The annual Illinois State Resident Assistant Association (ISRAA) Conference kicked off on Feb. 22 with The Pineapple Incident, ISU’s on-campus scavenger hunt.
Resident assistants (RAs) from all over the state traveled to ISU in order to be a part of activities relating to leadership, sharing opportunities and working together to achieve new goals.
ISU’s seminar this past weekend covered several different topics including educational, social justice and community development program sessions.
“[ISRAA] involves RAs teaching RAs and getting that shared experience,” Christopher Anderson, third year RA and senior business teacher education major, said.
Anderson is currently an RA in Hewett Hall. His job includes developing communication, protecting and maintaining safety and being a resource for students as well as being an advisor for them to turn to.
The theme for this year’s conference was Challenge Accepted: Suit Up, related to “How I Met Your Mother.” True to theme, the scavenger hunt’s title also stems from one of the hit television show’s episodes.
“[This weekend] gives RAs a chance to go to each other and say, ‘This is happening in my RA world, do you have advice?’” Danielle Merrill, coordinator of residence halls, said.
Merrill makes sure good decisions are being made in order to keep all organizations within Housing running smoothly and training and developing RAs. This year also marks her third in working with Housing.
Both Anderson and Merrill have been keeping busy with the planning details. One school had dropped out of holding the conference, so ISU stepped in and picked up the pieces quickly.
“We’ve been working since about Thanksgiving and kicked into hyper-drive once second semester began,” Anderson explained.
Some of the details involved in planning the conference included designing and making T-shirts, working with dining on campus and getting the word out to several different schools. All the programs taking place throughout campus, including the ice breakers, socials and banquets, required the work of an executive board and its members to make them run throughout the weekend successfully.
Nine institutions were registered for this year’s conference, including schools like Loyola University, Saint Xavier University, the University of Chicago, Knox College and Roosevelt University.
One hundred total people, including ISU’s delegation, were scheduled to be in attendance.
This year, ISU had selected Kingdom’s Closet to work with as their conference philanthropy, which is an organization in McLean Co. that helps people in need by providing them with free clothes. An undergarment drive was also held in the midst of ISRAA’s weekend activities, as those items are especially in high demand.
Since 1984, ISRAA has hosted this conference every year and ISU is one of the founding schools of this organization. ISU currently maintains the executive board, which works to provide a means of communication for all RAs throughout the state.
“[ISRAA 2014] gives us the cool opportunity to highlight the great things about ISU and to show off ISU pride,” Merrill said.
What she enjoys about her job includes the “experience in working with students and staff — it’s not always easy but always rewarding,” Merrill said.
The conference is a great experience that brings all these schools to network and to build skill sets with communicating, Anderson said.
“All universities have struggles and [ISRAA] helps us learn how to deal with those in different ways,” he added.
Anderson also noted the rewards of being an RA, including “being the person that guides the freshmen and seeing them grow,” he said. “The people you work with and meet, the friends you make — it’s very gratifying.”