The RA Experience
It takes a lot to be a resident assistant (RA)—dedication, empathy, creativity, leadership and conflict resolution skills and, of course, the ability to have fun. (Remember your hall activities and those seasonal door tags?) Here, we meet a current RA, who never underestimates the importance of a “hi” and a smile, and we share two alumni stories of lasting relationships— all stemming from their RA experience.
Now in her second year on the job—last year in the Courts and currently in Notre Dame du Lac and New Hall—Victoria Pierre ’19 understands that staying connected with her residents is key and a little homemade cooking goes a long way.
Why did you decide to be an RA?
A commuter my first year, I knew that Stonehill was about cultivating community and that I could do this by becoming an RA.
What makes a good RA?
Keeping in touch with your residents often, whether it is by e-mail or face-to-face. A “hi” and smile while making your rounds could make someone’s day.
Best experience as an RA?
Making vision boards with my residents last year. It was fulfilling to see what my residents’ goals were, and it motivated me to keep working hard.
Most challenging part of the job?
Last year, I felt intimidated at first being an RA to residents who were older than I was, but once I established respect, age was not a factor.
Favorite activities that you have planned?
I enjoy programs that involve me cooking for my residents. It feels good to make something that they enjoy.
Crossing the Finish Line
Not all relationships go the distance. But, in the case of Kristen (Wollenberg) Frost ’93 and her freshman year RA, Fatima Velez ’90, not only has their friendship endured, but in July they crossed a finish line hand in hand at the Naragansett Summer Festival Half Marathon—which took place on Stonehill’s campus, where they met 28 years ago.
Frost and Velez first met on move-in day in Boland Hall. Velez had come to Stonehill in the second semester of her junior year from her native Spain. “The other seniors had been together for three years, so I found I was more comfortable with the freshmen,” recalls Velez.
She immediately bonded with not only Frost, but also freshmen Nancy (Lee) Nelson, Susan (Fitch) Whitaker, Jennifer (Rooney) Keaney, Christine (Orlando) Potter and Heidi (Yacknick) Fallon. The cohort has remained close friends, meeting at Nelson’s house for an annual barbeque—which Velez, who lives in Spain, has attended during summer visits to New England.
Frost recalls Velez as a vibrant, effusive RA who was always decorating their wing and planning day trips. “We just had good, fun, silly times,” recalls Frost. “When you first go away to school, you may not feel confident about things, or you’re worried. Fatima was a comfort.”
Velez, in turn, recalls finding a sense of family with her freshman group. “Long-distance calls were expensive, so I would talk to my parents only every couple of months,” she explains. “This was before texting and social media, so the girls and I were knocking on each other’s doors all the time.”
Though they were not runners in college, both Frost and Velez have since become road warriors. In recent years, they talked about running a race together, but distance stood in the way. Then, in June, Frost came across a race that was based at Stonehill.
“When Kristen sent me the link to the race, it seemed like a sign,” says Velez. “At the end of the race, the other girls from our freshman group were waiting for us at the finish line. It was like a dream.”
Staying Connected: [Above] Kristen (Wollenberg) Frost ’93 and her freshman RA Fatima Velez ’90 run together at Stonehill.
Double the Love
On a hot day in August 2009, Abby (Arcadipane) Marchand ’12 pulled her car up alongside of O’Hara Hall to begin moving in as one of the building’s RAs. Then, she spotted Derek Marchand ’12, a fellow RA whom she had recently met. “I went to hug him, and he backed away and said, ‘I’m really sweaty,’” she recalls, but that didn’t stop the outgoing sophomore from embracing her new colleague.
Today, the married couple laughs as they recount the story but are also quick to recall how being RAs led to a relationship built on trust and shared values. “We started out focused on our RA role and schoolwork,” explains Derek. “As the year went along, we became more friendly and then pursued a romantic relationship.”
Along the way, they became friends with two other RAs, Katie (Butta) Wood ’12 and Jacob Wood ’11. “Jake, Abby and Derek were in the same hall and would often go to dinner together,” recalls Katie, “so I weaseled my way into the friendship, and then Jake and I started to date.”
Jake gallantly disputes the “weaseled” claim, explaining that there was a closeness to the RA group given their responsibilities and shared commitment to ensuring a positive student experience. That closeness did not end on graduation day. They were in each other’s wedding parties and often vacation together. “We became RAs because we wanted to be part of the community in a meaningful way,” says Abby. “We grew together in our relationships. Katie and Jake are our best friends.”
Above: Derek ’12 and Abby (Arcadipane) ’12 Marchand along with good friends and fellow former RAs Katie (Butta) ’12 and Jacob ’11 Wood enjoy a game at Fenway.
In her remarks at Academic Convocation in August, Associate Professor of English Helga Duncan examined the rising tide of anti-intellectualism, which she says has lowered the intellectual stakes to unsafe levels in our world. Noting that a college’s main objective is to counteract this sliding off into “ignorant oblivion,” she offered this advice to the community on how to counteract the negative trend.
Get an education, not job training. Learn to think critically and creatively; learn how to write clearly and persuasively. Accept the fact that this process demands hard work and focus.
Reject the anti-intellectualism that has become such an outsized part of our culture by refusing to accept negative images of learning and by resisting our current culture of distraction—and derision.
Push back on the idea that your education is somehow simply a consumer good. Students are not clients paying for services rendered. Education is not primarily instrumental, a means to an end. It’s about making the world a better, more just and hospitable place, but that’s possible only if we learn a great deal more about this complex planet on which we live. We can do that when we engage with history, science, literature, economics, art, business and technology.
Be curious. Be open to that which is different. Tune in to thought-provoking questions and most important—ask some of your own.
Duncan teaches sixteenth and seventeenth century English literature, drama and culture at Stonehill. These comments are excerpted from her Convocation address. To read it in full, visit stonehill.edu/duncan.