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The findings that follow demonstrate that the presence of an identity-affirming
microclimate situated within a resident assistant staff and supported by residential life
structures (e.g., central office team, resident director relationships, and/or floor communities)
complemented minoritized RAs' experiences with identity development,
capacity-building, and motivations to re-invest in other minoritized students as mentors
and role models. The interconnected categories developed from our analysis point
to opportunities for the microclimate created by these uniquely situated student teams
to serve as a critical growth space through which social justice principles can be enacted
and students with minoritized identities can feel validated and humanized.
Identity-Affirming Microclimates
Throughout the interviews, RAs with minoritized identities described their experiences
as members of RA staffs in ways that illustrated the potential for these spaces to
serve as identity-affirming microclimates that valued whole relationships and were attuned
to social justice. A primary marker of identity-affirming microclimates for RAs
with minoritized identities was the presence of authentic relationships with other RAs
as well as residence life professional staff, who students described as transcending
their roles as supervisors to be mentors that taught, appreciated, and listened. The
fullness of these relationships made RAs with minoritized identities feel humanized
rather than feeling flattened by others into only these identities. Reflecting on her
transition to the RA role, Missy discussed overcoming feelings of trepidation around
being tokenized at the intersections of her minoritized identities as an Asian woman:
At first, I was nervous [I would have to] make sure [residence life] sees that I'm not a
one-dimensional kind of figure [defined solely by an identity]. They see a very authentic
version of me, who I am around my closest friends. It's very monumental.
In a separate interview, P.J. exemplified the sentiments expressed by other participants
about the special connections made within this microclimate, which were " really, really
solid relationships and very accepting ones, too. [RAs and residence life professional
staff] want to learn more about you, and they want to respect you, respect who you
are. " By speaking about their identities being respected within this space, RAs with
minoritized identities felt they were able to present themselves authentically. This was
particularly important because some talked about being forced to minimize salient
aspects of themselves in other on- and off-campus contexts.
A primary marker of identity-affirming microclimates
for RAs with minoritized identities was the presence of
authentic relationships with other RAs as well as
residence life professional staff . . .
Volume 49, No. 1 * 2022 17

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