On Stevenson’s Owings Mills campus, there are 64 Residence Assistants (or RAs) in the residence halls who help motivate students, keep them safe and ensure a level of comfort similar to that of home. These 64 students are the best of the best, according to Mairead Kiernan, residence director, and the application process to become one of them is thorough and extensive.
First, students complete an online application. The students who get an interview meet with a member of the Residence Life staff to discuss why they wish to be an RA. Those who advance in the process then undergo a second round of interviews, sometimes with Sarah Mansfield, assistant vice president of Residence Life. Students are then invited to a social where they can meet with current RAs.
“It’s a very competitive process,” Kiernan said. “For fall, we had about four vacancies and nearly 55 applied. This spring, there were about 100 applicants.” Kiernan, who has been at Stevenson for two years, said there are two application cycles a year: one in the spring and a smaller one in the fall. Though the application process is the same during each cycle, the spring cycle tends to be larger due to the number of vacancies from graduating seniors and transfers.
The office typically hires about 25 applicants in the spring cycle. For those who do not immediately make the cut, the department keeps a select few on their waitlist. “We use our waitlist a lot. We tend to keep strong applicants in the pool because sometimes there’s a need at a moment’s notice,” Kiernan explained. “The job is very unpredictable.”Once applicants are offered a position, they undergo a two-week training that covers virtually anything that an RA may face on the job, ranging from conflict resolution to crisis management.
“I decided to be an RA after my freshman year because my RA had a great impact on my housing experience. I wanted to be that person for others,” said Jessica Mahla, a human services major and RA for Belfast Hall. “My favorite part of being an RA is the relationships I’ve formed with my residents.”
Kiernan said, “The candidates who really wow us are the ones who understand the role.”