NWACUHO
Northwest Association of College & University Housing Officers

Conference Reflections from Scholarship Winner Jade DiTullio Jiang

I was able to attend the NWACUHO conference with the Graduate Student Scholarship award. I feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to be amongst brilliant minds and share knowledge with professionals in my future profession. There were many opportunities to connect with others over breakout sessions, shared meals, and socials. It was fascinating to learn about how other universities and colleges conduct their Residence Life, Operations, and Facilities teams, and how they interact with one another.

One of the breakout sessions that really resonated with me was CAREfully Designed Teams: Deconstructing Bias and Creating Inclusionary RA Selection Practices, facilitated by Rachel Betron, Dan Murray, Marco Polo Ramirez Becerra, and Jes Takla of Pacific Lutheran University.  As we entered the room for the breakout session, we were given a playing card. The session commenced with an energizer where we formed groups without talking and only used our playing cards as signifiers. Once within our small groups of 4 to 5 individuals, one person was asked to sort cards into two groups: hearts and diamonds, and spades and clubs.  We did a second round where we reshuffled our cards and sorted them again into two groups: hearts and clubs, and diamonds and spades.  We were timed during each sorting period to see how long it took for our group to match the categories. This was a great energizing activity to get us into a headspace of how RA interview processes can be when picking similar looking exterior characteristics. Only choosing certain qualities can be exclusionary and limit voices.

Aftering learning about some relevant theoretical concepts that helped shape the PLU’s RA selection process, we were presented with PLU’s RA selection process and their best practices.   Marketing for the RA position is displayed around campus, especially within diversity centers, and not only within Housing.   Informational sessions on the RA role are organized to put all students on an equal playing field with the same common understanding. It was mentioned by the facilitators that these sessions are inclusive to first-generation college students who may not know about the RA position prior to coming to college.  I thought this was a great idea to help share the job description with all students.The rubric for the interviews are provided in advance to the applicants to ensure transparency. I learned how the names and gender markers are removed from applications to avoid any implicit bias.  For Resident Advisors who hope to return a following year, they give a presentation that demonstrates the skills they’ve learned, reflections on the RA role and how it’s shaped them, and their areas of improvement. Additionally, in the returning RA interview process, the RA is given what PLU calls a 360 Evaluation with evaluations from residents, peers, and supervisors. I liked this concept as it allows for a holistic assessment of the RA’s engagement. The facilitators also mentioned about how wearing a suit, or other professional attire, may not always equate to being a successful RA.

It is through inclusive practices that help cultivate successful and diverse RA teams and provide all students with leadership opportunities.  Now post-conference, I am reflecting on my takeaways and researching how universities and colleges actualize care into their mission statements and residential curriculum.  My Master’s thesis will be around care, empathy, and dignity within the residence halls. I will be moving forward as a new professional in this field, continuously striving to carry out inclusive practices. I’m very thankful for this opportunity and hope to attend more NWACUHO conferences in the future.

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Jade DiTullio Jiang is a first year Masters Student at the University of Victoria in the Leadership Studies: Adult Education and Community Engagement program.  Please feel welcome to continue this conversation. Email: Jadejiang95@gmail.com or LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/JadeDiTullioJiang

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