What it takes to be a student leader at the College at Florham

Campus Life Coordinators and all 50 resident assistants pose for a group picture in the gardens at the College of Florham.

By Jenny Connell

What were you doing the last two weeks of summer vacation? Many college students would say finishing up a summer job/internship, lounging by the pool, or going down the shore with friends. The same cannot be said for the new batch of Fairleigh Dickinson University resident assistants (RAs) at the College at Florham. 

Instead, these RAs were back on campus sitting in on seminars, participating in mock encounters, volunteering in the community, and preparing for the 40 days of consecutive programming that was about to ensue. 

Jorge Suarez, a senior psychology major, and Ashley DeSimone, a sophomore business administration major, are two RAs who survived summer training and explain the many obstacles of RA summer training. 

“Coming back two weeks early is definitely a sacrifice. While everyone is still enjoying the last weeks of summer we’re kind of forced back into reality of schoolwork,” says Suarez. “But, the campus life coordinators do a great job of entertaining us with different fun events such as camping and Dorney Park.” 

Suarez says, “We pretty much start two weeks before school starts and go through all the rules and mock rounds to see how all the new RAs handle it. It’s one thing to be told to break up a party, but when you actually have to do it it’s overwhelming. So, we try to throw you into the situation before to see how you might react. Then you’ll be evaluated, so that in the real situation you know how to handle it. We also get trained to know who to call, and what to do in each circumstance.” 

Andre Turner, campus life coordinator, organizes the summer training and the RAs as a whole. Turner explains how, “RAs are one of the biggest role models on campus,” and as leaders they are “required to do community service projects as one of their program requirements.” This year’s community service projects include volunteering with the Morris County Habitat for Humanity and the Community Food Bank of New Jersey in Hillside, N.J. 

Resident assistants also visited the Morris County Fire Academy where they received fire safety training. “At fire safety training we learned how to use fire extinguishers and were put into a simulated fire house. We went in and they set different parts of this house on fire and showed us how to react,” says DeSimone. 

Another aspect of RA training is the community service piece. “Our goal is to create a well-rounded student. FDU focuses on global leaders, and global leaders don’t just always sit in a classroom and get good grades,” says Dean of Students Jas Verem. “Being a global leader on a smaller scale is being a part of the community.” 

For DeSimone part of being part of the community consisted of helping out at the Community Food Bank of New Jersey. “At the food bank, half of us sorted and the other half of us created boxes for other families to come and pick up that contained different types of food products including cereal, milk, and canned goods,” says DeSimone. “It helps us realize that we come from places that are privileged, and not everybody has that.” 

Co-RAs Jorge Suarez and Ashley DeSimone hang 50 feet up in the air for a team-building drill while at Indian Head Lake Camp.

The two weeks of training and service were not without their perks, however. On the last night everyone stayed overnight at the Indian Head Lake Camp in Pennsylvania. “We also went to Dorney Park, which was new. We went for team building and for everyone to have a good time away from campus because the sessions can be draining,” says Turner. 

After all the training, Suarez had this to say about being an RA: “We are students too. It’s something we tend to forget. Even though we are the authority figure in the residence hall at the end of the day we are our residents’ classmates and colleagues. Whatever they go through, we also go through.”

Feature Story from the FDU Newsroom

FDU Office of Public Relations

   (Metropolitan Campus Office)
Dickinson Hall, Room 3365, H-DH3-1, Teaneck, NJ 07666

Dina Schipper,
Director of Public Relations
Fax: 201-692-7019

Kenna Caprio,
Communications Writer
Fax: 201-692-7019

Helen Grill,
Senior General Clerk
Fax: 201-692-7019

FDU Office of Public Relations

   (College at Florham Office)
East Cottage, Second Floor, M-EC2-01, Madison, NJ 08450

Scott Giglio,
Assistant Director of Public Relations
Fax: 973-443-8671

Daniel Landau,
Public Relations Assistant
Fax: 973-443-8671