Once again, as the fall semester rolled around this school year, I was busier than the previous year. I have always been involved in student life, and each semester since I have attended Lee, my involvement seems to grow, as do I. My first semester, I was a senate member in the Student Leadership Council (SLC), and I played intramurals. The next year, I was a cabinet member of the SLC. I was stretched beyond belief compared to my previous leadership experiences, but I was very happy. This year, once again I am involved more than ever and being stretched more than ever as I am the Residence Director (RD) at Tharp Hall as well as a senate member on the SLC. My job is more than a student job. The job is a staff job with staff benefits. Being a RD is hard to define because the job is always changing, as am I. Being a RD includes everything from reporting maintenance requests, enforcing school rules, promoting spiritually enriching activities, to providing social activities, creating an academic but yet fun living environment, working through conflicts, coping with emergencies, doing reports for Marchese, Tilley, McClung, and others, doing my ?special duty, etc. The list grows every day. I got involved in Residential Life for several reasons. The first is that someone asked me to apply. The benefits were good so I tried it. The second reason is that I knew I wanted to be involved, but I did not know in what at the end of last year. I did not want to continue my position as Secretary for Community Service, but I did want to continue to be involved and challenged somehow. The third reason is because I was hired to encourage community service in the dorms. I really enjoy working with groups of girls, but until now I have never had the opportunity to do so formally. I feel the Lord has definitely placed me here for a reason.
Since I have been a part of Residential Life as well as other leadership positions, I have learned many important leadership lessons. Before I came to Lee, I had not thought much about my leadership style, my philosophy, or anything of the sort. This year, I have thought more about it than ever. Before I even started this position, I wrote out my leadership philosophy the best I could. My leadership philosophy majors on issues like integrity, trust, and honesty. I believe in being a servant first. People must serve those so called ?below? them. I believe in having a clear sense of vision and a mission. Without a vision, where would a leader be leading his/her followers to? I believe a leader must know where they are going. Since I actually started the job my leadership style and philosophy has been tweaked continually. I am always trying to be constantly aware of leadership lessons. I now try to major on things like celebrating victories and making people feel appreciated, setting clear expectations for both my RA’s and my residents, modeling the way, building relationships, etc. For instance, to set clear expectations for my RA’s, I developed a RA handbook personalized to Tharp Hall and my leadership style to let them know how exactly I lead and precisely what is expected of them. I have learned many great leadership lessons this year. Depending on whether great means the hardest or if great means the most important, one of the greatest leadership lessons I have learned is the value of building relationships. I started the semester off with a RA retreat with just the staff from Tharp Hall. We did not talk about any dorm stuff. Instead, we just bonded. As the weeks go by, each week or every two weeks I try to maintain that relationship with my RA’s by having an outing with just the four of us unrelated to dorm life. As a result, my RA’s are close to each other as well as with me. Our meetings are comfortable and fun. Even through hard times, we can easily serve each other better because we have a bond. On an even more important level, a RD’s most important job is to know the residents. Right from the start, I tried to learn resident’s names as best as I could. One of my main priorities is to stay up on my resident’s lives. I do this by spending time with them. We do everything from workout, eat in the dining hall, eat out, go on outings, hang out at unofficial parties at midnight, etc. Many times, I spend hours just talking in the hallways about my girls’ lives. I also do this through my RA’s since they have even closer relationships with the girls. Each week, in our RA meeting, each of my RA’s spend a portion of time talking about their residents. They talk about discipline problems, deaths, upcoming tests, engagements, hard times, good times, etc. I usually want to know anything they can tell me about anybody. If it is a big deal to the girls, it is a big deal to me.
Through this great time of leadership lessons, I have come to realize some things the hard way while other things came more natural. My strength, surprisingly, is organization. Before school started I organized my office, my apartment, and my life in general. I have methods to everything I can think of. I developed written vacuum policies, curfew violation policies, and other policies. I have a place for everything in my office. I have files for each of my residents, files for forms, files for memos, files for outings, and the list goes on. I have a method and place for sorting curfew violations, reporting maintenance requests, making bulletin boards, etc. On the other hand, I have had many struggles with being a leader. One of my greatest struggles has been how to deal with different people and their leadership styles. I am the type of person who needs a lot of feedback. I want to know if I am doing good or bad. I want clearly defined definitions of my job description so I will know exactly how to meet those expectations. Unfortunately, I work with a person who is not like me in this area. Even I cannot give you an exact job description for myself although I have tried. Tony likes me to figure things out for myself. Many times he wants me to tell him what I am going to do and how I am going to do it. Sometimes I get frustrated never knowing exactly what I am supposed to be doing, but in the long run I have grown. Tony has pushed me to think for myself. I am not just following a bunch of already set rules. Instead, I am encouraged to plan for myself. I have to be innovative and have the follow-through to carry things out. Other struggles occur when I have to deal with discipline problems. I have to learn my boundaries between being a RD, being a friend, and being a student. Those boundaries often get blurred. Often I hang out with someone one night, and the next night I have to confront him or her about some wrong action they have taken. Confrontation is hard for me too, but I am getting better!
Reflecting on my purpose for becoming a RD, my leadership philosophy, my challenges and my strengths lead me to some important conclusions. One is that I always have to keep the vision of my organization before me. Sometimes, I get bogged down by the stress of school and my job, and I forget to lift up my head long enough to see why I am doing what I do. I do it because I love the girls. I do the job because I love helping people in the community. I do the job to serve God, my RA’s and the residents. Also, seeing how my philosophy has changed and seeing that the challenges are what make me change helps me to persevere through the tough times. I know that dealing with different leadership styles can be challenging, but I also know that I am learning to be more innovative, to have more confidence in myself, and to take the initiative. I know learning boundaries between my roles is hard, but I know that these experiences will not be the only time I will have to learn to separate my roles. I am so thankful for all I am learning. Just knowing these things makes me a better leader.
20/f College student