Mikala Burnam

Resident Assistant (RA)



Hometown- Trotwood, OH


I have called the Dayton area home all of my life, so when I began looking at colleges, Wright State University was not even on my list of schools I wanted to attend. I wanted to look outside of this area, applying to schools such as Miami University, University of Dayton, and some others. After some searching and weighing my options as to what was going to work for me, I realized that Wright State University was a choice that I should consider. After some contemplating, I did decide to make my collegiate home at Wright State and that it was the best option for me.

My first year at Wright State I was a commuter student, and I had no idea what the Resident Assistant position was. I was introduced to residence life through some friends who lived on campus in the Woods community. I visited them and tagged along to some programs that their RA was holding. At these programs I met an RA named Heath Marker, and we connected over our mutual major of Psychology. He was the first to talk with me about the opportunities that come with becoming an RA. From this conversation, I decided to go to an RA information session and I met Brian, a community director in the Village/University Park community. I realized I had nothing to lose by applying for the job, so I went for it! I knew that there were only benefits to this experience, and I hoped it would help me in discovering my future career path.

One thing I have learned from this experience is that as a past commuter student, there are more options available than you think. I missed out on vital programs and meeting new people my Freshman year due to having to drive in to campus every day. I went to class and then came home; there was no time for extra activities. When I moved to campus, I learned there can be more than just going to class and going home. I also learned that you do not have to have previously lived on campus to thrive in the RA position. There are so many opportunities to learn more about yourself and others though this different experience. I learned that I am more creative than I thought, and I LOVE decorating my hall and expressing myself though those decorations. Also I have been able to get involved with student organizations, because now I have the time to do exploring and see what a good fit is for me.

Just by chance did I fall into this position, having friends who lived on campus changed how I got involved. If you are a commuter student wanting to get more out of your experience, get to know some people who live on campus, reaching out to these students may help you find the home and experience you have been looking for. Whether you talk to those people in your classes or see them walking around campus, talk to them. The word spreads quickly!

The most challenging part about the RA job for me is not having to discipline and use my authority, but rather seeing those residents the next and day and being scared that they feel some ill will

towards me. I believe in tough love, but I am still going to treat them like any other resident when the day is done. Knowing the difference between being able to be a friend, as well as knowing boundaries can be difficult.

The most rewarding experience about the RA position is a specific instance when a resident came to me worried about a homework assignment. They needed to interview someone who works for WSU, and he asked if he could interview me. During the interview he began to ask more questions about me, wanting to get to know me better in the process. I shared different viewpoints that he has not thought of, and we both learned that there are others who may have different viewpoints than ourselves, and how to be empathetic to that.

If I could offer advice to anyone who is thinking about applying to be an RA, I would say go for it! It never hurts to try. Also be aware of your limits, knowing how to prepare is crucial. I know personally my family helped me tremendously in my decision-making, and they also helped me develop a plan B if things did not play out. I am glad that I got to go with plan A!