CSU Residence Life and Housing offers opportunities


WILBERFORCE — Graduating senior Julian Fuqua, majoring in manufacturing engineering, saw himself as somewhat shy and introverted when he first came to Central State University from nearby Trotwood.

When he was tabbed by a representative of the school’s Department of Residence Life and Housing to apply for the residential advisor (RA) program, Fuqua discovered a new path toward opening a more social, engaged, and interactive side of himself.

“It’s been a lot of important personal development, working as an RA,” Fuqua said. “I feel blessed that I’ve been given this opportunity to help people in the way I’ve always wanted to but wasn’t exactly sure how until now.”

RA duties mainly pertain to sitting at the front desk of residential buildings, ensuring students entering and leaving can see someone is there who can assist them as needed. This includes guidance about classes, schedules, room organization, and — often — personal and mental health concerns.

A typical work week lasts for 20 hours, with time served for being “on-call” when they are not scheduled for their two-hour desk duty sessions. Session blocks run throughout the day from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, except for Fridays when duties last until 2 a.m. Saturday evening hours are also extended to 2 a.m.

The 2023-24 academic year marks Fuqua’s second tenure as an RA. He admits his first year in the program was somewhat challenging, being that he was an RA for students in his same grade level, which could lead to awkward, confusing, and even frustrating relationship dynamics.

“I’m waking up and going to class with these people, and then at the end of the evening, I’m having to tell them to be quiet, which was weird,” Fuqua said. “They were like, ‘Dude, you were just trying to work with me on homework. I’m not gonna listen to you.’ ”

By reminding his same-age residents that he was less trying to be bossy and more trying to help them live the most comfortable and best life on campus they could, Fuqua overcame such obstacles and grew to love his role.

Fuqua’s success led him to once again becoming an RA this year, this time at Foundation Hall II — colloquially known on campus as “the Twos” — and overseeing freshmen residents exclusively.

Jordan Connally, a junior majoring in political science with a minor in African American studies, is in her first year being an RA but she is already “thoroughly” enjoying it. Originally from Detroit, Connally’s hope is, upon graduation, to attend law school and eventually go into politics.

“I know it’s only been a few weeks since I started,” Connally, an RA in Foundation Hall II, said. “But I can tell I’m going to enjoy it for the rest of the year.”

Connally lived in Foundation Hall II when she was a freshman and being an RA there now gives her a particularly robust sense of being something of a mentor to the younger students that she oversees.

“I remember my own RAs there being so cool,” Connally said. “In a lot of ways, they were my first friends at Central State. I had a really hard time transitioning from home life in Detroit to campus life, and they were a big help for that. If I can do that for someone else now, that’s definitely meaningful for me.”

Although Connally sees herself as friends with her residents, she noted too that there’s “definitely a respect there; there’s a ‘big sister-little sister’ relationship.”

“And it warms my heart that, so early in the year, they are already coming to me to talk with me about all different kinds of things, even very personal things, as a person that they can trust, someone they can look up to, especially during hard times,” Connally said. “I’ve always been genuinely interested in other people and how they’re doing. That’s very important when it comes to why I ended up an RA.”

As far as balancing the job with her personal time, Connally said that she typically finds ways, when possible, to overlap her RA duties with, say, her schoolwork. This includes getting homework done during her desk duty hours.

According to Justyn Fry, a Detroit-born CSU grad with degrees in English and business who serves as Central State’s director of residence life and housing, there are never two days that are alike.

“You never know what to expect; but we’re always able to stay on our toes and respond to whatever the situation calls,” he said. “It’s about figuring out what ways we can be proactive, so we’re not always just responding.”

Now in his third year as director, Fry manages all the university’s campus housing, from traditional residence halls and suite-style residential facilities to apartment housing for nontraditional students and faculty.

Fry and his department typically open applications for students interested in becoming RAs during the second week of November until Feb. 14. RAs are announced each year in April. Those students selected are put through a rigorous training process that includes all manner of exercises and education into such vital subjects as confrontation coping mechanisms, leadership skills, management and organizational skills, mental and physical health awareness, and school policies.

The department supports students in overseeing their students and working out their desk duties and in producing and hosting regular campus events, activities, or workshop programming for the betterment of student life.

“We go beyond what is required of us in residence life,” Fry said. “There is not a time when our professional staff or RAs aren’t there to check up on individual students, whether they’re having a bad day, not feeling well, dealing with some hardships back home, or just needing help with keeping their room clean. We’re all here to offer that level of support.”

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