After reading Caroline’s rendition on “What is a Housefellow?“, I figured I would do a post on What is an RLPA? For more context, Caroline and I met through University Housing and it was and always will be an impactful time in our lives. You can read a bit more about our journeys on our About page. While Caroline was a Housefellow/Resident Assistant, I was a Residence Life Program Assistant (RLPA).
My short and simple way of describing this role is all the fun aspects and a bit more of the Housefellow job (Ha!). The core of our role was to plan many events, supervise, and facilitate the Residence Hall Student Board. And the best part for me was that I got to leave and go home at the end of the day! RLPAs did not live in the halls and were paid hourly, different from Housefellows who got a stipend. Our residence hall of about 250 residents had two RLPAs. Doing the bare minimum for this role probably took 8-10 hours out of your week. My co-RLPA and I averaged 15 hours each per week. Apart from our role requirements, we spent time holding office hours and fostering and mentoring students into roles of leadership.
The RLPA job was unique in the sense that while Housefellows predominantly planned events in their halls and were responsible for residents on their floor and hall, RLPAs worked collaboratively with other hall’s RLPAs. We worked cross-functionally to plan and manage overall Housing events and Cultural Enrichment Center events as well! Along with these, we planned in-hall events and were also key in planning off-campus events such as movie trips, apple orchard trips, haunted house trips, theme park trips, etc.
Apart from our event obligations, a large part of our role was to supervise and facilitate the life cycle of the Residence Hall Student Board. From advertising, encouraging applications, interviewing, and mentoring — we were responsible for providing an environment where each individual could develop professionally and personally in their respective roles. They were each responsible to plan one event a month based on their role specifications and represent the voice and thoughts, and event interests of their fellow peers — individuals who lived in the residence hall. During our biweekly board meetings, we facilitated discussions on what’s going on in the hall, if there were any requests from residents, what’s going well and what’s not, and how we can work to support everyone. We also helped them plan their events and make sure they were on track to successful event execution. Once we were able to impart enough wisdom, we were able to trust that they were capable of hosting their own events without our supervision.
RLPAs also took care of administrative tasks and participated in the usual weekly in-hall and overall RLPA meetings. I loved my residence hall – it was where I lived in my freshman year and where I worked as a Peer Mentor in my sophomore year. I loved the people I worked with – we were (and still are!) great friends. Also as time went by, the office space became our sanctuary. We worked, studied, and had some memorable shenanigans there. I’m telling you this to paint a picture of how much time I spent there outside of doing actual work. After wrapping up work, there were many nights when Caroline and I would just grab some snacks, pump up some music (while respecting Quiet Hours rules), and study all night (at least until the time the last bus that would take me home came by ~ 1:30ish am).
While RLPAs were not responsible nor trained for disciplining if you spent as much time as I did in the residence hall, you were bound to see some stuff and as an authority figure — and you HAD to do something. If not for taking direct action, you needed to know enough to handle the situation and reach the Housefellow on-call so they can perform their trained duties.
Well, there it is – a brief overview of the RLPA role. It is probably cheesy for me to say: but I loved the role and despite the ups and downs, I would not have had it any other way. It was an amazing learning experience and working so closely with so many diverse groups of people forces you to expand and learn, unlearn, and relearn in so many different ways. This role supported and balanced my other Undergraduate activities such that I was getting the best all-rounded experience for myself. How many jobs allow you to mentor so many younger students into roles of leadership? I am still connected to the residents I worked with and it is so satisfying to see them succeed and be the best versions of themselves.