College of the Redwoods


Humboldt State University

College Matters | RAs are campus heroes

This article was originally posted in the College Matters column of the Times-Standard.

Thursday, February 4, 2021 - 2:00pm

The student experience on a college campus is critical to their success. One of the many expectations for students is to engage in opportunities they have outside the classroom. Whether it is athletics, student government, intramurals, community service, or a club or organization, the opportunities are there. These opportunities, when taken, nearly always result in a student having a more impactful college experience. These opportunities also lead to higher graduation rates, retention, and vibrancy on campus.

There have been many heroes in the Humboldt State University community over the last year. People have stayed strong and supported one another in countless ways, from the front line of the Student Health Center to the classes online and face-to-face.

One group of unsung heroes on university campuses are the student Resident Advisors. These positions, often referred to as RAs, are arguably the most influential and helpful persons within a student’s circle. The RA is a helper, an adviser, a mentor, a counselor, a friend, a planner, and much, much more. They set boundaries when needed, and inspire students to become involved and to learn. They also are the students who most likely know the most answers about questions a student may have.

RAs live on-site in the residence halls and work in a hard-to-define role, all while also taking classes to earn a college degree. They take HSU’s “learning by doing” experience and turn it into something more like “learning by doing, teaching, serving, advising, mentoring, and activity planning.”

Last year, our RAs had the experience, like so many others, of being thrust into a situation they never expected. All of a sudden, these student leaders found themselves offering vital support as a pandemic got underway. They were needed on-site to provide ongoing services for students who also live on campus.

This year, many continued working as RAs, joined by others who are new to the role because of the positive difference an RA can make to the overall student experience of others.

Donyet King is Director of Residence Life and has worked in housing for more than two decades. She sees the students grow and mature each year, and has seen them rise to the challenge during the pandemic. She shares: “There’s a lot of ambiguity and change in this situation, lots of folks are sad because they miss their friends and families. I try to focus on the amazing students, friends, and colleagues around me. We are leaning on each other a lot more and doing what we can to get through this together so that we can come back stronger than we were before.”

Below are comments from current RAs about their experiences (lightly edited for space).

“Being an RA has allowed me to grow professionally, socially, and personally. With all this growth, I have gained the confidence I need to continue succeeding in my life. Through my experience as an RA during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have come to learn that I am resilient and capable of things I didn’t think I could handle … I’ve always felt obligated to serve my community. I didn’t know how. I chose to be an RA because RAs help create a better experience during college by promoting the safety and well-being of all students.”

 — Sofia Moisa, senior in Psychology, RA in Campus Apartments

“I wanted to become a Resident Advisor because I have a passion for advocating for students. I want to pursue a career in student affairs higher education so this is a platform for me to grow as a future leader. My experience as a Resident Advisor has been very positive. The housing administrative staff has been so supportive.”

— Montel Floyd, senior in Critical Race, Gender & Sexuality Studies, RA in Sunset

“I was called to respond to a resident who was locked out of their room one evening. When I arrived, she was noticeably upset. As I was letting her back to her room, I asked her if everything was all right, and she began to cry and voice a myriad of problems she had been having and feeling. She and I sat down in front of her room and I just listened as intensely and heartfelt as I could. I gave her some sincere advice and sympathy — as well as info on CAPS — but mainly I just listened. While we were talking, another resident must have overheard us and came over to introduce herself. I could tell immediately that this person was friendly and a kind soul, so after assuring her that everything was going to be OK and making sure she felt safe and didn’t need anything else, I made my exit. The next day I ran into the two residents walking with each other … It was apparent that they had befriended each other and I know how valuable having a friend can be. The striking difference of emotion on that resident’s face, from the previous day, still makes me feel happy and proud when I think about it.”

— Christopher “Jonesy” Jones, senior in Geography

RA in Creekview

There are many heroes, and the Humboldt RAs do incredibly important work in support of others. They are special people doing amazing things. I hope that, for them and for all our students, this year of challenge has also been one that will prove both meaningful and positive in their lives.

Be well.

Dr. Tom Jackson, Jr. is the president of Humboldt State University and, long before dirt, served as an RA while in college.