The following is an excerpt from The Resident Assistant, by Gregory Blimling. We have modified it because it was written about the RA position, though in our case, it applies ever so accurately to the Multicultural Advisor position, too. Please spend time reflecting on what it says and how it applies to you and your desire for a staff position.
You have probably heard the expression “overworked and underpaid” many times. If it ever applied to any jobs, it would be those of the Multicultural Advisor and Resident Assistant. If you are now at the stage where you are contemplating becoming an MA or RA primarily because of the financial benefits, understand that the jobs simply do not pay enough. You can earn more money and spend much less time doing any number of part-time jobs in college. Most MAs and RAs receive minimal remuneration, usually equal to a room and a meal contract for the year. This simply is not enough for all the work that you will be expected to do.
What is perhaps more important is that an MA’s or RA’s experience in college is uniquely different from that of other students. As an MA or RA, you cannot always be a part of group activities in the living unit. Some students in the unit will ostracize you because of the authority that you represent. You will be intentionally left out of some group discussions and often not invited to share in the “inside information.” Many tasks will be required of you, and some will force you to reorder your personal priorities. You will be among the first students back to school in the fall of the year and among the last to leave in the spring. The same will be true of each vacation period.
Other students and the student affairs staff will place great demands on both your personal time and study time. Many activities with which you want to involve yourself must take second place to duty nights, working at the information desk, or advising students in the living unit. Even your friendship patterns will be somewhat defined by the residents that you are assigned to advise. You assume all of these demands, requirements, and expectations when you accept the responsibility of being an MA or RA. It is not an easy job. Think very carefully before you accept it.
The CMU Residence Life response to the above:
Absolutely – the work and demands on staff members are many. If you’re really looking at these positions for the financial benefit, they may not be the jobs for you. However, if the room and board benefit is only a part of the attraction, then there’s quite an opportunity waiting for you! Room and board (which is valued in excess of $10,000 per academic year) provides a substantial dent in college expenses. More importantly, the personal and professional rewards of being an MA and RA are quite amazing. Paraprofessional staff members gain a wide range of skills as a result of performing position duties. Most significantly, they will increase their knowledge, skills and abilities and be able to:
Build safe, healthy and thriving communities.
Design and implement strategies for effective conflict resolution.
Manage time and balance competing priorities.
Establish and maintain boundaries.
Understand their identities, values and beliefs.
Blimling, Gregory. The Resident Assistant: Applications and Strategies for Working with College Students in Residence Halls. Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, Dubuque, IA: 1999.