CAs ready to solve students’ problems

An August immersion session challenged trainees with 26 hours of dorm experience.

As the school year starts up again, many students are contacting their roommates, shopping for school supplies or saying “goodbye” to family and friends.

Meanwhile, the Community Advisor staff has been training and preparing for the upcoming year since mid-August.

“It’s going to be a good year,” said Jesse Kortuem, a first-year CA at Riverbend Commons.

Grant Anderson, coordinator of staffing, education and research for the Department of Housing and Residential Life, said, “Being a CA is the most rewarding and most stressful job on campus.”

According to the Housing and Residential Life Web site, a CA is a student staff member of Housing and Residential Life who lives in an on-campus residence hall or apartment building.

They support students in the residence halls and University apartments by creating a positive learning community in their “house,” which usually consists of 30 to 55 students. This year, there are 143 CAs, Anderson said. Out of that number, 91 are first-year CAs.

In late August, the CAs went through a 26-hour immersion experience, Anderson said. As part of the program, they acted as students and returning CAs and staff members acted as the CA.

“They’re essentially role-modeling running a community,” Anderson said.

“During immersion, the whole thing is a fun experience,” said Ben Collins, a Bailey Hall first-year CA.

According to the Housing and Residential Life Web site, CAs are trained to address specific hall concerns, which include assisting residents with personal, social and academic issues; handling emergency situations; and completing general administrative tasks.

One of the most important aspects of the job is for CAs to be a role model for their residents.

“The job is really a big leadership position,” said Sarah Sampolinski, Bailey Hall Director and co-chairwoman of a CA training committee. “The CA position is based around building relationships.”

“Being a source of help is fulfilling,” said Nicole Nelson, a Bailey Hall CA returning for a second year.

Anderson said a new component to this year’s selection process was a workshop early in spring semester. After an interview, the prospective CAs went through the workshop to gain skills in general student leadership training.

There are many requirements students must follow in order to be a CA.

An applicant must have more than 30 credits with a cumulative grade point average of 2.5, which must be maintained throughout the year, according to the CA application.

“We have zero desire to hurt anyone’s education,” Anderson said. “You need to be able to prove you can be a successful student over time to be a CA.”

As part of their training this year, the CAs went to Camp Pepin in Wisconsin, which hasn’t been done in five years, Anderson said.

The two biggest components of the Wisconsin retreat were team-building and gaining confidence, he said. During the retreat, the CAs set expectations, went through diversity and social justice training and high ropes training, Anderson said.

Although the CAs were given the tools to deal with all types of situations at camp, there is still an element of ambiguity to the position, Sampolinski said, so it is important to have time management and organization skills.

Nichole Boettcher, a first-year CA at Riverbend Commons, said it will be fun to meet new people.

“It’ll be different and fun to get out of the school environment and really get to know people on a personal level,” Nelson said.

Anderson said, “I really believe this will be the greatest experience of their lives. They will help create the greatest experience for their residents.”

– Freelance editor Anna Weggel welcomes feedback at [email protected]