A glimpse at what it’s like to work for Student Life

Many students can remember talking with a peer adviser to help them adjust to college when they came to California Lutheran University as freshmen or transfer students.

For students living in residence halls, their first week on campus generally meant meeting the resident assistants and being invited to their events during the year.

Although the presence of peer advisers and RAs are significant roles on campus, the intensive application processes for these positions and the qualities that these students possess may not be as easily recognized.

Peer advisors are student mentors that assist in transitioning first-year and transfer students through group activities and outings.

Although most students associate peer advisors with freshmen and orientation, the position also requires training sessions during the spring and August along with keeping in contact with students throughout the school year, according to the university website.

Applying for the peer adviser position is highly competitive and unique in the sense that one set of qualities is not required of every applicant, according to Kristin Dees, associate director for Student Life. The selection committee creates a list of criteria that differs every year.

“It’s important to make sure that we have representation of all interests, passions and majors throughout the institution. These individuals are going to be mentoring the next group that are coming in and they’re from all over the world,” Dees said.

Although mentors within the peer adviser groups each have individual interests, one quality that is required of all applicants is the willingness to know others and the genuine interest to dedicate time to help others, according to Dees.

“The PA program is extremely beneficial because without student leaders and role models to be there for students and help them through tough life experiences, our first year of college would be so much harder to get through,” said sophomore peer adviser Kristiana Wright.

“My experience with my peer adviser has been really fun. She’s hilarious and has helped me just by being available for questions and steering me in the right direction,” said freshman Justin Freeman.

Unlike peer advisers whose job is completely voluntary, resident assistants receive a salary that, unlike a typical weekly paycheck, is aimed to cover room and board on a traditional dorm rate. This adds to the appeal of becoming an RA, according to Nathan Fall, assistant director for Residence Life.

Applying to become an RA is a process that lasts over a month and consists of a written application, initial interview, group process, initial cut and final interview.

Similar to the peer adviser application, RAs are not chosen through a specific list of qualities, but rather a variety of traits that strengthen the RA staff and makes each RA unique.

If the needs that one student exhibits are already met, another might be hired that fulfills another aspect. However, integrity, trustworthiness and the desire to want the job more than the paycheck is something that is required of all RAs, according to Fall.

“We want students that genuinely want to bring together a community, be the ‘older sibling of the hall’ and be a spokesperson for CLU in general,” Fall said.

For Dees and Fall, the only difficult aspect of selecting peer advisers and RAs is the fact that not all great students are chosen due to the limited openings and the importance of having a wide range of interests within the groups. Both can agree, though, that these programs not only benefit students, but the peer advisers and RAs, as well.

“My favorite part is seeing the new ideas, the fresh creativity and what all of the different new students come up with. For the ones returning, seeing them talk about how they’ve grown,” Dees said.

Being available to a number of students, planning events and attending training sessions take a big chunk of time for someone with an open schedule, but adding schoolwork and other daily commitments are similar to a full-time job for RAs and peer advisors.

“The biggest lesson I learned as a PA is that respect is definitely earned, not given. You have to work hard and prove you care in the students’ eyes to earn it,” Wright said.

The next time you see your peer advisors on campus or your RA in the residence halls, keep in mind that just applying for that position required a great deal of commitment and their responsibilities go beyond what you might observe.


Monica Linares
Staff Writer
Published March 12, 2014