Towers Talk is a WVU podcast featuring Residence Hall Coordinators Angela Delfine-Mechler and Patrick O’Donnell. Each week, the hosts bring you an interview with different members of the WVU community to help you get adjusted to your new campus home!

Join Angela Delfine-Mechler and Patrick O'Donnell as they interview 4 former Ras from the past 4  graduating classes: Ian Janos, Madison White, Morgan Szafranski, and Lily Westbrook! These 4 amazing alumni will talk about their experiences as Ras and share some insight into what they are doing post-grad. Tune in here!

Transcription:

Hi, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Towers Talk. I'm Angela and I'm Patrick. Welcome back to another week. The Towers Talk podcast is brought to you by Lyon, Bennett and Braxton Towers. Towers, you can live anywhere, but when you're here, you're home. All right, folks, today we are joined by four, count them four of our amazing WVU alumni RAs.

Okay. So we brought back some former RAs that worked for both me and Angela who graduated each of the last four graduating classes at WVU. So you'll be able to hear why collection of. Recent graduates. Talk about their experiences, both in the RA job and in the real world, as we all always call it.

Having said that I'm very excited to welcome in Janice former RA in line Tower graduated in the class of December 20. Maddie white, a former RA in Lyon Tower from the class of April 20 or spring 20, I should say Morgan. a former RA in Braxton Tower from the class of December 19. And finally Lisa last but not least at all.

Lily Westbrook, a former RA from Braxton from the class of spring 19. So welcome all. We are going to start with Lily. And can each of you share what degree you received from WVU, how you ended up at WVU and how long you were an RA? So I will go ahead and get started. And that chronological order of who graduated when I feel so old, I, I can't believe it.

Oh. So I graduated WVU in spring of 2019, as Patrick mentioned with a degree in industrial engineering. And I ended up at WVU from upstate New York because I was really interested in some kind of engineering. Didn't quite know what, and then WVU felt like home on my visit and that's where I ended up.

I was an RA for three semesters at Braxton Tower. The best. Alrighty. I have a bachelor's in computer engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, and Chinese. I moved to West Virginia when I was about five and grew up there the rest of the time or the rest of the way. And I was just a pretty much a WVU was a clear choice and it was a solid, affordable education.

I knew I wanted to do something with engineering. Wasn't sure what, but after I got here or after I got to WVU, I figured out exactly what I wanted to do and I was an RA and the best Tower. For three and a half years. Hi, I graduated in May, 2020 with a BS in economics and a BA in political science. I've lived in West Virginia, my entire life.

But I was actually a transfer student to WVU because when I. Was 18 versus getting to go to college. I was really nervous about the whole process and leaving home. So I ended up originally going to a smaller college that was closer to home. But then as I came more into my own, then I decided that I wanted to attend a bigger university that would give me more opportunities.

And so then WPU was the perfect fit. And I worked as an RA in the actual best Tower Alliant Tower for two years. I graduated in December 20, 20 and mechanical and aerospace engineering and coming in, I didn't know what type of engineering I wanted to do, and the has like a freshman engineer program. So you've got that little taste of everything before you declared.

So I liked that. And I also liked how, where the location West Virginia of being able to ski, whitewater, hike. So all of that was fun. And I was an RA in the best Tower lion for nine semesters. Nine semester. We can all agree that it's just either Braxton or lion and that Dennis is not in the conversation here.

Correct? Angela, is that correct? Attending Bennett right now. Okay. So here, the Bennett was the best, so. Awesome. So even though Patrick and I work in student affairs, the best field clearly make a lot of money. Most are A's do not end up working in this field forever. So what are you currently doing?

Post-graduation yeah, so this is Lilly. So I actually interned with the company that I currently work for right now. I work for Amazon operations supporting Amazon prime now, and whole foods market on our grocery delivery service. Hey, it's Morgan. I am currently working as a software engineer for TeleTracking in the Pittsburgh area.

It's a healthcare company and yeah, we basically make sure that no patient, wait, this is Maddie. I'm actually currently in grad school here at WVU. I'm getting my master's in public administration and then I'm currently studying for the Elsa and I hope to plan, or I plan to attend. Edit that out. I plan to attend law school after I finished my masters, even here, COVID kind of ruined my profession with planes because so they're all grounded.

But since then, between looking for jobs, I've been doing contracting work, doing design or analytic. Awesome. So cool. So cool to see all the different things that you know, these former RAs have done and what they're doing and what they're going to do going forward. So now we've talked about what you all are doing and what your, you know, what you plan to do, but let's take a second to rewind the tape.

All right. Let's look back at your time as RAs. All right. So think about your experience as you know, a lot of semesters we have here nine semesters, three and a half years, three semesters. We heard a lot of time there. Right? What are some of your favorite memories? What are the things that you really remember enjoying about the job?

All right, so this is Lily. So my first thought is the Ocho Braxton, the eighth floor. Just an absolute legendary Florida live on to exist in, to be a part of and to originate just the, the specialness of, of the Ochoa at Braxton Tower. But to be honest, like, yeah, get a dab in there. Edit that out.

I didn't actually dab. Let the record show. I did not to have we can come back in Nick. No, I would say like the most special part about being an RA is truly like the sense of community living on campus and living in a dorm and living in a Tower you have a community at your fingertips and it's such a unique experience.

You really like. You won't, you won't see that experience anywhere else. Even like as a resident or as a, as a resident assistant, as an RA at any given time, there is somebody to work on homework with, or to study partner, whatever it might be. That sense of community is so special. And that was like the best thing in the entire world.

All right, Morgan here. I think the thing that stuck with me the most was unscripted adventures with staff and the fun we had doing the most random things. At any point in time, if someone wanted to do something, we would just text each other. And within five minutes, there's 10 of us doing something random.

And it was just really fun memories. Being able to serve as a resource for students that were in the same boat as I was a couple years back was really rewarding. Just the thing of giving back the same way, the RAs that I had get back to me and always having a ton of people around you is really enjoyable or really enjoyable.

And it's complete change from my current situation, just with COVID as well as, you know, you go from living in the complex of 2000 people down to a house of one or two. So. Maddie here. My favorite memories were the residents. I love building relationships with them and learning from them and their diverse experiences.

And I think that that was what was so great about living in Towers is that you have so many different people. And I really learned a lot from my own residents. And I'm really proud of the fact that I'm still in touch with a lot of them today. And it was just really great to see them kind of come into their own as they got to college and, and become their own people.

I also liked programming and getting the opportunity to help people just navigate their college experiences. And I just love the people in Towers more in general in the community and Towers, I think is unmatched, whether it was other RAs or people that worked at the front desk, the facilities team, people worked in the dining halls.

We were always surrounded by familiar faces, and that really meant a lot for my experience. In here, the community was awesome. One of the best parts some of my best friends Ferrari's with me, but also being around so many people, programming was a lot of fun. It's fishy. The programs were where we would go off campus with.

There would be hiking, volunteering, ice skating. It was lot of fun to hang out with new people. Awesome. Thank you all. So, as we all know, the RA position provides you with great experience, a new skills that you can apply to any role. And obviously y'all are doing things that are not res life and student affairs right now.

How did the RA position help you with your current career and what skills did you gain? So this is Lily. So the nature of my job is I'm managing an operation of grocery delivery that spans from 4:00 AM in the morning until 10:00 PM at night. So I'm interacting with a whole bunch of different people on a daily basis and ensuring that things are happening in a timely manner, efficient manner and safe manner.

So I've, I could probably say, I think I have 200 direct reports of people that could be working at any given time. And that really my success in that comes from the engagement piece of being an RA and Towers. So you have. I think 50, I can't really remember cause I'm so old, but 50 people living on a floor you know, everybody's name, you know, everybody's strengths, their hobbies what they might be working on.

And, and getting to know people and engaging is going to go a long way and making sure that you're having a positive environment, whether that's a living environment. Or work environment and making sure that everybody's got the same buy-in for the common goal. So yeah, a huge piece of my current job is engagement and that's all being an RA is, is engaging and making sure people that live on your floor are feeling safe, feeling welcome, and feeling hurt and supported and whatever might come up.

Hey, Morgan, here. The biggest thing I learned from being an RA was leadership skills for sure. Dealing with conflict. But the best thing I think is learning to communicate with people. You can be the most technically savvy person and have the best ideas in the world. But if you can't effectively communicate those to your peers and to higher ups, it doesn't matter.

Those ideas just go by the wayside. So I think that's the best thing that I got from RA because when I'm able to convey my ideas to my peers, it goes really well. And I enjoyed that a lot. This is Maddie. The RA job really helped me learn how to speak up and take initiative and be an advocate for other people.

I think I owe my ability to speak competently in graduate level seminars, to my ability of speaking kind of off script when I was an RA and speaking to larger audiences. But also I think that the RA position really illuminated to me that I want to work in public service because I got a lot of fulfillment from the job in helping other people.

In here, I think communication and also time management for two big skills that I was able to work on slash improve communication, because I've talked to a variety of people, higher up residents. Through different modes too. So whether it be email, talk to a bunch in front of a bunch of people at a floor meeting posters, bulletin boards, and then also time management, because, you know, on top of the classes, more classes, you have work at do programs.

And now the floor is flooding. Cause someone hit a sprinkler. So just. Rolling with the punches as things come up. This has been fantastic. Thank you all for sharing that. It's I I'm texting. And on the side of that, you go through this and I'm like, this is so good. This is like our best episode of the year.

This is just, it's really nice. Cause we always talk about it when we, we, you know, we do info sessions with potential first year students, second year students, and talk about like, There's transferable skills. We promise, like you'll be able to take this and apply to other things. And there's always like, yeah, yeah.

I just want the free room and board. That's fine. And it's just really great to be able to hear from a slew of alumni that give all kinds of different examples of how, like we're not giving lip service to students. So. Okay. So the next question we have is what do you all wish you knew as an RA that you know, now, whether that's about the RA job, whether that's about like your undergraduate experience or whether that's about life after college potentially.

So, so this is Lily and this was the question that sort of stumped me in my pre-work in preparing for this meeting. But like, ultimately it really comes down to you how special the community is in residence life and living in Towers and, and living on campus. Unfortunately like the WVU trend is sort of one and done, you do one year on campus and then you move off.

I wish that culture was a lot different because that experience is so incredibly special. And it's so unique to being in undergraduate or maybe graduate studies. And you, you really won't ever get that again. That's like, what I wish I knew is I wish I'd lived on campus longer. Just because the community is so special.

And like Morgan said, like at any given time could be two and a half years could be two in the morning. There was somebody that was, that was ready to hang out or ready to meet up and have fun. And that community is so special and it doesn't exist anywhere else. So. I know the question. Isn't what would you tell your undergraduate self?

But my undergraduate self should have heard from somebody that you should stay on campus as a sophomore it's Morgan here, and that's a great plug Lilly. Definitely stay on campus for housing. I don't want to interrupt, but there was no monetary exchange. It's a bit cliche, but to slow down and enjoy the moment.

The environment of the people that were around when I was an RA. Disappeared the moment I walked across the stage. So I would definitely tell myself to spend more time with my friends and coworkers. And maybe, you know, those days that you don't feel like doing a lot, get over it and go spend time with friends or go do something fun and Morgantown that you can't do once you graduate.

Hey, it's Matty. My answer is both for my job as an RA and then also just my life when I was in undergrad. I wish that I knew that I can't always be everything for everybody and that no matter what environment you're in, you're always going to be surrounded by people that do your job better than you are.

So you think. People that are smarter than you, people that might engage better with other people, but I wish that I paid more attention to respecting my own strengths and just playing by that instead of comparing myself to other people, because everybody has their own strengths and you're going to drive yourself crazy.

If you continue to compare yourself, You can here. I would say it's okay to say no, especially as that first year RA who's very over eager to be involved, to help with every program. I would definitely say, just say no, take care of yourself. Take care of your classes, your grades take those mental health days where you just need some time alone.

Like you don't have to do everything. Awesome. Awesome. Thank you all. So just cause I'm like curious, Patrick, what would, what would yours be like? What would your response to this be? About what I wish I knew when I was an RA or like when I was a first year. I don't know. I think let's change it the first year.

RHC I think that is way I think for when you were an RA or student leader, that's a long, long time for us. So it's funny. Cause Morgan was there for Morgan was on my first staff. He knows what it was like my first year. So what would I tell that person that I didn't already know? Because like now, I mean, it's hard to translate your first year as an artist is really hard.

Not that our listeners are planning to do that with their careers, but it's really hard to come into a staff that like you didn't select and you don't know, like, why is this person, why did they get hired? Why did they like, what's their role on this team? Like, are they a superstar? Are they somebody that's just kinda like, they're like, you don't know any of that stuff.

I knew that coming in like, Oh yeah. First year is going to be tough. So I guess otherwise. I wish I had known that I was going to be here for five years and like just buckle in, but you're not going anywhere anytime soon as Morgan said I'm going to be an RHC forever. So I don't know. I just, I just, you know, be more at home because a lot of our axes move around in their first couple of years.

It's very, very rare for RACs to be here as long as honestly, me and anchovies. A lot of them like. You see, like one or two years in sometimes three and then they're gone. So for me and Anna to be here, as long as we have that's not normal. So I guess I would say like, Hey, but like make it at home because you like, you do, you're going to enjoy it and you're not going to want to leave.

That's good. I'm thinking back like, Awhile to my first year as an RFC at a different institution. I did not go to grad school before that, you know, I decided to work first. And so baby Angela was like 22 at that time. And I think I wish I would have. Been more like vulnerable and open with like who I am around my students.

I think I thought I had to be super buttoned up and like people who know me know that I am perfectly rational, but I'm very quirky very, very quirky. And so sharing goofy stories and laughing with. Your students is like, okay. And I think that's the biggest thing that a lot of professionals in our field need to realize is it's such a different type of job.

Like we're not in corporate America where we have to be super buttoned up all the time. Like we can laugh, we can do crafts with our students at a program and have fun. Fun with our jobs, because at the end of the day, you know, I do this because I love it. I love what I do. I love this field. I love working with students and you'd definitely have to have fun with it.

So before we get into our last question, I need to interrupt with these two random side. That's okay. This happens every single week. And he always gets mad at me that I hijacked the meeting and bring up random stuff. But I just want to share before we get too far from our listeners hearing it. Forever ago.

I didn't have the next questions. I didn't have the floor to just steal from Anne, but Lily mentioned the OCE out for our listeners that listen to the episode with Kristen Brewster a few weeks ago, the engineering LLC, we gave you a little history lesson about the dojo, and we mentioned Lily by name.

So you're listening to one of the founders of the Ocho. And for Morgan, this is a story for you, as you talked about the unscripted adventures that you used to go on with staffs and I'm sure Maddie and Ian also similar experiences with their staffs. I had a meeting. Last week with a bunch of graduating RAs.

I had their final evolves and I asked them at the end at all of these, like, what is your top memories from being here? Like, what are the things, what are the highlight reels? What are the things you remember about being on staff? And one of them outlined very specifically a story about Morgan texting, like the whole group chat and saying like everybody get down to the lobby in five minutes.

And that was like, that was the whole message. Nope, there was no, he wasn't answering any questions and they got down there and you all, I probably shouldn't be admitting this happened on tape, but they had like a giant Nerf war in the blue and gold rooms. And the RA talked about like, I was brand new and had no idea what this job was like.

And the moment that happened, I was like, yeah, this is going to be a lot of fun. And so since Morgan mentioned that and he was at the center of that story, I just wanted to share that real quick. All right, Andrew, I'm sorry. Thank you for your side beds every single week. So we end every episode with our most favorite question.

So what is one piece of advice you wish to share with our first year students here at WVU sous Lily? Again, and I. I already said it, but this gives me an opportunity to, to say it again, to reinforce the message. If you're a first year student and you're kind of up in the air where you're going to live next year, if you haven't already made a decision, I would highly, highly, highly recommend staying on campus.

And being a part of that community again because it is so special. And once you move off campus, which I know from experience, I actually have. One of the more unique RA stories in that I was not an RA right out of my freshman year. I took a little break to do the apartment thing, hated it, and was able to become an RA.

And it was so special and I loved it and I cannot recommend living on campus enough. So to reiterate for the third time first year students, I think you should consider living on campus again. Morgan here. I would tell first year students to get out of your comfort zone as soon as possible, everyone around you is in the same awkward situation.

No one knows what they're doing. And 99% of them are probably willing to be your restaurant. My advice would also be to just try as many new things as you can, and try to get out of your comfort zone because when you get to college, you have the opportunity to figure out what you're passionate about.

Especially if you don't really know what that is yet. And I think that when you look back on your college experience, you're not going to remember what you wrote about in your English one Oh one paper, but you'll remember like the people that you met and the things that you did that were not so much pertaining to class, but just things that you were curious about in the England in here for the last time, I would say definitely get out there and try new things.

Or just like jump into that pickup soccer game at the rec center, go on those adventure trips, whitewater rafting. Join those clubs you'd never know who were going to meet the phone. You're going to have the experiences you will remember and take pictures. Especially throughout college because when you graduate, you're definitely gonna smile when you look back at them.

Yeah. I love that last little bit. We've been doing this all year, right? We've only, we've only got three, like three episodes left after this and nobody has made that recommendation and that's so good. Take pictures. It's so good. Because so many, like, I can remember being a senior about to graduate and like going through every picture I had from four years on my computer and just being like reveling in the nostalgia.

So. Okay. All right, so I'm sorry. I just got a little sidetrack there, but that's a wrap. Thank you all so much for joining us this week and thank you to Anne Mattie, Morgan and Lily for all of your time today taking, you know, taking time out of work and coming to talk with us. So thank you tune in next week.

When we interview another member of the WVU community.