On today’s episode of FalconCast, our hosts Nick Castillo and McKenzie Calvao interview Fitchburg State University student and Resident Assistant (RA), Caitlin Moriarty, and find out what it means to work as a undergraduate RA. From difficulties with always being on the clock to the unique connections between the RA’s, Caitlin gives us a look into how she manages her lifestyle between school and work above it all.
Caitlin Moriarty (She/They) is a sophomore student at Fitchburg State studying education and on her way to becoming a teacher. Currently, she works as a Resident Assistant for the Aubuchon Residence Hall and is soon to be the Assistant Resident Director of the building. When not at work, she enjoys hanging out with friends, watching movies, and spending time with her dog, Karma.
For more information on being an RA or housing at Fitchburg State, visit their website or contact housing directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening to FalconCast!
This episode was produced by McKenzie Calvao and Nick Castillo as a part of the Spring 2023 Podcasting class at Fitchburg State University.
Episode transcript available here.
FalconCast (S1 E1): “RA Caitlin”
CAITLIN: It's definitely all about teamwork. When you're working as an RA, you have to trust the people you work with. You have to understand how they work
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NICK: On today’s episode, we’re here to talk with sophomore student Caitlin Moriarty and find out from her what it means to work as a Resident Assistant at Fitchburg State University.
From difficulties with always being on the clock to unique connections between the RA’s, Caitlin gives us the scoop on how she manages her lifestyle between school and work above it all. I’m Nick Castillo, here with McKenzie Calvao, and this - is “Falcon Cast”
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CAITLIN: Hello, I'm Caitlin. I'm an English teaching major in the honors program. I'm probably taking a deaf studies minor. I am a sophomore, but I'm a junior by credits, and I am a resident assistant in Aubuchon.
NICK: So what kinds of things might you do differently being an RA than other students?
CAITLIN: Well, I'm required to be on campus for a certain amount of hours so I can't go home on the weekends whenever I want. I can't go out even just like off campus, even like to the surrounding area certain days.
So like yesterday I wanted to go grocery shopping and I couldn't. So it's- it's more about planning your time out well. We all collaborate on our schedules for the most part, and we're pretty good about, like, communicating if someone needs a swap or someone needs to cover a shift, but it is a lot about time management.
My first semester being an RA was really hard to balance my personal life, my school life, my- y’know, work stuff. They always tell us to be a student first, so if there's something that comes up academically, that comes first, my, you know, my support system will understand. They'll cover for me, they'll make exceptions, they'll see what they can do to work with me.
Um, but socially, it's a bit more difficult of- I'm very close with the RAs that I work with, but getting outside of that bubble can be hard sometimes when you're working really long shifts or you have certain, like, confidentiality agreements that I can't talk about what I do most of my day with people who I don't work with, or even sometimes people who I do work with.
So it's hard to not be able to like, blow off steam, if I've had like a rough day, and I feel like I can't talk to my friends because that would be violating, you know, my- my job requirements.
CAITLIN: So it can be difficult to, you know, kind of snap out of RA mode and just talk about normal life and get back into, you know, student stuff, when, like, the thing on my mind is something that happened at 1 a.m. or the call that I got at five in the morning. And that's all that I think about and I'm like, I just want to talk to the other RAs.
I want to tell somebody like, I want to make sure I did something right. I want to make sure that something is recorded. Well, like, every time that I do something, I'm looking for validation or recognition or something to make sure that I'm doing it right because it is such an unpredictable job. So, it's hard to not get stuck in that loop of only talking to the people I work with.
MCKENZIE: When are you scheduling times or what are you doing to like, fit in for like other people that like you might not live with?
CAITLIN: Yeah, that's not easy. Making sure that I have times scheduled for friends. That's such an adult thing to do and it feels so gross to be like, can't hang out with you. How about 5:00 on Thursday? Like, it feels awful, but it's something that I have to do to- to keep myself sane, to make sure that I'm not, like, wasting my friend's time, especially the people I don't live with.
I try to go to other events or have them come to my events. That's the good thing about being an RA- is that I'm always at events on campus. I'm always doing something going somewhere that I can meet up with residents. So even if it's not someone that I live with, I can still have an opportunity to be doing my job by socializing.
NICK: What- what do you find, um, whether it's something that's happened now or just in general, what- what have you found to be like the most challenging part of your job?
CAITLIN: The most challenging part of my job is…I don't know, it’s definitely- has to do with communication. Like I said, there's- there's boundaries of what I can and can't talk about so that I can get tricky of like, because I have a lot of like bosses- there's a lot of people that are somewhat in charge of me in some way, so making sure that I talk to the right person and I have the right information can be pretty difficult because you might hear something from one person and something different from another person and it's important to make sure that you're talking to the right person or things might go bad.
So housing is definitely getting better about, like, telling us where to go for certain information. We're getting much better at communicating with each other and setting up those channels of like: you go to this person for events, you go to this person for incidents, like you go to this person for housing stuff. So, it's getting easier as time goes on, but that's also partially because of the RAs in the way that we have asked for more of that.
NICK: So you're mentioning a lot more of like the communication between like the RAs themselves and housing, but is communication between like the RAs themselves…what would you say about that?
CAITLIN: The RAs kind of communicate the way that you would with almost any other student. Um, so we have our own like a Google, what is it like Google Teams or Google Hangout, whatever it is, that like there's Aubuchon after dark chat where it's just all the Aubuchon RAs that I'll say like, “Hey, I have this event tonight” like, you know, “Tell your residents” or “Hey, I can't be at my shift on Friday, can someone cover it for me?”
Like all the kinds of work related things that we don't need to go through our bosses for first, go there. Um, it even gets as simple as like, “Hey, I need tape to put up a poster. Does anybody have any tape?” It- it gets pretty casual. It's different…when you're at like a desk or at an event where we kind of have to be a little more discreet, a little more professional, because, like, my coworkers will come up to me at the desk to talk to me all the time.
So that's another opportunity. If, like we catch up with what's going on in the building, what's going on with our residents, have I had an incident that was a repeat of something that someone dealt with the other day and should be a bigger conversation. It's a lot more informal, but it's- it's also a lot easier.
MCKENZIE: Yeah, that's really something that I think about a lot when I think about the RAs like you guys are also like all students. So it's funny when I see other RAs and stuff interacting because I'm like, Oh wow, like they’re all friends. Do you think being an RA gives you kind of like a different insight into another group? Like you guys are all in it together. Like you only understand what each other is going through type-of-thing?
CAITLIN: It's definitely all about teamwork, when you're working as an RA.
You have to trust the people you work with. You have to understand how they work cause you're- I work with different people all the time. I work with the same person every Wednesday and I work with a different person every weekend. So, you really have to get to know the person that you're with.
You have to trust them. You can't undermine like the person you're working with. Even if maybe they make a mistake, you have to work together and fix it, not necessarily be so, I don't know…you can't be selfish. You have to be really open minded. You have to be really communicative. And some people struggle with that because, we are students, we’re young.
It's hard like especially in such a high stress job, it can be tempting to like, get mad at people if they make a mistake or, you know, get frustrated if someone isn't communicating well. But…that's something that I don't necessarily struggle with. I feel like I can talk to pretty much all of my coworkers if I need to, but I definitely know who I trust with certain things, too.
Like, there's some people that are better if there's something going on with mental health, there's people who are better if I want to plan an event. Like you have- you have to know each other's strengths and compensate for each other's weaknesses. We're a team.
NICK: Right. And so with all that, like what kinds of what kinds of things you think you've gotten out of being an RA, whether it's friends, experience, simply just like understanding anything beyond that?
CAITLIN: I've definitely got friends. I've made some really great friends recently with the other RAs. Um, we've become a very close team because a lot of us started working around the same time, um, so we've gone through a lot together.
Um, I've also, as someone who plans to become a teacher, like getting experience with having responsibility, um, over other people, a lot of other people at one time and kind of managing and observing is interesting, especially as it pertains to like reporting up and like, um, being a mandated reporter for one thing, of having to have sometimes difficult conversations with residents to make sure that they're okay, to make sure that people are safe and happy and, you know, not…
I don't know, that they're ready to be educated, that they're in an environment where they can be educated because that's something that's going to be a huge part of my job in the future is making sure that everyone's needs are met in order to learn.
My plans to become a teacher are a huge part of why I chose the RA job. There are lots of other jobs on campus that I could get paid well for, or work less hours, or…you know, not have so many responsibilities and deadlines. But that kind of unpredictability and managing your time and being sensitive to people is what I want to do for the rest of my life. So that makes sense for me.
NICK: So with that, are there any, like, misconceptions or assumptions people have about like the job of being an RA or just like RAs in general? That like…you wanna kinda nip in the bud? Anything that you kind of- that comes to mind?
CAITLIN: I think that a lot of people don't understand how the RA role works. We are glorified body cams, as we like to put it. We are here to observe things, to document things. It is not our job to interfere with anything, to stop or prevent things. We have a certain amount of power to, you know, kind of limit certain things, but for the most part, we're reporting up. We have to talk to someone else. We have to call UPD.
Most of my job is making phone calls. I'm not here to, like, have a fistfight with somebody...and I think even myself going into the job, I was nervous about, like, walking up to people's doors and having to be the bad guy.
So I think that even- even I didn't understand when I started the job how much it relies on everyone else and that I'm just here to, you know, kind of…see what's happening, because the people who work at housing don't live on campus. UPD Isn’t in the hallways all the time. So it's mostly my job to just tell everyone else what's going on.
So I've talked a lot about, like the community that you build, both with your, with your teammates, with the housing staff, with your residents and that really is what gets you through it- is having those connections and not taking them for granted. Um, my first semester as an RA was very difficult because I felt like I had to separate my work and my life and my school so much.
Um, and I didn't feel as close with my coworkers. Now that I have a good support group of my coworkers, and my staff, and my residents, that I feel comfortable with them, that is kind of my- my life in a bit more of a fluid way…of I feel like I can rely on the people that I work with. I feel like I can trust the people that I'm, you know, underneath.
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CAITLIN: I feel like I can have conversations with and be a bit more relaxed around my own residents- is really getting to know every level of the people that you're working with and feeling comfortable enough to kind of flow through them and just enjoy it.
MCKENZIE: A special thanks to Caitlin Moriarty for joining us in today’s episode and thanks for tuning in to Falcon Cast.
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