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 Tower’s Ras: Hailee Elza, Rachael Saepic, Hannah Byxbee, and Raven Powers! The Ras will talk about their experiences working during COVID-19 and some ways they’ve connected with their hall communities. You won’t want to miss it!

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 lion Bennett and Braxton Towers. You can live anywhere, but when you're here, you're home. All right, everybody. Since a day, we have a very special episode for you all this week.

We've asked four of our Towers, RAs one from every Tower. To join us to talk about their RA experience during COVID during our interviews, me and Angie noticed that a lot of the questions that we got from candidates centered around how has the job changed because of COVID. So we asked some of our junior or older RAs with the idea of being people that have had like a year without, uh, any pandemic or anything that's shortened the year, a year where the year was shortened like last year and then this academic year where things are very different than their first year. So, um, so today we're here to talk about that exact topic. So I want to welcome Hailey Elza from Bennett Tower, Rachel from lion Tower, Hannah Bigsby from Braxton Tower and Raven Powers from Brook Tower.

So welcome everybody. All right. So the first question that we have for each of you is, uh, can you share your major hometown class year and just how long you've been an RA? Hi, my name is Hayley Elsa, and I am a senior business management major with an emphasis in supply chain and a minor in leadership studies.

I will be graduating this may and I have been an RA for three years. I'm Rachel , I'm a junior, I've been an RA for a year now and I studied sport and exercise psychology with minors in criminology and family and youth. My name's Hannah Bixby. I'm from Ranson, West Virginia. I'm a senior in environmental geoscience with a minor in engineering society.

And this will be my third year as an RA. And I'm Raven powers. I'm from Martinsburg, West, Virginia. And my major is pharmacy. So I'm currently in pharmacy school. So I technically graduate next may, but I have residency all next year. And this is my fourth year as an RA. Thank you all so much for introducing yourselves before we move on, I would be remised to not embarrass her.

By mentioning that we have Hannah bakes me here, who she hates when I remind people of this is that she's the reigning RA of the year for WVU campus. Congratulations Hannah. Oh my gosh. We love embarrassing our RAs, but I promise I will not do that to nine. So, um, to start us off with our first question, a huge part of the RA role, and one of the most important in my opinion is developing community.

Can you share a little bit about how you've worked to develop your hall community during COVID-19 Haley? We'll start with you. Thank you, Angela, what are the years? I have realized the most important time to connect residents is in the first few weeks of each semester. And because of that, I encourage an open door policy.

And that means that if somebody has their door open is an invitation to stop and talk to the people in the room and with COVID-19. Yes, that makes things a little difficult, but they should be wearing a mask already if they are in the hallway. So that is. An easy invitation for them to stop and talk through the people of the room to really disconnect simply.

Awesome. Thank you so much. Haley. Rachel, what about you? I definitely work with the community, not just like the residents, but also other RAs and Angela as well. So definitely be can go ahead, reach those communities. And as Haley said, I completely agree with this. Definitely making those connections those first few weeks to.

Make sure everyone fits together and find out everyone's interest so that you can go ahead, plan door to doors safely and make sure that the residents feel known and welcome. Thank you, Hannah. Yeah, with COVID-19. Um, especially like we've been leaning really into a virtual means to connect to like our residents and have them connect with each other.

So I would say like, Instead of having in-person events, trying to always have some sort of open channel for communication, whether that's like through your group chats or in like email. Thank you. And last but not least, Raven say like Haley said in the past years, I was always a big person who was known to like leave their door open and I'd have residents stopping just to say hi.

So with COVID that isn't really a thing. Thing anymore. So I've relied more on just conversations in the elevator. If I happen to see them in the hallway, even when we're walking through the building. So I think I rely on that a lot more. And with our programs, yes, we did use to have them in person, but we've kind of adapted by trying to do programs where you can drop things off at their door and then do it together while on zoo.

So you still get the social interaction with the program. Awesome. Thank you so much. And I love it, Raven. We do a lot of the, to go programming as well, and that's been super successful in our hall. So thank you. All right. So we talked about some of the things that they've had a lot of success with, but COVID-19 has been a huge challenge for many of us.

I mean, me and Andrew talked about that ad nauseum at this point, over the course of this, this year with our, so for you all, how has our role been impacted by the pandemic? What I've seen some of your biggest challenges or greatest struggles, Haley. For me being the talker that I am. I love communicating with anybody, whether that's a resident, whether that's another RA from just my Tower or another Tower, I used to be very, very close with every single RA in Towers.

Not even just those on my staff, as well as very close with those on my floor. And I'm still able to do that. Yes. Thankfully zoom is a thing and masks and safe distance of a hallway is a thing, but not being able to spend time with people in my room or their room or in the community. Lounge is.

Definitely a toll on me, but thankfully we can work the desk and I could talk to at least two or three people whenever I do work. But my biggest struggle is the lack of amount of communication I should say because of the pandemic. Thanks Hayley. That's really, I mean, you made a lot of good points there.

So, Rachel. Yeah, I definitely agree because this year it's been a struggle to make those connections with your residents and especially just getting off a semester of doing online, not as many residents want to continually come to floor meetings or virtual. Programs. So it's definitely trying to figure out how we're still able to make connections and make our residents feel welcome during the year and make sure that they're still getting fun programs and not just another boring zoom meeting that they have to sit through.

Yeah, yeah. With programs. I definitely feel that has been my greatest struggle is as well. Like, um, before the pandemic, I felt like as an RA, my greatest like thing that I brought to the table was my broke programming skills. Um, that would be like we would have floor events that we could get a lot more feedback during and like, see how well students are actually participating in something and build on that for future programs or building wide events for anyone who was in Brixton Tower Towers in general, remembering Marvel movie Sundays and having those.

And those were always really fun. And now this year it's been really hard to try to find how to fulfill those needs. While also maintaining like safety procedures and we still have programs, but you can definitely feel like a little bit of a difference. Absolutely. Hannah, definitely. I was just thinking about marbles movie Sundays the other day.

And, uh, I used to like dread it when we did the program. Cause it was like four hours out of my Sunday for like seven weeks. But then now we're here and I'm like, God, I miss that kind of program. I missed that kind of time with students so much. So thanks for sharing that Raven. Um, I'd say with the RA role, one of the big things is I know so broken Braxton Tower or typically brother, sister Towers, however you want to call it.

So a lot of times we are known for hanging out and. Just being around each other all the time. So this year I've definitely seen because we haven't had those large staff events, that there is a disconnect between all of the new people and their staff and our staff. So I do think that's very strange to see having been here for four years.

So I know Braxton staff and broke her working to collaborate a little bit. We have a little group chat going on. So there is always that, but it's definitely not the same as going to an arcade or something at the beginning of the year for just social purposes. And then another big thing like everyone else has mentioned is zoom fatigue is 100% of, if you have residents who have been on zoom all day, the last thing they really want to do is a tenure program.

That is also going to be on zoom. I mean, it is a little bit of an incentive that they have something fun to actually do, but at the end of the day, it's going to be difficult to overcome that. So we try to do programs outside if possible. Well, yeah, Raymond, everything you said. I definitely agree with the zoom fatigue that like the disconnect between the staff, which is like, I've been here since summer of 2016 and it's like the most strained I've seen a relationship since then between the Brooklyn Braxton staff.

So. Absolutely. I agree with that. Um, so this next question, actually, isn't listed on our document, but I wanted to ask anyway, cause it kinda, I kind of felt like it was coming up in everything that you all were talking about. So can you all give us an example of like one of your most successful or like favorite programs before COVID and then like your best or favorite program you've been able to put on during this year?

Um, just to like the listeners, but the RAs and the residents can hear, like, this is how different things are right now. My most successful and favorite program that I have been doing since I was a freshman, actually is puns and plants. And that is everyone loves a good little friend plant at the beginning of the year.

So that is when they come and paint a pot, read a bunch of puns either from me or my coworker, Hyatt George so much fun because it's just full of laughter and full of potential growth. To start the year. I look into it a little too much because of everything. So I definitely get that across to them, but it is so fun.

So successful every year. And we didn't do that this year, which is understandable because the comedy is just not, not here. But you asked for our most successful program. Now. Yeah. What would you say has been like your best or like favorite program? You've put, you've been able to put on this year? My favorite program this year is definitely not having the attendance that I usually would have, but it is a trivia night and that would include pop culture.

Um, WVU history. I live on the creative arts floor, so that was really fun and engaging with them. Does that for the folks listening at home, like, and like, Nick's probably going to edit that part of that out. But like Haley had to think about that and that's kind of the point and we're all like, you'll see what the other, the other three as they go, but it's a lot different this year.

It's a lot harder on our RAs. It's a lot more challenging. All right. So, Rachel, what about you? So I definitely did this last year too. And I brought it back this year and it was very successful, but we did a van tine, stayed door to door. So we like ask our residents their favorite candies and gave them a little Valentine.

And it was very successful last year. And so my new co and I brought back this year and we've actually had like the most people. Ever for a program we plan, which was great. And so like that was very successful. And this year was a gallon tine, stay one, since we're on an all-girls floor and we did something that they love, whether it be one of their pets or a family member or a movie character.

So that was definitely my favorite so far. Awesome. Thanks so much, Rachel. Yeah, I would say my favorite program pre pandemic was, uh, when we had called get a clue, which was essentially a game night where we had, um, a bunch of different games kind of going on, but the main point of the game, uh, game night was my co and I, uh, had kind of revamped the game of clue into like kind of a college party idea.

Where they had to figure out what had happened. And it was basically a way for us to tell, like the dangers of like partying, like partying culture and kind of what can happen and what are resources you can get to help you. And it had like a trivia component and where you could get like extra help in the clue game.

If you answer trivia correctly. And we had a ton of attendance, it was really awesome. We had pizza. And also I love games. So if I can figure out a game night into a program, I will absolutely do that. Uh, this year it's, um, we started off very strong. I think we had a, uh, my co and I, this year, we've made our own individual campus tours for freshmen.

We did not have welcome week. Um, and a big part of welcome week is touring. Like we will take you on tours around the campus. And that was like really critical in my opinion, because this campus is large and you may not know where you're going at all. So we try to do that in a video and then have like students have a participative chance to like take photos of their favorite spots on campus and send it in for points.

Um, But now it's like the weather's quarter. We can't even do kind of that aspect. Cause we don't want to send them out in the code. So hopefully we'll, we'll get that warmer weather soon. We can go back outside for stuff. Thanks, Hannah. All right, Raven, take a son. All right. So in previous years, I'd say my favorite program that we've ever done, or minute to win it, or we've had last year, we had a six versus seven for like Olympic style games.

So for me, we always try to do that at the beginning of the week, at the beginning of the year. So when people are still trying to get to know one another and they're just trying to find those connections. So for me, I just think it's. It's pretty fun to watch, honestly. And if you participate, that's also fun too.

So I think that is definitely my favorite. You can really see everyone's personalities come out, especially with anything competitive and definitely with COVID that has not been a possibility. So. I definitely want to bring that back next year, but trying to build those relationships at the beginning, our main thing was just to, at the beginning, we were allowed to do programs outside.

So we still had like, we separated the floor into two groups and would have half of the group come at this hour, the other half come at the other hour and just separate them and give them the chance to all meet one another. So I think that is like the best thing that we've done so far. And that I've had to learn is how to make them make those connections.

Because as a freshman, that is the biggest thing is you just want someone else that, you know, is there and going through the same thing as you. Thanks, Raven. Thanks everybody for sharing about some of your favorite programs pre and during a pandemic, um, you can, our listeners can see, like there's some things that we've been able to keep a lot of things that have been kind of challenging too.

So thank you. And I'm just really curious, Patrick, what are your programs like? What was your favorite pre-imposed Oh, gosh. Fair. I put them on the spot get, but I'm going to ask you to repeat the same thing, but you've probably been thinking about it while you made it to ask me. Like, so my favorite program is definitely the mall movie Sundays, cause it's just like me and Hannah developed that over a year.

And then we brought it back for a second year with more staff that help us and way more like engaging and prizes, it's just really successful. Um, but one program that worked really well that I perfected right before all this happened was it was called candy classes and considerations. I plan this event.

Um, it was right before Halloween. It was right after students got their midterm grades. And so I put out these flyers the week before their midterm grades come out that were like, Hey, come learn how to register for classes and study tips and things like that. And then that Friday they got their midterm grades and a lot of them were like, Oh, no, like I did not do as well as I thought I was going to, I should go to this program.

Um, so I had all these students attend on that following Monday and I gave out, I had like insomnia cookies. I had all this candy, all this stuff, and it was, you know, around Halloween. So as thematic too. Um, and I had RAs come in and be like, here's how you register for classes. Cause I don't know how to do any of that stuff.

I don't know how to work any of those websites. Um, And that was just really, really successful. And I could not mimic it at all in any way this year. It just, there was no way to do it. I worked, I tried everything and then even if I'd want it to, we were like, no people allow to like 10 people out per program, um, in the pandemic.

So my favorite program that we've done this year, um, I probably would say, uh, the. Uh, spilled tea with your RHC program that I did that I, uh, will not lie. I still shamelessly from an idea that she did with line Tower before she moved over to Bennett. But I have had students just sign up for, um, like drinks that they want either like iced tea or coffee from Starbucks or Dunkin.

And I bought these individually, these plastic bottles. I've actually got some in my, in my office right now. Um, so I w like I wheeled this card around, that's also in my office right now and handed it out. And I gave him a little note that said, like, you know, I hope you've learned a lot about yourself this year.

I hope that you, you know, you've learned a lot about living on campus and all this stuff. And so that's probably been my favorite program this year. Very different. Very different sounds about you, Anne. Well, yeah. So mine is talking to you with your IFC, very similar. Uh, what are the odds? Uh, and so my, um, I appreciated that the most, uh, pre COVID, because it was probably the most simple reoccurring program that I did.

Um, and before COVID I would just sit outside of my office. Uh, with a Keurig and a bunch of coloring books or a craft and residents would just stop by and get a cup of coffee to go, or they'd sit down and hang out and color with me. Um, which is, you know, pretty cool when you're pushing 30, I'm just saying coloring books are everything.

So, you know, I, I love, you know, just leaving my door open during a normal year and having residents stop by. So I think that has been the most challenging part of my job this year is just like the let's gab about something random for 30 minutes. Um, and I got that opportunity through that program. I will say though, post COVID, um, we've done coffee and tea with your RHC.

Uh, literally exactly. Like Patrick said, he actually borrows my coffee cart for it, with all of the flowers and battery operated lights that I have on it. And so

I asked them like, do you want me to take this off? He's like, absolutely not. So, so that has been really successful as well to just kind of bring a smile to someone's face and, and bring them up a coffee for the day. Um, I will say though, probably my favorite overall program we've done post COVID is our sex in the dark panel, which just happened in early February.

And what we did as, as a whole for Towers was we invited a bunch of community partners and campus partners that, uh, talked about, uh, sex education and healthy relationships. And they were like experts on it. And students were allowed to ask anonymous and in-person questions to our panel. Um, and it was amazing.

It was super informative. It wasn't like. Awkward. It wasn't like super boring. It was, it was really engaging. And I think that we did a really great job with pulling that together and we just have some of the most amazing campus partners here at WVU. So shout out to all of them for their phenomenal work.

Cause I know that they really enjoy taking part in that event as well. So those would be mine. So let's jump into our next question. Despite the challenges this year has taught us. So I'll Nick cut that. I said that weird. Okay. Despite the challenges this year has taught us so much about ourselves and how we do our work.

What is the greatest thing that working as an RA during COVID-19 has taught you? So, Hailey, we'll start with you. Thank you, Angela. I have learned that I am still able to express myself creatively. Through just more detail of the bulletin boards and door decks and where I would usually put more energy on programs.

I am still growing through the struggles and failures. Of life itself. Um, at the beginning of my RA role years ago, I was very successful with having a lot of people at the programs and interaction on the floor, but I had to take it off cruise my senior year and really get to work and think about how I can make the most or their first-year experience.

And I, I I'm, I believe I'm doing a pretty good job at it. I'm able to like my Kell under my wing a little bit and help guide her, um, because she is a first year and really connect with my coworkers. I am lacking the communication, but I'm also. Still laughing the same amount while texting or zooming with not only my residents, but my coworkers.

So I have, I have learned that it is okay to fail. Thank you for that. Rachel, I think like the biggest thing I definitely learned was being able to get through stuff during a pandemic because it's not easy and it definitely throws you a lot of curve balls. And I've definitely had like a lot of conversations with Angela.

Wondering if like I was even doing a good job as an RA, but, you know, Shot the Angela, because she reassured me like, yeah, it's okay. Working through it. And so definitely just like still being able to do stuff and communicate with residents, even if they seem like not interested in the moment. So definitely just pushing through the curve balls that the pandemic throws you and just being able to rely more on staff.

Awesome. Thank you, Rachel Hannah? Yeah, I would, I, I'm probably going to go into something. This isn't something I like learned only this year, but has really been experienced this year is just how like great. Like my coworkers are with each other. Like anytime someone who's going through a tough time, there isn't anyone on staff who wouldn't like.

Step up to help them. Uh, pretty much as soon as I got back on campus, I was quarantined and it was like everyone kind of rallied to help out as like I had to trade shifts and it was like, well, the halls were opening. So there was a lot going on there, but. It's kind of like a good lesson to show. Like, even when you feel like kind of isolated and alone, like everyone is there for you.

Um, and it's just like kind of a text of DM away or phone call or whatever. And it's just so helpful, especially in such stressful times to know that. Totally agree with you, Hannah. And I think RHCs, I can speak for us as well. Definitely have relied a lot on each other. Me and Patrick, definitely for sure.

During all this. So that's great to hear Raven. I'd say that the biggest thing that I've learned during COVID is that there's not one right way to do things because I've been here for four years. The simplest thing I can think of is whenever you come into Towers, we used to take your ID and swipe it for you at the front desk.

Now we put a shield up, have the swiper setting up so you can swipe your own ID. So for me, like that is something pre COVID. I would've never even thought it's such a simple change, but having always manually swiped IDs or just some of the other tasks that we do as RAs, I just that's the way it was done.

So. COVID has really taught me that there are different ways to do things like you can do your programs online, drop things off. Like there's just so many different ways that we do things now because of COVID that I'm wondering if we will implement later, but it just reminds me that just because you do things one way now doesn't mean it's going to stay that way forever.

Or maybe that isn't the best way. So for me learning about change and that it can be a good thing. Awesome point. Thank you so much. Before we get into the last question we have for everybody. Um, I do want to touch on something that, that Hannah said is that our staffs have really helped a lot. And me and Angela said that numerous times this year on TTP, but we really like, we have a representative from every.

Tower right now. And we're very thankful for our RAs and for all of the work they're doing with each other, that me and I don't even know about the trading shifts, all that stuff. There's so much communication that goes on there that we don't even see. So in that I've also noticed that everybody here is at some point or another mentioned, like re, like re mentioned their co without saying them by name.

So can we go around the room and give a shout out to each of our, our RAs CO's. Miko on the creative arts LLC. If Alexis Victoria Miko on the fourth floor are flying, is Olivia Allman. And she's absolutely amazing. My co on the fiscal or Braxton is Mahima Conan and I love you. I love you so much. And Miko on the ninth floor.

Brook Tower is Yuki. She is absolutely wonderful. Cool, awesome. Thank you all so much for indulging me in that. All right. So our last question for everybody is what is one piece of advice that you wish to share with our first-year students here at WVU Haley? My favorite question. Thank you for asking this.

Get out of your comfort zone. That means join an organization or one or two or three or four. Figure yourself out, make mistakes and learn from them and meet network. Thank you so much. Haley, I'm glad that I could ask a question that you were excited about. Rachel, go ahead. Yeah, I definitely agree. Don't be afraid to go out and get involved because that's only the best way you can grow as a person is to actually get out, get involved, find your interest, and really connect with other people that have similar interests and are like minded.

Absolutely. Thanks, Rachel, Anna, I would say if you're having a hard time, like definitely reach out to someone. I run into so many residents. Who kind of are definitely displaying symptoms of like imposter syndrome, where they feel like this isn't for me, this is not something I can do. It is something you can do.

And it just means like, you can go get help. Like that's why your RAs are here. Your RACs are here. All your community is here for you. Like you don't have to go through it alone and you definitely belong here. Thanks Santa Raven. I'd say the biggest thing like Haley said is it's okay to make mistakes.

Everyone is new. Everyone is in the same boat as you are. So if you make mistakes freshman year definitely is the time do it with that being said, be careful about what you do say yes and no to. I know a lot of times residents, they get that freedom from home. So then. It's the first time they've never had anyone tell them.

No. So you also do have to remember that you have to be careful of what you do say yes to, because this is the first time. So this will reflect how the rest of your years kind of go from there. But like I said, it is okay to make mistakes. And if you're questioning whether or not to say hello, To the person at the table next to you.

And it's the beginning of the school year. Just do it. I know it's really awkward, but they might be your best friend. My best friend freshman year came from just saying hello to a person on the PRT. So you never know how you're going to make friendships. That's beautiful. Thank you. Very awesome. Well, that's a wrap everyone.

Thank you all so much for joining us this week. And thank you. Haley, Rachel Hannah and Raven for your time today. Doing next week when we interview another member of the WVU community.