Living on campus at the University of Iowa presents students with an opportunity to learn and grow in a supportive environment. This past year, the COVID-19 pandemic brought many changes to the on-campus living experience. However, residence hall support teams have been a constant presence for students to help them stay connected during this unprecedented year.
A vital piece of the on-campus living experience is having a Resident Assistant (RA) located on the floor. An RA plays an important role in developing inclusive communities, connecting students to resources, and encouraging students to get involved on campus. In a typical semester, RAs host various events for their floor or entire residence hall. These events serve as an opportunity to allow residents to make new friends and connections. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, RAs have had to get creative in maintaining those vital connection with residents on their floor, while still providing support.
Connecting and Supporting Residents
For Austin Smith, an RA in Rienow Residence Hall, creativity is must. Smith, a junior, said that initially it was challenging to connect with residents in a socially distant environment. “I really had to be creative in thinking about how to best connect with my residents while being as safe as possible,” he said. Some of the many ways that he has been able to connect are through virtual floor socials on Zoom. These include things such as, playing the popular game ‘Among Us’ or doing an Iowa themed trivia night on Kahoot.
In addition to these interactions, Smith noted that all RAs have continued to conduct 'Hawk Talks.’ These are one-on-one conversations in which RAs work to get to know residents as a person and help them get connected during their time at Iowa. Additionally, Smith shared that RAs across campus conducted midsemester check-ins with their entire floor. This not only helps residents to interact but also serve as a way to measure what specific areas RAs need to provide more support or activities. For building wide events, which had something as simple as individually wrapped food and drinks, helped to connect residents and allowed staff to have those one-on-one interactions.
Smith knows that his role as an RA is vital no matter what the year ahead will hold. “While this has been a unique year, I am proud to say that we have continued to provide a quality on-campus living experience that helps residents to succeed during their time at Iowa.”