Call them at 6 a.m. on class registration day for course advice. Call them at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday to help deal with irritating roommate issues. Call them at 11 p.m. on a Saturday to find out where to get a late-night snack. But just do not call them RAs.
“The difference between a (resident assistant) and a (community facilitator) is that I am more there as a mentor,” said junior Shannon Dunne, a CF in the Hall on Virginia Avenue. “(My residents) come to me with lots of questions.”
Long hours, living on the job and dealing with student complaints are just some of the aspects of working as a CF. But according to many CFs, the benefits of influencing the lives of their residents make their job more than worthwhile.
Senior Caterina Bummara returned to Thurston three years after living there as a freshman to be a CF.
Bummara said she always admired her CF when she was a freshman and went to him for guidance.
“It’s kind of weird to see myself in that position,” Bummara said “He was just so much older and he just knew so much more then I did. And now I’m a CF.”
Bummara said her residents treat her like she’s their big sister.
“I’m a resource to them,” said Bummara. “I can help them get their feet wet when they come (to D.C.).”
She said residents have come to her when they get homesick, with roommate problems and to inquire about general class requirements and clubs around campus.
“I give them good ways to confront situations,” Bummara said. “Basically I help them grow a little.”
CFs are on duty from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. about 10 times throughout the semester, making rounds on each floor of their residence hall and answering the CF on duty telephone line.
As their freshman residents are adjusting to their new college lives, CFs have to do some adjusting themselves. Dunne said she wanted to get an internship on Capitol Hill right away, but is waiting until October to apply when she is will be more settled.
Graduate student and Thurston CF Kelley Tynan calls her position a “lifestyle change,” coming from a full time job and an apartment in Van Ness.
“It’s not a lot of money and everybody is up at 4 a.m. all the time, which is a big adjustment,” Tynan said. “But, it certainly has a lot of benefits.”
CF compensation includes free housing, a salary and free local phone service.
“You can’t go in it for those things, it just doesn’t add up,” Thurston CF Tyler Neyhart, a junior, said. “It’s about the experience.”
CFs are trained to deal with many alcohol and drug situations, including alcohol poisoning, violent fights and conflict resolution.
“We don’t bust, we correct inappropriate behavior,” Neyhart said. “The whole mentality is that we are not police, we aren’t out to get people in trouble, although part of our job is to enforce University policy.”
Bummara said if she heard loud noise coming from a resident’s room. she would knock on the door. She said she takes the situations as they occur, but if the students are partaking in unsafe behavior, like drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, she is obligated to take action.
“It’s nothing personal,” said Bummara “I don’t think they have hard feelings toward me.”
When it comes to going out, Neyhart and Dunne agreed that they steer clear of mixing residents and friends so as not to jeopardize their relationship with their residents.
“Going to get a cup of coffee and walking to class is OK, but as far as situations when we all go out, I would not want to,” Dunne said.
In striving to build community, Neyhart puts up a bulletin board filled with current events and D.C. hot spots. There is also an area for residents to post their own personal flyers. Neyhart, among many other CF’s, organize floor activities and events.
Dunne and the HOVA Pressroom living and learning community attended the Sept. 11 Kalb Report and reception, as well as a forum held at GW with Walter Cronkite. In the future, Dunne, who is double majoring in political science and history wants to take a tour of the Washington Post with her residents.
The CF application process lasts from late October to February. Two hundred sixty-five students applied for CF positions for this year, marking a significant increase from the 180 the previous year, said Michael Weaver, director of selection training and development for the Community Living and Learning Center.
Along with maturity and diversity among applicants, Weaver noted that the number one quality he looks for in a prospective CF is connection to the GW community and interest in bringing people together. Students representing the GW College Republicans and Democrats and the water polo team, along with graduate and law students, make up this year’s 76 CFs accepted to live in first-year residence halls and sophomore buildings.
The freshman halls, Thurston, HOVA, Lafayette and those on the Mount Vernon campus, have one or two CFs on each floor. Two administrative coordinators live in junior and senior buildings such as the new 1957 E St. building and City Hall. ACs focus more on the administrative aspects of residence hall life and can still provide the guidance that CFs do if residents need it.
“CLLC understands that while freshman may need assistance throughout the year, upper level students don’t need as much hands-on help,” Neyhart said. “As a CF for freshmen, one of my main responsibilities is building community and helping residents adjust to college life.”
Neyhart said the freshman are not the only ones learning about life.
“There are 124 residents on my floor with 124 different stories and backgrounds,” he said. “Just getting to know them, I’ve learned a lot.”
-Adina Matusow contributed to this report.