Building Community: An Interview with Honors RLC Resident Assistants

By Eric DeBenedictis

ras

The First Year Honors Residential Learning Community, located in Scott Hall, offers an opportunity for new students to get involved, meet other honors students, and challenge themselves academically. Resident Assistants Benjamin Feldman (left) and Stephanie Janeczek (right) work together to act as mentors for these students, and provide them with the guidance and resources that can help these students make the most out of their time here at BSU. I sat down with them in Scott to talk about their experiences.

What was your initial reaction when you were placed in the First Year Honors RLC?

Stephanie: I actually did originally want to be in Shea Durgin. I thought it would be a great experience to not only be where I was freshman year – because I loved my experience of being in such a diverse community – but I wanted the challenge as well. Although I think being here is a blessing in disguise. Not only are there a lot less people, but they are very motivated, determined, and they really want to be a part of the community. It’s not like I have to push people that much to be involved or active on campus, so I ended up really liking it here.

Ben: Yeah, I was just hoping to get placed here or in Weygand. I wanted to go into the Honors RLC in some fashion, and I have really enjoyed it so far, because I really like to work with people who are already motivated. I like to help them go with whatever passion they have. Especially with students that are psychology majors – they come to me with questions like: “What classes should I take? What opportunities are there for psych?” It has been really fun to work with my residents, and to see them grow and develop.

Stephanie: Yeah, I really like that too. Just being a resource. Back when I was an Orientation Leader, I loved giving as much information as I knew about the campus as possible. So really continuing to be able to do that as an RA – I would sit down with students to talk about everything I have been involved in.

What has your relationship been like working with residents in the Honors RLC?

Stephanie: I think it’s different from the other RLCs, because in the Honors RLC, honors students get to choose different honors classes to do for their RLC. Unlike other RLCs where RAs can pop in for the class, we don’t have that option, really, bescottcause they have specific classes that they go to. They’re not all in one place at one time. It’s also different communication, I would say. I feel like because the other RLCs are newer, it’s like more of a fresh vibe, I guess. Not to say that this is a boring RLC, but this is a different kind of community.

Ben: Yeah I would agree, like I think at first we were hands on with getting people started and everything like that, but I think everyone took the reigns by themselves because they’re definitely self-motivated. I was always trying to get people to hang out, but since then, I started to let go of everything so they can have that independence. But I always make sure I’m there if they have questions.

You mentioned that RLC students are required to take a class. What is that like?

Stephanie: When I was an Orientation Leader, I was helping honors students choose a class. It’s like a one credit colloquium mixed with a seminar. They take an honors class that meets once a week in something they are interested in. Unlike the Math and Science or Leadership RLC where they’re learning about how to do research or to be a leader, they are taught how to learn about a topic, but on an honors level. So more in-depth and more hands on.

Ben: They go in-depth on a topic. It’s kind of how the honors program classes force you to go to classes that you probably wouldn’t have normally taken. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it, but at least you know. It’s like when you have to try the food first before you can say you don’t like it. It seems to help a lot.

How would you sell the Honors RLC to incoming freshmen?

Stephanie: I keep relating this back to orientation. When they were coming into this school and picking classes they didn’t know if they wanted to be in an RLC or Shea Durgin. I was honest, I try not to be biased. I said if you want to be in a community of people who have the same motivation as you – who all want to be as involved as you, go to the Honors RLC. Those are people who are hands on and want to get right to working towards their career. If you want to go to a more diverse community, go to Shea Durgin. I think it’s really helpful for people who just want to be more involved.

Ben: Well, when I tell students about the Honors Program, I’m really biased. I tell them that it’s somewhat more work, but it’s different work in a different way when you’re in the Honors Program. It’s also a lot easier in some respects than having normal classes because when you do have an honors class, it’s definitely faster paced and a lot more in-depth. However, you’re usually 1 in 12 students to one teacher. You have a lot more one-on-one time with the professor. It makes it easier even though you’re going through a lot more material at a faster pace. Yes, everyone is really motivated in the Honors Program but it also has opportunities that you get to learn things that you wouldn’t have learned before and get a more personal relationship with your professor. I have never met an honors professor that wasn’t highly interested in the subject they’re teaching. You have some professors in normal classes where yes, they’re a biology professor and they love biology, but this certain type of biology is not their niche. You know if they’re teaching an honors course on this subject, then that’s their niche. That’s where they really love it and you get to be with a professor in those moments. It makes it more interesting and more engaging. Every honors course is a lot more engaging, whether you like the class or not.

Stephanie Janeczek is a graphic design major, involved in Alpha Sigma Tau sorority, National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH), and she was an Orientation Leader in June. She is also a Peer Lead Ambassador and part-time graphic designer for the Office of Study Abroad. Benjamin Feldman is a psychology major, involved in Psychology Club and the Resident Assistant Committee. He works as a PAL for Bio-psychology and a part-time therapist for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Both Ben and Stephanie are Commonwealth Honors students from the Class of 2018 and first-time Resident Assistants in Scott Hall.

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