On Wednesday, the Albion community came together on Zoom to talk with two senior residential assistants (SRAs) to convey the importance of keeping Albion College students in the residential halls.
The two SRAs, Rachel Goldner, a junior from West Bloomfield, Mich., and Antonio Nelson, a senior from Albion, Mich., spoke with Albion College President Dr. Mathew Johnson on the back porch of Wesley and connected with the rest of the Albion community, including students, faculty and alumni, over Zoom.
Both Goldner and Nelson supported the idea of keeping Albion a residential college due to the fact that students learn so much when they are surrounded by each other, particularly through collaboration and a shared sense of cohesion with one another.
“One of the things I feel like residents can learn while they’re in these residential buildings that they can’t get while at home is understanding that you are more dependent on people than you believe,” said Nelson. “Often, we consider ourselves mature and we don’t need other people to get us to where we need to get in life, but I felt like my residents need to learn that you need a lot of people to get you where you want to get in life.”
Even with the strange guidelines in place due to COVID-19, Goldner said she believes that it is still important to have first-years in the residential halls.
“A lot of it is learning how to be independent and you can learn how to be independent when you’re still at home,” said Goldner. “While learning to be independent, there’s still support where needed from professors and faculty and us, as RAs, are offering that support system.”
Even with the challenges of being socially distant and wearing masks, RAs are trying to work to make those connections with their residents outside or over Zoom calls.
“I feel like some of the challenges as a leader have been being able to support your residents while following the mask protocol,” said Goldner. “Part of being a leader is making sure everyone feels comfortable. If your resident is coming to you with concern, but they need to build that trust with you, if you have your mask on and you’re kind of distant from them, they can’t look at those nonverbal cues that are really important to show that you are caring and that are listening, affirming what they are saying.”
To combat this challenge, Goldner said that she tries to host most of her meetings outside. This way, during one-on-one meetings, she can pull her mask down while social distancing. She said that she tries to make it clear that she is available for her residents by sending them messages in their group chat. Goldner even had a resident tell her that it was nice to finally see her face during their meeting. Due to the COVID-19 protocol requiring students to wear masks when not socially distancing or inside, Goldner’s resident had never seen her face from the nose down.
Even with these guidelines, RAs still feel like they are making those important connections with their residents.
“I feel like my residents have just been asking more questions,” said Nelson. “Even though we have to follow protocol and we have to wear our masks and be six feet apart, I feel like my residents have come to me more in these first few weeks than my residents did the previous semesters.”