A Friendly Face
UMass Amherst resident assistants enhance residence hall life in countless ways
When UMass Amherst freshmen first move into their residence halls, everything is new to them: new faces, new home, new life. For many, it’s the first time they have to navigate the day-to-day on their own.
That’s where resident assistants come in. There are 361 RAs on campus, at least one on each floor of each residence hall. They’re students with homework and finals just like everyone else, but they’re also friends, role models, and advisers.
Birabwa Kajubi ’09 is among them. A legal studies and political science major from Brockton, Kajubi joined the ranks two years ago on the advice of her brother, Basudde Kajubi ’07, himself a onetime campus RA. She’s back again her senior year in Southwest’s Patterson Hall.
Students usually come to Kajubi for conversation or for help with academic and roommate problems. “Sometimes things feel larger than life for them,” she says. “It’s so fulfilling when I can help and they don’t wind up moving out of the residence hall or dropping a class.”
From move-in day on, Kajubi encourages students to take advantage of residence-life programs that help newcomers adjust to campus life. She also reassures parents and students that the campus is not as large as it may seem.
“We’re a tight-knit community in the residence halls,” she says. “UMass Amherst is a big, diverse campus, but it’s easy to harness it and find things to suit you and places where you belong.”
Before incoming students show up with their carloads of posters, plants, and extra-long sheets, RAs train intensively for everything from team building and community development to making residence halls safe, inclusive, and conducive to academic success. “I learned to work with the other RAs and our supervisors,” Kajubi recalls, “and how to take that training and apply it when dealing with different people in all kinds of situations.”
All good things to know when you’re an RA—and for the rest of your life.