In Housing and Residence Life at Shippensburg University we require our resident assistants to complete a series of Continuing Education Workshops that focus around Ernest Boyer’s Six Principles of Community. They are very similar to in-services and continued training that a lot of institutions offer their resident assistants. Well, this past week I was given the awesome opportunity to present one of our continuing eds. I presented on Happiness in the RA Life, which paired very well with Boyer’s principle: celebrative. Boyer’s principle of celebrative encourages institutions to create a place where the heritage and traditions of the institution are remembered and encouraged among the community to embrace and share in change. So, today I’m sharing how you can encourage your RAs to find happiness in their RA life.
For starters, I want to share my inspiration for this presentation. I read a lot of happiness inspired books, however ‘The Happiness Advantage‘ by Shawn Achor really inspired this presentation. While I was reading Mr. Achor (or can I call him Shawn?)’s book I kept underlining sentences and writing RAs in the margins. Seriously, if he was writing for us Student Affairs folks, I definitely could tell! Anyways, here is a brief overview of my presentation and how you can encourage your RAs to find happiness in their jobs:
- What is happiness?— There is no single definition because it is subjective to the person or the RA experiencing it. What makes one RA feel all warm and fuzzy (i.e. a beautifully elaborate bulletin board) could make another RA cringe in fear.
- Barbara Frederickson’s Self Test for Happiness and identifying the 10 most common positive emotions: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love.
- Happiness & Success: “Happiness leads to success in nearly every domain”- Achor.
- The African Unicorn and Roger and The Mile: two examples of change that Achor provided in his book. These two stories were great for the RA Crowd!
- Why Being Happy Matters: The Different Benefits of Happiness
- Positive Interactions: Discussed the Losada Effect, Job vs. Calling, Non-Verbals, and Happiness in Words.
- Let’s Talk About the F Word (FAILURE) – The RAs got a real chuckle out of this one! However, from my happiness research I have learned that its really important to talk about failure and how you can re-frame & learn from different failures as an RA.
- I then included a list of things that the RAs can do to build happy communities and be happy themselves. I followed these with explanations (note: I did not tell them to turn off Netflix– if I did I’m sure they would have left).
And before I concluded my presentation, I had them prep their toolbox! We completed a variety of different negative scenarios and talked about how we could make them positive encounters.
I’m a huge worksheet fan! Not sure entirely why, but when I was in college there was nothing better than skeleton notes (I know, this must say a lot about my character). Anyways, I’m a huge fan of worksheets so, I created the Positivity in the RA Life worksheet for the RAs to fill out. My motives were multi-faceted: half of me wanted them all to pay attention via writing notes, and the other half of me hoped that they could take those notes back to their communities.
To brighten the room, I cut out yellow butcher paper and covered the tables. I also set the room up to be very engaging (I ignored the conventional straight line table presentation model). I put crayons on the table so they could color or doodle (Mr. Achor– one of my RAs literally drew an African Unicorn) and I also threw candy and mints across the room to encourage participation. A little side note for my SA Folks, never underestimate the power of candy... if you want high participation, candy will completely change the way you present (and re-enforce positive behaviors and make both you, the presenter, and the RAs smile).
If you would like more information on my presentation or your interested in sharing my presentation with your RAs, please email me at email@example.com! I would be more than happy to share my research and thoughts. Thanks!
This post is part of the Emerging SA Pro series following 4 awesome people: Alexandria, Doug, Emily, and Alexander, as they blog monthly about 1 year of their journey as either a new SA Pro or SA grad student. We are proud to help them share their stories as they break into our field.