FIU resident assistants discuss residential life during Winter Break

Jelisa Austin and Alyssa Dukeshire are resident assistants at Panther Hall, the first-year dorm at FIU.

Gabriella Pinos/Assistant Entertainment Director

After most of the residents move out of their dorms for Winter Break, the staff and resident assistants at Panther Hall are taking a break from a stressful Fall semester.

“Everyone goes home, so you’re really just chilling,” said Alyssa Dukeshire, a junior, nutrition major and RA at Panther Hall.

Throughout the school year, RA’s like Dukeshire and Jelisa Austin, a sophomore studying broadcast media, oversee the hallways, programs and events for the residents in their building. For them, these responsibilities also include educating freshmen residents about the resources FIU offers.

“Anything that they need on campus, whether its questions about the gym or questions about their meal plans or stuff like that, we’re a resource so we can guide them,” said Dukeshire.

During Winter Break, the offices in Panther Hall are closed, and the RA’s work the front desk, make rounds in the building and are on standby for the few students living in their hallway. RA’s can either complete these duty days during Winter Break or during Spring Break the following semester.

The break also gives the RA’s an opportunity to plan out programs and set up decorations for the next semester.

“What I like to do since I’m here is come up with ideas and flyers and just everything,” said Dukeshire. “Then I’m not stressing about it later.”

Normally, most of the 79 RA’s in the Residential Life staff stay throughout the break or at least a week after finals season, according to Christina Montville, associate director of residential life at FIU. FIU Housing and Counseling and Psychological Services also speak to RA’s prior to the Spring semester for Title IX training and to brush up on campus resources and updates.

“A little bit during training that first week, we talk about the programs we’re going to do for the first month,” said Dukeshire.

For staff like Austin, the best part of the job is not only learning leadership skills but bonding with the residents themselves.

“It makes you feel good that people appreciate you and appreciate what you do and can take what you teach them,” said Austin.

Panther Hall currently has 30 to 35 residents, all of whom are freshmen. These residents are overseen by 12 staff, including 10 RA’s, Residential Life Coordinator Fadiel Hernandez and Assistant Residential Life Coordinator Cassidy Cook.

At the start of the Spring 2019 semester, Austin and Dukeshire expect the 30 residents in their building to return, with only a few newcomers. 

“Per floor, everybody only really has to meet two or three more people,” said Austin.

While the first week of the Fall semester is the most hectic for the RA’s in Panther Hall, Austin expects Spring 2019 to start off smoothly.

In the meantime, Panther Hall will remain empty for a few more weeks with the exception of a few residents in Austin and Dukeshire’s hallways. For them, that means taking some time to relax with their fellow RA’s.

“I think my favorite part about being here during the break is bonding with my coworkers,” said Austin. “It’s kind of fun to hang out with your staff after a super stressful semester.”

Photos courtesy of Jelisa Austin and Alyssa Dukeshire.

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