do things right off the bat so it really makes my job easier more than anything else” Donald said. 

However, Horan and Lee Hall have different situations than a normal dorm typically would. In Lee Hall, the first couple of floors are filled with the living-learning community, Arches, that freshmen can participate in. 

 Cavanagh is the RA for one of those floors, and went with her residents to Arches-specific outings, like Coney Island and Chelsea Piers.

She said,  “It’s different because they come in earlier, it’s a different group of freshmen and you kind of have to figure out how to get them close and break the ice with them and have them have good relationships and you have to facilitate that sometimes a little bit more.”

She continued. 

“But it’s awesome, it’s a good group, they’re excited, we have a ton of arches specific events planned. Erin McWilliams and I are in charge of the service part of it so we’re in charge of coordinating different service events and having that being an actual aspect of Arches program” Cavanagh said. 

Along with doing late-night rounds and check-ins with their residents, RAs also put on programs within the halls themselves. 

“It’s definitely hard getting people to come to programs because generally people are like very to themselves, and that’s kind of our jobs to open people up and show them that there’s more than just sitting in your room. You’re able to sort of explore new people and make connections that you hadn’t previously, and that’s what college is all about” Nuzzo said.  

He continued.

“Program planning is definitely a complicated process because you have to sort of assess what your specific building or floor needs, so we plan our events based around what we think A. people could benefit from, and B. what we think people will show up to and what they’ll like to be a part of” he said. 

Donald added, “Usually the programs we do in Jasper Hall are pretty well attended. For the most part, I’d say our best attended programs are our building-wide programs we do, in which all the RAs are there and Brother Robert will make either grilled cheese, or mocktails, or pancakes or something, and he’s a pretty good cook, and so most of the building comes out to those.”

He continued.

“It’s really great because I get to meet residents from other floors who I might have not seen and it really feels like I’m everybody’s RA, and not just the thirty-something kids that I have on my floor” Donald said. 

Along with getting to know their residents, the RAs get to know each other. 

Cavanagh said, “The other RAs are awesome. Training with them was really… it was tough because it was long, it was a lot of things all at once, but I think the other RAs, especially the returning RAs were a great resource for us just because they had shared previous things that they had done though last year, and they just had a different perspective to things. Them being similar ages to us definitely helped us. In my building, the Lee RAs are great, we play game nights, and it’s just a good group and it’s a good support system.” 

Nuzzo has had the same experience. 

He said, “We’re all just a huge group of friends and I honestly feel like I’ve made 54 new friends like along the way and being part of training and everything. We really do get close.”

Each floor of a dorm has a specific theme that the RA, or co-RAs decide on. Depending on the building, Residence Life offers an incentive that the best floor theme gets extra money which can be used towards program planning. 

Donald, Nuzzo and Cavanagh each came up with completely different concepts.  

“So my floor theme this year is Guinness World Records, so I just picked random records. I usually try to think of something interesting, try to stay away from the Pinterest cliches. I have to admit, arts and crafts are my weakest point as an RA, so I try to pick something that’ll be manageable for me and not like really bad looking” Donald said.  

Nuzzo said, “I like to come up with anything that involves puns and anything that’s going to be aesthetically pleasing. For the first one this year, we went kind of simple and me and my co-RA just did space. We wanted to make it aesthetically pleasing for the first semester, and then later is where we get to have a little more fun.” 

“My co-RA and I kind of talked over the summer to figure out what ideas we had and Maria had come up with the Mamma Mia theme for the fourth floor and considering the new Mamma Mia movie that came out this past summer, we thought it’d fit perfectly. It’s a long process, it definitely takes a while, but it gets done” Cavanagh said. 

Although being an RA is a lot of work, there are some perks. Each have something they look forward to. 

Donald said, “Last year I knew most of my residents, coming into the year, so I’m really excited to get to know everybody in Jasper Hall and hopefully leave a mark on them before I get out of this place.”

Cavanagh said, “I particularly am excited that I have freshman. I think it’s an important time in their college careers, and I feel like it would be rewarding to see how different ways the residents will get involved and how you can kind of gear them in certain directions to help them make the most of their college experience.”

She continued. 

“I had an RA my freshman year who I think today I could totally say has changed my life, just because he knew me, and he really took the time to talk to me and talk to me about certain clubs and organizations that he thought I would be a good part of. So all the clubs and all the positions I have I can trace back to him and so I kind of have that as an aspiration. I want to follow in his footsteps and I want to be that person for the students.”