According to the official job description, Resident Assistants serve as “mentors, resources, and community builders” for undergraduate dormitory residents.
But the heart of that work, says Terence Hagans D’07, is a form of pastoral ministry, an effort to work toward reconciliation and life in community with others.
In fact, Hagans, who plans to enter pastoral ministry in the Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church after graduation, ranks serving as an RA among his most formative experiences during seminary.
“In some ways, the position has played as important a role in my development as being a divinity student,“ says Hagans.
A 2004 graduate of Stanford University, Hagans has served as an RA at Wayne Manor since entering divinity school. While the RA jobs are mostly held by undergraduate sophomores, juniors and seniors, they are also open to graduate students such as Hagans. Graduate Resident jobs are open only to graduate students.
According to Gregory Duncan D’75, associate dean for student services, about 25 to 30 divinity students serve each year as RAs or GRs in the undergraduate dorms. In addition to providing housing, the job includes a stipend that helps students make ends meet during divinity school.
“Divinity students represent our highest pool of candidates,” says Terry Lynch, assistant dean for staff development with the office of residence life and housing services. The school does an excellent job of promoting the program to its students, Lynch says. And he notes that divinity students tend to be particularly gifted at building relationships: they see the job as valuable preparation for ministry.
Hagans couldn’t agree more. “It’s about helping students with the ups and downs of life, whether it’s the pressures of school work, a breakup with a girlfriend, a death in the family, or other issues,” he says.
An opportunity for intensive pastoral ministry arose when the friend of a Wayne Manor resident cut herself in an apparent suicide attempt. The resident and his dorm mates were badly shaken by the incident, and Hagans spent much of the day talking with them about what had happened.
Usually, however, his day-to-day efforts are spent in what Hagans calls “embedded ministry,” simply living day-in and day-out with others. For Hagans, “Being an RA is to be in a servant relationship.”