Ask Emma: How do I build community as an RA?

Focus on each individual resident, make care packages, write notes



Living in a residence hall this year is far from the normal college student experience. Emma gives advice to one RA about building community with their residents.

EMMA LEDBETTER, Evergreen news editor

Dear Emma,

I’m an RA on campus, and I’m really struggling to build a sense of community on my floor. I feel like a lot of residents see RAs as the police, and they have trouble trusting us. I really want everyone to feel welcome, but I’m not sure how to make that happen.

Do you have any suggestions for how to build a better community while still following COVID-19 regulations?


Sad RA

Dear Sad,

I’m sorry to hear that! I know RAs are some of the first people freshmen get to know on campus, so it’s really unfortunate that it’s so difficult to build a community this year.

I assume you don’t have very many residents on your floor, and even if you did, you would not be able to do any big programs because of COVID-19.

Maybe you’ve already tried this, but I suggest you deviate from the normal style of RA programs. Instead, focus your attention on developing personal relationships with each and every one of your residents.

Start a conversation with each resident and see if you can find out what they’ve been struggling with most this semester. Maybe that’s being away from home, attending online classes or not getting to see their friends. Whatever it is, make sure they feel heard.

Then, make each of them a personalized care package. It doesn’t necessarily have to address their problem, but it could have something to do with it. You don’t have to get them anything expensive, but a few goodies could really boost their mood and make them feel heard and valued.

You could also write each of them a letter or note and put it in their mailbox. That is a nice surprise that is sure to make them feel appreciated.

I’m sure you’ve already adjusted to online programming, but see if you can do that while incorporating an in-person component. 

Unfortunately, you are in a tough spot and can’t rely on a lot of the things you might be used to doing as an RA. You really have to think outside the box this year but know a lot of other RAs are probably in a similar position. See if you can share ideas with other RAs in your building or on your side of campus.

I hope some of these ideas help!

Good luck,


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