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On the front line

Sophomore Scott McDonald, a resident advisor at Tucker Hall, advises a student during move-in weekend.

Academic counselor. Social coordinator. Therapist. Disciplinarian.

As students return to campus at NC State during Wolfpack Welcome Week 2011, resident advisors are among the first people they will meet. And those RAs wear as many hats as anyone on a college campus.

Sophomores Scott McDonald and Blake Valentine, first-time RAs at Tucker Hall, pulled on their RA caps Friday, Aug. 12. They spent much of that first day distributing keys and directing students to their dorm rooms.

Over the next year, they and the 205 other RAs on campus will counsel homesick students, build communities in their dormitories and on-campus apartments, mediate conflicts, and enforce University Housing policies, among myriad other tasks.

RAs are “the front line to residents,” said Susan Grant, director of University Housing. And while they perform a vital service for the university and its students, they also gain a great deal from their work, she added.

“While the RAs assist others, they are also growing and developing their own skills — in leadership, problem solving, planning and collaboration,” she said. “Employers look for students who have been RAs when they’re searching for new staff because they possess advanced people skills from the experiences that the job affords.”

Sophomore resident advisor Blake Valentine reviews room assignments at Tucker Hall.

Nearly 60 percent of the RAs at NC State are serving as resident advisors for the first time. While just getting their first tastes of life as resident advisors, McDonald and Valentine have both benefited from the help of committed RAs themselves. As a freshman, Valentine took an RA’s advice and sought math help from NC State’s Undergraduate Tutorial Center.

McDonald said he sought an RA’s advice on how to help a friend who was struggling with a personal issue. He sees helping freshmen adjust academically as an important function for an RA.

“It’s such a different environment than they’re used to in high school,” he said. “They come here and it’s really hard to adjust when you’ve had a 30-person class where the teacher knows your name and you’re going into an 80-person class where they might not know your name.”

Valentine said he sees bringing students together as one of his most important jobs.

“My RAs helped get me out there and introduced me to a lot of people, and I went to a lot of activities,” said Valentine, a biology major from Lansing, Mich. “I figured I could do the same for some other freshmen.”

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