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to repurpose these times to offer intentionally designed trainings that cultivate these
more expansive developmental outcomes. Making this change means shifting from
traditional staff meeting models that prioritize announcements and information sharing
to models that incorporate active exploration, experiential learning, and thoughtful
dialogue. Within this new framework, professional staff may even draw from newer
high-impact learning strategies, such as identity caucusing (Obear & martinez, 2013)
and spoken word poetry (Jenkins et al., 2017).
Team Development
Positive RA team dynamics serve as sources of peer connection and empowerment for
RAs with minoritized identities. In line with previous research (Guthrie et al., 2013),
our study confirms that this group of minoritized student leaders valued collectivist
connections that did not tokenize their minoritized identities. Opportunities for RA
team development can be instituted during flipped staff meetings and should include
clear ground rules that do not demand additional labor from minoritized students for
performing their identities in order to educate dominant-identity peers. These expectations
may reduce the number of incidents that produce identity-based fatigue. Beyond
the RA staff, residence life can expand opportunities for peer connection by giving
space for intersecting identity-based student collaboratives to form across institutional
silos. For example, a queer student leaders of color collective might extend invitations
to leaders in student government, student life organizations, and academic-based
student groups (e.g., peer tutors, undergraduate researchers). While it is important to
give the space needed for these collectives to flourish, it is even more important to support
minoritized students in owning and operating these groups on their terms.
Appreciation
We view appreciation as being a foundational element to fulfilling this model and
constructing an identity-affirming microclimate within RA staffs. Within this model,
appreciation needs to be incorporated as a regular part of ongoing practice. While
individual appreciation in the form of handwritten notes, mementos, and celebrations
are important, so too are recognizing and emphasizing collective achievements and
accomplishments among groups and coalitions of RAs. Emphasizing collective accomplishments
might also be part of the rubrics for the often highly individualized RA
rehire processes. In addition to these starting points, appreciation needs to extend
further and include the continual investment in authentic relationships that allow
professional staff to transcend their roles as supervisors to become encouraging and
door-opening mentors. Threaded throughout the elements presented in this model is
the cultivation of humanity and trust.
. . . an identity-affirming microclimate has strong potential to enrich
experiences within the RA role for students with minoritized identities.
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