Zoe McGhee • Copy Editor
“Come to the event tonight, it’ll be fun!” resident assistants, or RAs, always exclaim. Huge, colorful, hand-painted posters and smaller printed flyers don the walls and fences of nearly every housing facility, shouting at you to attend whatever occasion it advertises.
These proclamations of fun and enjoyment are the work of RAs at every housing facility on the UT Tyler campus.
There are five on-campus housing facilities for students, including Patriot Village, Victory Village, Liberty Landing, Ornelas Hall and University Pines, which is the only facility not owned by the university.
Each facility has different requirements as to who can live there, mostly based upon class standing, thus affecting what events are held at each.
“Facilities with a large population of upperclassmen (Liberty Landing and Victory Village) will alter their programs slightly to reflect their populations,” Nicholas Ruth, Victory Village residence coordinator, said. “Whereas predominantly freshman communities, such as Patriot Village, University Pines, and Ornelas Hall, will have programs geared to reflect their populations.”
RAs at each facility decide their events based on the type of program they want, such as social, academic or personal growth, get them approved by their facility’s residence coordinator and take the planning from there.
“[After that] we collectively as a smaller group plan what time and when it’s best to host the program and then decide who we want to include, whether we want to involve separate organizations from UT Tyler to help give off more information for the residents,” Liberty Landing RA and senior Anna Spell explained. “Then, we schedule it with the different organizations, make sure we shop for the needed foods, snacks, prizes and things like that, and finally get ready for the program.”
In order to market for these events, RAs are taught to utilize the 4 Wave Method to advertise all of their programs.
One week before the event, the RA will create a flyer and large advertisement. Next, the RAs will make announcements on the social media page, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Then, RAs will issue personal invitations for the event to the residents one day before/of the event. Finally, immediately before (15 to 20 minutes) the event, the RA will knock on every door in the hall to invite residents to the event.
“I am a very outgoing and genuine person who loves to help organize and create plans and take care of people,” Spell excitedly explained. “[I] definitely saw this job as an opportunity to meet new people and gain confidence in more than just one area of work.”
Each facility will generally hold one event per week, equaling to about four events per month per facility.
“Housing programs have [always] been a part of the UT Tyler on-campus housing experience; however, the department adopted a new programing model in the fall 2015,” Ruth said. “Housing programs start the second week of school, in order to allow residents to attend Welcome Week events at the university.”
Each RA is given a main budget per semester for all of their events, leaving them to decide how much is allocated between each one.
“The RAs have the freedom to decide how much they are going to spend on their program,” Ruth said. “However, the RAs must manage their budget for the entire semester.
The overall effectiveness of an event is primarily determined by the residence coordinators, typically basing it on attendance and other factors that influence effectiveness, such as student engagement, resident interactions and knowledge gained.
“If at least one resident shows up to a program and has a great time, then the program was a success and therefore was effective in helping the student grow and develop either socially, personally or academically,” Ruth said. “Traditionally, arts and craft programs, such as painting and DIY, have a higher turnout, as well as programs such as spa nights, tailgates, planning, cookouts and pool parties.”
The various events held at each facility are not going anywhere anytime soon, and there are several plans for the future.
“We are actually hoping to implement in the future [things such as] movies on the Patriot Plaza, life-sized board games, programs to help students be more prepared to enter the workforce, recycling programs and programs to help students connect with the East Texas community, such as volunteering to give back,” Ruth said.
The goal of events at the different housing facilities is mainly to get students involved.
“College is an opportunity for students to grow and learn,” Ruth said. “The Residence Life Department exists as an integral part of the educational experience and academic support services of The University of Texas at Tyler. Housing programs affect the student body because it helps create a community of people going through similar things, which can help students create lasting friendships and networking opportunities.”