By COLLEEN SULLIVAN
This year, the Virginia Association of College and University Housing Officers (VACUHO) chose the University of Mary Washington to host the annual residence life conference. Colleges and universities around Virginia visited UMW from Friday, Nov. 3, to Saturday, Nov. 4. The visitors included George Mason University, Liberty University, Virginia Tech, Old Dominion University, Roanoke College and many others.
This year’s conference focused on leadership. It also aimed to unite resident assistants from other universities and allow them to collaborate in a space designed just for them.
The VACUHO conference required almost a year of planning in advance. The conference’s theme was television, so the event began with, “Golden Girls Night Out,” an event where RA’s could play bingo, mingle with one another and partake in a fully-equipped photo booth. UMW’s Assistant Director of Residence Life, Noura Allen, ran the bingo night. The University of William and Mary had participants who stayed at this event for over three hours, which shows their competitive edge, even for this light-hearted game night.
A large draw for the RA’s who attended the conference were the unique programs designed by their peers. RA’s could choose to contribute their ideas and host a program for fellow RA’s to attend.
These programs ranged from, “Putting RA on Your Resume,” an information session on how to market oneself in an interview, to “Pet Advisor, Pet Detective,” a humorous session about dealing with unauthorized pets in residence halls and also “Life After Residence Life,” which was a program dedicated to pointing out the skills learned as an RA.
Damien Ream, an RA from Roanoke College, hosted the “Pet Advisor, Pet Detective” program. He detailed the number of instances he had encountered involving pets and how he quickly earned the nickname “Pet Detective” by following a Great Dane around campus. This program provided a medium for other RA’s to share their own crazy pet stories and how they approached the respective situations.
One component of the conference was spirit, each university had to make a banner representative of both their institution and relate it back to a TV show. Banners were draped on the first floor of the University Center and included depictions of shows such as, “The Office,” “Stranger Things” and “Friends.” Universities were also expected to dress up and coordinate to their theme, in addition to making a “roll call” video.
UMW’s theme was the Disney show, “Kim Possible.” Various resident assistants contributed to make a video that showed RA’s helping others out, some UMW spirit and even a clip of President Paino. Others worked to make a large banner of the character Kim Possible.
The universities in attendance appeared to go all out for the competition. Averett University made a “Stranger Things” banner with lights, Old Dominion University students were decked out in all blue and Randolph Macon participants all dressed in scrubs.
Another focus of the spirit competition was on service, canned food and hygiene products were collected from all the participating universities for extra points. By the end of the weekend, Area Coordinator, Brandii Halliburton, and her spirit committee determined Averett University to be the winner.
Junior Ronan Goforth, a first-year RA in Madison Hall, was a part of the delegation committee. They starred in and created the roll call video working hard to make VACUHO a success. They were very pleased with the outcome of the conference and said, “It was great to make new connections and be in a group of only RA’s,” said Goforth. “I loved learning about alternative ways residence life works at other colleges.”
Goforth was nominated for “Outstanding New RA,” which they were very proud of. Their favorite event was the Golden Girl’s Night Out, Goforth liked spending time in that social environment. “They reason I became an RA was to serve as a voice for the LGBTQ+ community and I was glad to share that message with others,” Goforth said.
The VACUHO conference provided a chance for RA’s to learn from one another, and for them to learn what others before them have done. UMW Assistant Dean Dave Fleming recalled his own days of being an RA at Salisbury University. He mentioned hauling mattresses into rooms before move-in day and the other tedious work he completed.