It’s past 1 a.m. on a Saturday night and University of Alaska Anchorage students living in the campus’s residence halls are either up late studying, binging on the latest Netflix series or shuffling in from a big night out. Despite the hustle and bustle of residence life, there is a sleepless group, burning the midnight oil, and on the clock till the wee hours of the morning.
Who is this group, up at all hours of the night? UAA’s Resident Advisors, also known as RAs. UAA has 35 resident advisors with 16 peer academic wellness and success leaders who assist RAs in a hybrid position of student, leader, worker and sometimes, when it’s needed, rule enforcer.
These students dedicate much of their student-life at UAA to ensuring their peers are safe, offering a supportive ear when needed and to overall make sure students in the residence halls have a great college experience.
It’s a tough job, balancing a full school workload, a round-the-clock job and trying to squeeze in down time for themselves. But for the RAs who choose to take on the responsibility of taking care of their fellow students, the rewards are great and the leadership skills they develop will help push them forward when they leave UAA’s campus.
RA Profile 1
Name: James Matthews
Number of years as RA: 3
Originally from Pennsylvania, this East Coast native has been enjoying college life in the Last Frontier.
“I came up here and I have to say, it was the best decision I ever made,” says James about his decision to attend UAA. “I absolutely love UAA! There’s just something about UAA—it’s just got so much to offer.”
James has fully taken advantage of his college experience and thoroughly enjoyed his time here. He decided after his freshman year that he would dedicate his time to being an RA. What he appreciates about the residence halls is the sense of community it creates, and he likes being one to help build that.
This year as a senior, he specifically asked to work in North Hall, which James said is dedicated to the freshman experience.
“There’s lots of excitement and community-building,” said James. He says there’s an energy in the freshman residence hall and he’s all about creating a great experience and mentoring the students under his watch. “I hope that by being there for the residents at such a crucial transition point in their lives, I may help them reach their full potential, and make the transition to college a less scary one.”
RA Profile 2
Name: Connor Farrar
Number of years as RA: 1
Connor Farrar admits that in the past, he was not always the most outgoing guy, but since becoming an RA during his sophomore year at UAA, he’s gained invaluable leadership skills.
He got into the RA program when an RA dropped out and he stepped in to fill the position.
“I notice that a lot of the community is kind of isolated—especially the apartments—I really wanted to work with the apartments in particular because I know what it’s like to live here and feel alone,” says Connor. “I kind of know how that feels, what it’s like to be alone and not really have any fun and I want to make a change for that.”
He also jumped into the RA role to get out of his shell. He said the position, whether you want it to or not, forces you to be outgoing and get to know your residents—which he feels is good for his personal growth.
Since becoming an RA he’s been in the MAC Halls and says that jumping into the program, no matter how much training you have, is a little bit of trial by fire. He’s not the only RA to say this, but the sink or swim culture pushes RAs to rise to the occasion of student mentor, leader and, at times, authority figure.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it,” Connor says of his RA position. He’s learned a lot since taking on this role, balancing work duties and a full class load, but is really enjoying the experience and the chance to make a difference for his peers.
“Everyone needs at least one person to talk to,” Connor says. “I like to think that it helps to have someone there for you—it certainly helped me.”
RA Profile 3
Name: Kenzy Philabaum
Number of years as RA: 1
UAA sophomore Kenzy Philabaum hails from Massachusetts and made the trek from the East Coast to the wild North only knowing one person. She says she has a bit of an adventurous spirit and knew after graduating from high school she wanted to attend college out of state. For her, UAA not only fulfilled the adventure component, but the university’s affordable tuition and her ability to secure an RA position her freshman year, checked all the boxes.
Kenzy’s first-year college experience was unique. Not only was she a freshman herself, learning the ropes of university life in a completely different state—she was also a mentor and authority figure to her peers.
“I was terrified my first semester, but my boss Alicia, she helped me a lot throughout the year,” says Kenzy.
“So did my team—my team was absolutely amazing last year. I was the youngest one there—James [Matthews] was actually on my team—they were all super willing to help me.”
Kenzy says she wouldn’t have survived her freshman year without the support of her fellow RAs. This year she’s more confident going into the program, but has a challenging year ahead as she’s an RA in the Templewood apartments, which is only for upperclassmen, 21 and over. She’s nervous, but is rising to the challenge.
RA Profile 4
Name: Stephen Kranich
Major: Double majoring in Psychology and Business Administration with an emphasis in Economics
Number of years as RA: 1
To say that senior Stephen Kranich is motivated is an understatement. The UAA senior graduated from West High School early with two years of college research under his belt and is currently pursuing a double major in psychology and business administration with an emphasis in economics. All of this while serving as an RA in East Hall.
Stephen always knew he was going to attend UAA, partly because he loves Alaska and wasn’t ready to leave after high school, and partly because it’s affordable and he can save money for grad school.
Before he became an RA and moved onto campus, Stephen said UAA was just a place he went to school. He said he didn’t have much of a connection to the university, other than going to his classes. During his first few years he was living at home with his parents. Because of his high class load, he couldn’t afford to move out on his own since he didn’t have the time for a job outside of school.
That’s when he heard about the RA position and decided to apply.
“The RA position was a way for me to move on campus, while still being fiscally responsible,” says Stephen. That was fall last year and he hasn’t looked back. Stephen says the RA experience has been great.
“I’ve been incredibly glad that I took the RA position and moved on campus—both of those things go hand-in-hand,” Stephen says. “I’ve made a lot more friends and it’s really enhanced my UAA experience.”
Written by Catalina Myers, UAA Office of University Advancement