Student leadership presents rewards and challenges


Student leadership positions are well known on campus.  Nearly all students are acquainted with someone in a Resident Assistant (RA) or Course Assistant (CA) position. However, some students may not understand the potential challenges that these jobs present.

Rhett Edwards is in his fifth year as the Resident Director for Devol Hall. He works closely with the RAs in Devol as their mentor and supervisor and understands the challenges.  Part of the responsibility of an RA is to help enforce campus policies and rules, resulting in the occasional confrontation between students.

DeVol RD Rhett Edwards poses with his RAs–Sam Tonelli, Marshall Suplee, Nik Mateer, Rob Elder, and Tyler Veldhuizen. (Photo courtesy of Rhett Edwards)

“Most RAs will say what they’re most nervous about is areas of confrontation,” Edwards said. “They may never have been in a role before where part of their responsibility is to hold their peers accountable.”

Marcia Everett, professor of communication arts and director of The College Experience, said that it is a struggle for student leaders to balance friendship and authority.

“Navigating multiple roles, being both a mentor and a peer I think can be a challenge,” Everett said. “They have authority in the classroom but then are often in classes together with the same students.”

Everett also said that managing time and responsibilities can be difficult for many student leaders.

“Managing multiple responsibilities is a challenge for all student leaders,” Everett said. “Being in a leadership position requires that students develop good rhythms of work and rest.”

So what’s the incentive to be involved in student leadership?

Alex Steinmetz, a triple major in Accounting, Mathematics, and Business and Administration, worked as an RA in Devol for three years and spent the previous semester working as a CA. He said that a student leader must be prepared to learn.

“You’re going to learn a lot about yourself and a lot about other people as well,” Steinmetz said. “[As an RA,] you’re going to learn a lot about how people interact with each other in their living space and how sometimes they don’t always get along. If you’re a CA, you get to learn how people are in the classroom. You’re not just a student in the class, you’re teaching it.”

Steinmetz learned much from the time he put into his student leadership positions.

“I learned so much about myself and how to deal with situations and how I dealt with situations and how that needed changed,” Steinmetz said.

According to Everett, student leadership takes certain skills to be effective.

“I look for someone with the ability to serve as a role model for the course content,” Everett said. “They should also be teachable, open, have good communication skills, and be able to relate to others.”

Cory Veldhuizen is a contributing writer for The Aviso AVW.

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