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Social justice programming and educational conversations required
a skillset from RAs that they were actively building through practice,
and RAs in the study viewed these efforts to be closely tied to the
development of their residential floor communities.
and in that sense, it kind of shapes who you are as well. " By serving in the RA position,
students felt responsibilities to represent their communities and to give back by
mentoring others, which in turn further cultivated their self-confidence and shaped
their identities.
IMPLICATIONS
This research contributes new knowledge about how RAs with minoritized identities
experience their residence hall roles alongside their social and collective identities.
Specifically, this study contributes to the literature by demonstrating that an
identity-affirming microclimate has strong potential to enrich experiences within the
RA role for students with minoritized identities. This key finding connects to several
recent studies that similarly conclude that identity-positive microclimates function as
important spaces for students, faculty, and/or staff with minoritized identities (Garcia,
2016; Hill et al., 2020; Keels, 2019; Vaccaro & Newman, 2017). Additionally, this study
offers new understandings of how identity-affirming microclimates enrich students'
identities, capacities, and empowerment. Through these findings, we offer a new way
of thinking about RA staff development aimed at enriching RAs' experiences through
the intentional cultivation of an identity-affirming microclimate.
ENHANCING RA EXPERIENCES:
A NEW MODEL FOR RA STAFF DEVELOPMENT
Identity-Affirming Microclimate
As detailed throughout our findings, the presence of an identity-affirming microclimate
enriched the ways in which students with minoritized identities experienced other
facets of their positions as RAs (Figure 2, page 24). Developing an identity-affirming
microclimate takes concerted effort and requires support from broader departmental
structures and residence life leadership. In order to begin to foster an identity-affirming
microclimate, residence life units need to first commit to recognizing, naming, and
displacing broader societal forces that produce identity-based marginalization. From
there, residence life units can design and implement ongoing (and increasingly advanced)
social justice trainings that explore power and privilege through topics related
to LGBTQ+ issues, racial justice, and identity-conscious mentorship. Simultaneously,
residential units should continue to increase the compositional representation of
minoritized professional staff and RA staffs through re-envisioned recruitment and
hiring processes (see Schuster & Stalker, 2020). While these actions are only starting
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