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Spencer expressed similar feelings:
I got more confident with being able to lead, especially just learning about myself and
my [trans*] identity . . . becoming more confident with who I am as a person and that
helped me feel confident with how I presented myself as a leader through the RA position.
These students indicated enriched conceptualizations of the intersections of their minoritized
identities and their leadership roles, which fostered stronger self-confidence.
Representing a perspective shared by many participants, Missy reflected on how the RA
experience was powerful in increasing her confidence in her identity, her self-awareness,
and her leadership potential beyond this role:
Whenever I applied to be an RA, I didn't think I would want to do it because I didn't have
a lot of self-confidence. Being an RA was the one thing that shifted me from being really
self-conscious or self-doubtful to being a completely different person from my first year of
college. It gave me confidence. I discovered that I, in a sense, was very limitless.
The increased self-confidence that students in the study singularly attributed to serving
in the RA position instilled within them a new sense of future possibility for who
they could be and what they could do.
Social justice skill building. Engaging with social justice topics through their roles
as RAs provided participants with opportunities to create educational residence hall
programs that promoted community, provided social justice perspectives, and remained
authentic to their sense of identity in pursuing important causes. Creating
a floor environment that was attuned to social justice remained a key feature of the
RA role that initially drew many students in the study to the position. Through their
positions on campus, RAs practiced and refined their skills related to social justice
education and collective consciousness raising by facilitating dialogue and navigating
conversations around difficult topics. As RAs reflected on how they were developing
their social justice skillset, they described how intentional conversations frequently
lent themselves to prompting residents to reflect, providing topical education,
re-establishing parameters for acceptability on the floor, and ensuring paths forward
for residents. Joziah offered an example:
I had one student who was saying things not appropriate, calling someone on the floor
by their race instead of their name. I just sat down with him and engaged with him, just
questioning him so he can unpack it himself. My role was bringing awareness to a larger
idea through my questioning.
Nicky understood the importance of having all residents feel a sense of inclusion:
I just wanted it to be a genuine conversation, constructive conversation. I still want that
resident to feel like he can still be part of the community . . . I don't want him to feel like
they don't belong even after he's said some hurtful things [related to LGBTQ+ identities].
There has to be a path forward.
Volume 49, No. 1 * 2022 21

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