Senior looks back on time as RA
With the semester coming to an end, many seniors will be completing their time as resident assistants in the dormitories of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Florham Campus.
One such RA is Katrina Elwertowski, a creative writing QUEST major who has been an RA at FDU since she was a sophomore. She is currently an RA in Building 5 in The Village.
“During my freshman year, my RAs told me that I would be good for the position. I often helped people in my building even as a freshman, so it just seemed natural to go for the position,” said Elwertowski.
Elwertowski was also drawn to the RA position because she knew it would be a great chance to get some leadership experience and would go hand in hand with her career goal of becoming a teacher. The compensation of room and board for the school year was also a good incentive for her to initially apply.
Throughout her time as an RA, she learned various skills and lessons that can be applied in the future.
“The position has been good for learning how to manage people with unique needs, build a community among strangers and practice self-discipline,” said Elwertowski.
As a sophomore RA, she worked in the Park Avenue Residence Halls, and as a junior, she worked in Building 4 in The Village. Her time as an RA in Park Avenue was especially a challenge since many of her residents were older than her. These students would often get upset over rules that she did not create but was merely enforcing. She even recalled a time when an angry freshman student threw a drink at her door when she kicked him out of a party.
“When people break or ignore rules, they get mad at us for finding out, and then there are times when they disrespect you and won’t listen to you,” said Elwertowski.
But through the difficult times, Graduate Residence Director Jess Cruz, who is Elwertowski’s supervisor, has been impressed with her work as an RA.
“Working with Katrina is truly a gift. She is always on top of her work and is never afraid to ask questions,” said Cruz.
Elwertowski explained that one of the biggest changes to her position as an RA has been that there are more and more residents being added each year.
With FDU accepting larger freshman classes each year, buildings are at their maximum occupancy, which can make RA jobs more difficult with more residents to oversee. There have also been changes in the staff over the past few years. But these changes have led to better training sessions prior to the start of each school year and a closer department with more support from her supervisors and a more community feel among the RAs.
She also noted that one of the hardest parts about her job is staying organized and coming up with new ideas for events and RA programs each semester.
“We have a budget of $100 and need to have five programs per semester. We need to be creative and resourceful when planning our events,” said Elwertowksi.
Cruz thinks that Elwertowski has done a great job of coming up with new program ideas, saying, “It can be really easy, especially in the village, to fall into a pattern of doing the same programs over and over for upperclassmen. Katrina, however, is always coming up with amazing ideas to include her residents and truly get them involved.”
Cruz explained that Elwertowski recently had a program, “Write for Your Rights,” where students had the opportunity to write letters to politicians. These letters could be either positive or negative, and they allowed students to think about current events and think about their community.
Fellow RA Nick DeSalvo said that Elwertowski can be creative and kind while still maintaining her position of authority and leadership.
She “takes a fair and balanced approach in performing her duties as a Resident Assistant. She has a firm hand but still maintains an approachable reputation so her residents feel comfortable coming to her,” said DeSalvo.
After reflecting on her time as an RA, Elwertowski knows there are many lessons she can take away from her job. She noted how there were times when she was afraid of approaching a situation because it seemed beyond her capabilities. But she learned to not psych herself out too much and pushed herself to do her best and keep trying.
“Henry Ford once said, ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t: you’re right.’ There were times when I doubted myself and my abilities, but then I tried and ended up succeeding,” said Elwertowski.
Elwertowski is looking ahead to her future experiences, but she will always look upon her time as an RA fondly.